• He for She with Isha Vidhya

    December 15, 2014. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, shares her thoughts on our last program in India for 2014 with the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, India.

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “Can men cook and clean?” – “YES!”

    “Can men stay at home while women work?” – Another, resounding, “YES!”

    Thirty men and boys in perfect unison; they chant, “YES” for gender equality. And three women sigh and shake their heads.

    For my final program of 2014, I return to Coimbatore for the third year of our partnership with the Isha Foundation. This year sees some familiar faces from years past, but the majority of the participants are new to CAC. We have a nice mélange of teachers and students, adding depth and energy to every game and discussion.

    We do not have a nice mélange of gender.

    An easy choice by both parties – CAC and Isha – gender equity quickly became this year’s priority. Such a nice term, ‘gender equity’. Equity. Equality. But what does it mean? To you? To me?

    Many cheer for equality, but few take the time to find their personal motive for why we need to empower women and girls.

    So we play. And play and play. Marta Skills for Life. Mia Hamm Skills for Life. Who is Marta? Who is Mia Hamm?

    Powerful. Female. Role Models.

    Marta for Gender Equity: How can we get more girls on the pitch? If you score a goal, use your voice to empower your teammates – “You can do it!”, they shout. Rapinoe for Gender Equity: Four words for the ideal man: “Strong!” “Legend!” “Noble!” “Superior!” The four teams stand in four corners on the pitch, one for each word. When I call two words the groups standing in the corresponding boxes switch places as fast as possible – running, skipping, dancing, like animals, with a ball. Now four words for your ideal woman: “Beautiful!” “Gentle!” “Smart-look!” “Colorful!” We play again.

    Falcao for Gender Equity: One team has three goals to score on; the other team only has one. We play. “Is this game fair?” “No!” Suarez for Gender Equity: Three goals at each end that represent words that empower girls. The participants call out, “education!”, “employment!”, and “choice!”. Everybody must walk and if they score a goal and shout the empowering word, they can run. Perpetua for Gender Equity: What are some traditional roles for men in your community? – Driver, builder, farmer, fisherman, businessman, army, shoemaker, barber. And women? – Beauty parlor, housewife, baby-care, cooking, cleaning, nurse, stitching. When I call out a job – the players assigned that role run onto the field and play 2v2, 4v4, etc. We play.

    I ask:

    “Can men be beautiful?” – “YES!”

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “I see you shaking your head, Lakshmi (a participant for all three years of CAC programs), why?”

    “Because I do not see.”

    And therein lies the rub.

    There is too often an abyss between policy and practice. Between awareness and behavior. I know unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV, and yet? I know I am not legally allowed to hit this child with a stick when she misbehaves, and yet?

    I know I’m supposed to jump on the #femaleempowerment / #genderequality / #heforshe bandwagon… and?

    How do we bridge this daunting gap? With a ball, perhaps?

    We think so. By the end of the program it felt more like the male-dominated group actually believed in what they were saying, and the women were standing up for themselves. It is a slow, uphill trek, but probably the most important climb in the world.

    So, can men take care of babies? Can women play football?

    YES! … if that is their choice. What is yours?

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  • The Great Chamwino

    December 12, 2014. Volunteer Coach from Germany, Frederick Schwarzmaier, joins fellow countryman Markus Bensch as well as Kelly Conheeney in Tanzania. He writes about his first experience On-Field with CAC in Chamwino. 

