• A Marriage in Social Impact

    December 17, 2014. Week 2 with Slum Soccer Nagpur brought to us by volunteer, Billy Hawkey.

    The setting was the same for our second week in Nagpur with Slum Soccer. Our participants for the week had already been through at least one CAC training. Some had participated in the training a year ago, others were a part of the training just one week prior. We had Community Impact Coaches and Slum Soccer senior staff members. The group knew what football for social impact meant, and they were familiar with the CAC methodology and values.

    This week Sophie and I had a goal to introduce new role models and as many new games as possible. To achieve this we had two separate on-field sessions every day, in addition to our classroom sessions. We were asking a lot of the group, we were going to challenge them, but they were ready.

    On day one we covered our Suarez and Hope Solo games. Day two was financial literacy and Perpetua games and the third day we played new child right’s games.  The games were new to the experienced coaches, which kept them engaged and having a blast. They were able to identify the social messages with ease, and so we challenged them frequently by asking how they would adapt the games to fit different social issues.

    Throughout the week the group had been planning games that they were going to invent and coach on the fourth and final day. The creativity and ideas they had were great. The topics included the dowry system, organic farming, rape, conflict resolution, the rights of children with disabilities, and child labor. They coached the games exceptionally; they were confident, well organized, and clear. They facilitated fluid discussions of the social impact related to their games. It was very fun to sit back and watch them at work. Slum Soccer is continuing to invent new games including math education games dealing with profit and loss (Did you even think it was possible to teach that through football?).

    An impactful game from the week was Suarez for Gender Equity. In this game two teams play a scrimmage with three goals to defend, and three goals to attack. Each goal represents a different way to empower women. The goals represented education, sports, and support. To begin, all players must walk. When an individual scores a goal, they must yell the empowering message and then they have the freedom to run. It took a few minutes for the first team to break even, but then we quickly had two running players, then three, four, and before you knew it everyone on the field was running. The quick increase in running players was due to the running players helping their teammates by giving good support, or dribbling fast around walking defenders and laying it off for a teammate to finish right in front of goal. This game represented the impact that empowering women has on a community. It has been shown that when empowered, women will give back and help their community more than men, just as in the game the empowered individuals helped their team reach its full potential.

    Slum Soccer was an extremely fun group to work with and the relationship between CAC and Slum Soccer is special. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them. We joked on several occasions that Slum Soccer and CAC are like a married couple; sharing the same thoughts and often pronouncing a great idea just seconds before the other intended to say the same thing. Slum soccer is adding programs of Edu-Kick, Shakti Girls Program, Slum Soccer on the Road, and Youth Leaders Training. They currently have centers in Nagpur and Chennai and are expanding to Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for the CAC and Slum Soccer partnership.

    In the evenings I played in friendly matches with the coaches, some of the participants, and the u14 Slum Soccer team. However one game in particular stood out. The Chai Game.

    I was feeling a little tired after a long day on the field, and was leaning towards calling it a day and hitting the bucket shower early. That’s when I was told “It’s chai game!” I needed no further persuading. I was up off the bench and on the field within seconds.

    Winning team gets chai; losing team serves. Throughout the game there was a sense of urgency in everyone’s voice. I couldn’t understand the exact content of what was being said, but the word “chai” was always in there. I would sporadically just scream out “chai!” to fit in. The game is up there for one of the most intense games I’ve been apart of, right next to games vs. Amherst. I am proud to say that I was victorious in my first career Chai match; however no chai was drank that night… we were all out of milk.

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  • Self-Directed Cooking

    December 8, 2014. Volunteer, Ali Pleiman, writes about her 4th program with CAC in Bengaluru – our second week working with Magic Bus On-Field in India.

    I’m not a chef but when I “cook,” these are the usual steps:

    1. Search kitchen for ingredients (whatever looks good/hasn’t expired)
    2. Throw it all in a big pot on the stove
    3. Voila! Let it stew and hope for the best.

    Yes, there’s a level of risk in not knowing beforehand how certain flavors or quantities will mix together. What if it’s a disaster? More importantly, why am I talking about cooking? I wanted to bridge this connection because this week felt like one of my cooking experiments…

    Our participants traveled far and wide across India to meet in Bangalore for a CAC training. Coming from 5 different cities, our 4-day session would bring together 3 organizations: Magic Bus, Dream A Dream, and Sparky Football. I’ll admit I was skeptical upon realizing that our melting pot would include multiple languages, cultures, and coaching styles. How would we be effective? Is it possible to find a balance with all the different spices?

    When making dinner, my main goal is obviously “don’t burn the food.” Similarly, everyone in the training could be aligned by a shared desire, “coaching for social impact!” I recognized this unifying element in the first morning, as this group of individuals was extremely bright and enthusiastic; their passion was a key ingredient that would see us through the week, making it possible for intrinsic differences to contribute strength rather than weakness. I was excited for this experience with so many great flavors coming into the mix, which would surely widen perspectives and benefit all parties involved.

    Of course, there were many challenges! We were fortunate to have some fantastic translators helping us to taste-test our progress along the way, so that we could adapt our strategies and discussions to better meet specific needs. Several coaches in the program were already familiar with the idea of using a game to highlight an underlying social message. As this is also the nature of CAC, I was amazed to see and understand that HOW you coach can make all the difference in the impact. When we introduced the CAC focus on “self-directed learning,” I was surprised that the majority of the participants interpreted this as a pretty foreign concept. I grew to realize that this week’s group was more accustomed to coaching towards one particular outcome, whereas the CAC view is geared more around the process.