    Before any coaching session could start on Monday morning, we visited the District Executive Director of Chamwino, a highly respected woman. After introducing ourselves, Markus took a few minutes to talk about Coaches Across Continents as an organization and our approach in this community. As expected, she gave her consent for the program and we headed towards the local soccer pitch on motorbike-taxis with great anticipation and a box of new footballs. At arrival, reality quickly tempered us as only eight coaches showed up. Nico, the Community Impact Coach of Chamwino and an amazing go-to person, confirmed that eight would be our total number for the day. Given the low number of participants, we decided to play a fun game of soccer and start with the program on Tuesday. Afterwards, we went to meet the Chairman of Chamwino in order to introduce ourselves and explain what we are going to do in the next few days in his district. For us, this meeting was very worthwhile because the Chairman introduced us to the history of Chamwino as well as Tanzania, including a proudly presented story about the nation’s first president, Julius Nyerere, who visited Chamwino on several occasions. In order to make it a successful day over all, we coached over 40 girls from a local secondary school several CAC games including Ronaldo Skills for Life, Mingle Mingle and Pairs Soccer. The girls were visibly proud that their male fellow pupils were all along gazing at them while practicing their new soccer skills.

    Gratefully, on Tuesday twelve coaches showed up, hence, we decided to begin the program. Although, the number of participants was low, we had a very intense but fun week. As there were some returning coaches from previous years, they occasionally stepped in to teach their new peers certain games or moves on their own. This also showed us the impact of our program in this community on former participants. Besides, we set the focus on Child Rights and Gender Equality as this was requested by the community and regarded as one of their biggest current challenges. This issue especially arose when we were having a discussion about the rights of a child, as this is done within every CAC program and every community. Nearly half of the participants justified hitting their pupils or other children if they weren’t paying attention in class. An additional issue was the local coaches’ cheating manner. It took several attempts to announce fairly played winners in many of the conflict games, as it seemed that they cheat out of instinct. I felt as though this challenge was successfully tackled by us in a fun learning environment. Especially for me as a newbie at CAC, these circumstances made me contemplate the local culture. I tried to slip into the coaches’ shoes in the hope that I would find the root cause to their behavior. My explanation – you could also name it presumption as I do not have a scientific proof of it – for it is that they treat their children the same way as they were treated when they were young. Having this in mind while during our program in Chamwino, I was putting myself under too much pressure in order to transform the whole community into a better place and flood it with my ideas for improvement. I quickly realized that this approach is not working out and I should rather ask questions instead of giving possible answers as the CAC curriculum suggests. This method simply proofed to me the power and sustainability of the CAC approach. Combined with the uniting power of football, this program is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined before experiencing it myself. Besides, it is not only the local coaches but also me who are learning a lot.

    On Thursday, the local coaches taught the children the CAC games they learned this week. This was a great success as one could witness the drive and joy the coaches spread during their short and individual sessions with the kids. Their attitude created a setting where children could learn, laugh, play and fail without being afraid of consequences, no matter if girl or boy. Solely, one could criticize their urge to solve little problems for the children instead of letting them gain some problem solving experience themselves, e.g. fixing the human circle when playing Circle of Friends. Overall, it was fantastic seeing them teaching the kids.

    On Friday, after the last session of the program, we handed over the certificates to each participant that turned out to be more like a closing ceremony than a simple duty. Before we handed out the certificates, a representative of the local Education Office was the guest of honor and delivered a speech about the importance of implementing the CAC games in the learning curriculum of each school. After the ceremony, the participants surprised each of us with a shirt of Tanzania’s national soccer team – a great ending of a tiring but joyful week. Shortly afterwards, under pouring rain, we headed to Dodoma City to prepare for the upcoming program.

    To put it in a nutshell, although struggling at the beginning of the week to get a sufficient number of local coaches for this year’s program in Chamwino, the week turned out to be a great success for all of us. We are confident we have made a sustainable impact on Chamwino’s community.

     

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  • Go, Slum Soccer, Go

    December 10, 2014. Volunteer, Billy Hawkey, writes about the first of two weeks back in Nagpur, India with long-time partner, Slum Soccer.


    We landed in Nagpur a little after 9 pm on Sunday night. I had heard about Slum Soccer mostly through the 2014 CAC documentary, but still knew very little about who they really were. Sophie told me that we are in the fourth year of our partnership, they have completed the Hat-Trick Initiative and are in many ways a model program. But what did that mean? I needed to see it for myself.

    As we sat in the kitchen of our guest house, 100 yards away from the all dirt pitch, like normal we discussed a plan for the week with our partner. However, this meeting was different than all the previous meetings I had been a part of over the past two and a half months.  “Ronaldo?” we asked.

    “Did it.”

    “Marta?”

    “Yep.”

    “The new Marta for Gender Equity?”

    “Yes, we played it.”

    “Wam-”

    “Bach. Yes.”

    I thought to myself, “what are we going to do this week? They know everything!” The participants for the week had just been through a two-day training conducted by the Slum Soccer coaches in which they played all the games from our Ronaldo, Marta, and Wambach role models; they played Old Trafford Tag, Scary Soccer, and more. “So they know how to coach our games?” I asked Sophie; “Oh yes” she said in a very assuring voice, “they’re creating games.”

    I was quickly starting to get a picture of the cumulative impact that CAC has on its partners. As the week progressed I would see just how self-sustaining Slum Soccer is and how deeply ingrained CAC is in their organization. But for now, as we sat in the kitchen, we needed to come up with a fresh plan for day one. We would begin with Mia Hamm day.

    As I sat in the Slum Soccer classroom on Monday morning, as participants were filing in, I looked around the room and admired the graffiti art on the wall of Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Messi and Abby Wambach; all CAC role models.

    The participants were Slum Soccer’s second batch of first year youth leaders. They were a cohesive group, who were just as passionate in the classroom discussions and activities as they were on the field. Our child rights training/discussion during the middle of the week was quite interesting. The various forms of abuse that children in Nagpur suffer from and the extreme imbalance of power between the child-adult relationship was the early focus of the conversation. For the most part, children in Nagpur do not receive respect or support from adults, and are fearful to approach them. Sexual abuse was noted to be a major issue for women in Nagpur, which shifted our discussion to the topic of rape. One man said that if a girl is wearing provocative clothing than it is her fault if she is raped. This fired up the group, both men and women, who argued otherwise, and many voices in the room weighed in on this issue, eventually reaching the consensus that it is never the victims’ fault.

    On the field the next day we played Know Your Rights, as a follow up to the strong discussion we had the day before. Players are divided into two teams, with a large circle separating the two. Five cones are evenly spread out around the outside of the circle.  Each cone represents a different child right. The group designated them as: the right to decide, the right to play sports, the right to an education, the right to information, and the right to have a voice. Two players from each team enter the circle and jog around. When the coach yells out a right, the players must run as fast as they can to the correct cone. The first team with both players to reach the cone gets a point. We played many rounds, adding more players in the circle, more complex rules, and of course, some dance moves to replace the jogging. The game was full of energy and it continued our message of child rights and why those rights are important.

    Throughout the week I enjoyed observing the Slum Soccer coaches and staff display their knowledge and understanding of the CAC methodology. From time to time the young Slum Soccer coaches would step in and help us coach, and play some of the new games that they invented including games related to voting, traffic, and keeping the environment clean.  I was impressed by the work Slum Soccer is doing, and how they have assimilated the CAC games and values for using sport for social impact into their organization. The work they are doing with local slum children is amazing, and everyone involved with Slum Soccer has bought in to the strong culture they have created.

    On Sunday we visited a farm with some Slum Soccer friends, picked sweet limes and guava fruit from the trees, hiked to a damn, and had a great home cooked chicken lunch. Throughout the day there were cries of “Marta 1!”, “Wambach 2!”, “Solve your problem!” and lots of laughter.

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  • A Week to Remember

    December 5, 2014. Volunteer Coach, Keren Lavi, from Israel partner, Mifalot, joins CAC On-Field in Iringa, Tanzania and write about her first experience with CAC outside of her country. 

    I always knew my first time to Africa would have to be an unforgettable one, after traveling around 3 continents “IT’S TIME FOR AFRICA”.  I arrived to a motel in Dar es Salaam where I waited for Nico (CAC’s local partner and first ever Community Impact Coach) to pick me up for an amazing field week at the new ‘Football for Hope Center’ in Iringa. The morning we left to the bus I happen to fall down the stairs with my suitcase and twist my ankle! How am I going to get through this week now?! I stood up and walked with Nico to the bus, I was ok. The bus station was full with people and buses, I have no idea how he found the right bus but I guess every country has its own order they follow. We get to the bus and Nico goes down to find a cold water bottle for my ankle, after a few seconds I realize the bus starts to leave with no sign for Nico! “Nico, where is Nico” I shout in the bus, the bus has already left the station, I get to the driver “please stop! Nico is missing!” as if he knows who is Nico and that this is my first time in Africa and I have no idea where and how to get to the place I am supposed to get to. The bus driver stopped on the side road, meanwhile I start to panic and cry having no idea what to do. After 5 minutes of total panic Nico arrives hitchhiking on a motorcycle sweating with a cold water bottle in his hand!

    I started my visit at the peak which only continued to climb higher and higher. I met Kelly and Marcus, CAC’s team, when we arrived to Iringa – both seem to be born to the field of football for social impact! I was honored to see them coach and to coach with them! They immediately made me feel part of the team and I am thankful for that! As I already mentioned Nico took great care of me, I must say he is the best local partner an organization could ask for, not only does he organize the coaching seminars and talks to all local partners he is an inspiring coach and person that really connects with CAC’s vision! Working with such awesome people this week was a real treat! The local coaches we met were all part of Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) which hosts the FIFA Football for Hope Center. We had a week full of games, laughs, serious talks, coach-backs, and dancing mingle mingle at any chance of the day! One of the most memorable parts for me was having kids around the field almost 24/7! They will not leave the place till it was dark! It is amazing to see how a football field becomes the center of a community and the safest place for kids to play. I am loaded with energy to get back to my organization in Israel –

    My name is Keren Lavi and I work for Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises which is an NGO located in Israel. We also work globally in order to create social change via the football field. After training with CAC twice in Israel it was my time to join them in another country in order to learn and feel the work CAC does across the continents… My role at Mifalot is to develop the international programs. We provide educational curriculums and share our best practices, this is why partnering with CAC in order to exchange knowledge about football for social change is not only a privilege but an opportunity to grow and spread the love we share to the game and to the impact it can have on people all around the world. Mifalot share with CAC this vision and I can only hope for both organizations to keep growing and touch many coaches around the world.

     

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  • Educating 100,000+ on World AIDS Day

    November 24, 2014.  World AIDS Day is only one week away! What are you going to do to help stop the spread of HIV?

    Coaches Across Continents continues our practice of providing a free football resource packet for important global days. In one week, on December 1, 2014, we are helping to educate hundreds of thousands of people through our network of partners and through groups who have reached out to us for assistance.  Our five HIV/AIDS games are designed to educate coaches and players on the facts about HIV, as well as dispelling harmful myths about the virus.  In addition, we are looking to trigger behavior change in communities regarding sexual education and HIV/AIDS awareness in terms of knowing your status, using protection, and promoting healthy sexual activity.

    Our games center on the ideal that we should all be aware of our options when it comes to sex and once we have that knowledge, we can make the right choices for our own bodies, and for our lives. The more good choices we make, the better protected we are from viruses and infections including HIV, as well as unwanted/teenage pregnancy. These messages are crucial for all of us, and at the appropriate age – which varies according to the individual – children have a right to this information. Our games bring these lessons to life with a ball, and more importantly, a coach who creates the safe space for those who want to learn, those who are willing to ask questions, and those who are open to challenging cultural and societal norms surrounding sexual education.

    Approximately seven weeks ago we provided a free resource packet for leaders to use in their schools, with their teams, and in their communities. This packet went out to over 500 communities worldwide, which will impact over 100,000 individuals.  These games have been played in the build-up to World AIDS Day on December 1st.  Many of our implementing partner programs are already familiar with these games as they have been a staple in the CAC curriculum for the past several years to promote positive behavior change in individuals and communities.

    Want to get in on the worldwide sport for social impact movement? Contact  for a free resource packet.

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  • CAC Rolls on with Magic Bus

    November 17, 2014.  Off-Field volunteer Gail Buswell joins the team for her first On-Field Program with Coaches Across Continents and Magic Bus in India.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a volunteer behind the scenes for CAC for a few months and ever since I heard about this groundbreaking organization, I have been itching to find out more and see how they work their magic On-Field. This week I got the chance to see just that in Hyderabad, as I joined Brian and Nora, supported by Pankaj and Prasanna from Slum Soccer, and Ali a fellow volunteer. The team was there for the first year of CAC’s award winning Hat-Trick Initiative with Magic Bus. It was the perfect introduction for me as the partnership between CAC and Magic Bus is a new one and has the potential to impact tens of thousands of children in India through Magic Bus’s extensive network of coaches and volunteers.

    Magic Bus had a bit of a head start on other organizations in that their experienced coaches were already familiar with the concept of using sport and play for education. The focus of the week was therefore to add to this knowledge by introducing CAC’s novel and forward thinking approach to Self-Directed Learning. In contrast to teaching by presenting facts and answers, the CAC strategy is to encourage participants to solve their own problems collectively (whilst at the same time learning new football skills and having a huge amount of fun!). Translated to a community environment, this methodology is immensely powerful as it can be applied to any issue or problem. CAC provides a particular focus on key global issues such as gender equality, conflict resolution, and health and wellness– but the messaging is the same across different countries and cultures: communicate, respect each other, and embrace your choice to make the best decisions for yourself and your community.

    I was shocked to learn during the week that 51% of men and 54% of women in India believe that in certain circumstances it can be justifiable to beat your wife. Even amongst the 27 kind and compassionate people in the group, initially only one woman was willing to stand up and publically say that she disagrees with this mentality. This was a sobering reminder of the power of entrenched tradition in a culture. Against this background it is clear to see the potential impact of encouraging the next generation to believe that they have a voice, they have a choice, and that there are alternative solutions to violence. Armed with these life skills they, together with their local community, have the power to question and change their existing culture.

    CAC changes the way people think in subtle and clever ways. The games focus around footballer role models and one of these is Marta (da Silva). Marta plays for the Brazilian women’s national team and is the 5 time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year. Before starting the ‘Marta’ games Brian asked the group which football player had won the World Player of the Year the most times. Hands shot up and cries of ‘Ronaldo’, ‘Messi’ and ‘Cantona’ rung out. When after several minutes no one had made the correct guess Brian asked the group a simple question – ‘Do women play football?”. There was much shaking of heads – a resounding no. It was a big surprise when Brian introduced them to the player Marta and by the end of the week everyone wanted to play football like Marta!

    Throughout the week I was hugely impressed by the energy and enthusiasm and capacity for fun and laughter of all the Magic Bus coaches. They were engaged and creative in all the games and did not shy away from the difficult and impassioned debates that the games provoked. Nora and Brian created a challenging, but safe environment for all the coaches, which allowed them to voice their views and begin to think about things in a different way. They made it look easy, but it’s a tremendously difficult thing to do and it was a privilege to watch them at work. It is this environment that I hope the Magic Bus coaches can help create for their kids. With the passion and potential on display this week, I am sure they can and I am really excited to see where Magic Bus takes what they have learned from CAC. I would love to come back for year 2 of the Hat-Trick program to see how the coaches and the communities in which they are leaders have applied the skills they have learned this week and also to catch up with all the new friends I have made. After all, once you have all ‘cuckoo’ danced like chickens together, you are friends for life!!

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    Gail Buswell enjoys her first week On-Field with Coaches Across Continents

    Gail Buswell enjoys her first week On-Field with Coaches Across Continents