    For instance, although participants brought many skills to the table, I found their coaching style to be very “by the book.” They were programmed to deliver a social message at the end of a game, in the same way that the rules were delivered at the start. CAC differs in their teachable moments by calling attention to the messages throughout the game; CAC will connect the dots as they evolve through play, instead of after the fact. Plus, learning is more fun when you don’t realize it’s even happening! Children will be more receptive to quick spurts during a fun game than to a long lecture at the end of playing.

    Moreover, CAC doesn’t force feed all the answers. In fact, CAC problem solving games are designed specifically to provoke conflict. This methodology was the most difficult to communicate to our group this week. We were met with opposition when we stepped back to say, “solve your problem.” We were encouraging but they were still frustrated when they couldn’t always be told a right or wrong scenario to enforce, wanting more clear-cut rules to clarify. That’s the point! In life, there is not always 1 correct answer. The beauty is in understanding that there can be many solutions to a problem.

    Coaches Across Continents strives to create coaches who are active facilitators rather than dictators– asking questions to help children along the way, but giving them the opportunity to think for themselves. CAC aims for coaches to engage the children throughout play and discussion, encouraging their interaction every step of the way. This group was also hesitant to accept this mentality, wondering what should happen if chaos ensues. Sometimes, let it be! Why not? Let the field be a safe space to practice handling conflict, without violence or retreat. A little chaos is okay. It may take a little longer for them to solve their problem but they can do it with guidance. If we just instruct them at every turn, then they will always be looking or waiting for instruction when they need to make their choice and act. Rather than breeding this dependency, CAC games have such a heavy focus on physical and mental skills that help on-field AND off-field. We seek to breed self-awareness, self-control, and confidence. In life, they may not always have the exact recipe laid out for them, or the help they thought they needed. Our job as coaches is to make sure they feel they have enough to work with.

    You can prepare as best as possible, but you always reach a point when it’s time to trust your skills and make your choice. Then you own the consequences, good and bad, and learn from them as you keep moving forward. That’s all anyone can do.

    We were lucky to have such an incredible group of participants this week, willing to face obstacles head on with smiles and open minds. We did some serious work but we had a blast while doing so. I will miss my new friends who shared their spirit, AND their dance moves. As always, I was pleasantly surprised to see how a crazy concoction could find a way to come together in the end and taste so good! This week quickly became my new favorite dish. So that’s why I like to cook this way, and I’m pretty sure the best chefs don’t always use precise measurements, so maybe my method is genius… Either way, the week solidified my belief that CAC is uniquely valuable in the work they’re doing around the world.

    “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on and the fact that you know how to drive.” – Barbara Kingsolver

     

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  • 7th Year in Kigoma

    May 5, 2014. CAC returns home to the birthplace of our organization – Kigoma, Tanzania. Markus Bensch writes about his experience in Kigoma as he continues his training with Staff member, Sophie Legros. 

    After we finished with our programs in Uganda Sophie and I had one week time to complete the 850 km from Entebbe, Uganda to Kigoma, Tanzania. After we reached Bukoba on Tuesday we went on a 12 hour bus ride to Kigoma on Friday at 6am. It was one of the roughest bus rides for me due to bumpy, gravel roads which even left a bruise on my coccyx as a memory for the following week.

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    But the very warm welcome by Mr. Peter Kilalo, the Sports officer, and Mr. Sombwe, the Cultural officer, of the Kigoma Municipality at the bus stop made me quickly forget about it. On Saturday we went to meet all the district school officials and introduce our program to them. Everybody was very excited about our program and a lot of people recognized us as CAC due to our 6 years of lasting cooperation with Kigoma.

    After we had time to rest over the weekend we started on Monday afternoon with 28 coaches and teachers for our first session. The training conditions were very good, because we could use the new pitch which was built in 2011 initiated by CAC. We had a good mix of returning coaches and newcomers. Some of the returning coaches remembered games they learned in the previous years like “Mingle Mingle” or “Ronaldo Skills”.

    Due to the fact that it was our 7th year in Kigoma we could teach them any game from our three year Hat-Trick curriculum. Games like “Tim Howard for Gender Equity” and “Know Your Rights” they enjoyed the most and got very competitive. The first one is a handball game of two teams where they are only allowed to run with the ball at most three steps and the players can score by throwing the ball into the goal. It turned out to be a brilliant problem solving game where the players set up new rules to make the game more enjoyable. The 2nd game is a child rights game where you need fast thinking and quick feet, because the coach is yelling out different child rights which are associated to different corners of the pitch and two team members of each team have to run to the child right that is yelled out first or second respectively. The participants got again very competitive and had a lot of fun and the game caused a lot of confusion which gave us the opportunity to engage them to discuss strategies to solve their problems.

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    We were positively surprised by the coach-backs on Friday. During the week we weren’t sure if they always understood the games and the social impact of them. During the coach-backs we could see that they really did understand and they even choose the more difficult games like “Can Adebayor see HIV” or “Know your rights” to practice coaching.

    Over all it was a successful week although we faced quite a big fluctuation in the numbers of participants, due to the fact that the teachers had an important meeting on Tuesday afternoon and on Thursday they celebrated the 1st May (Workers’ Day) which caused a reduced numbers of participants on both days. In total we welcomed 39 coaches during the week and we’re looking forward to hear from them about their successes in implementing and adapting the games in their weekly sports classes and football trainings. As mentioned earlier we saw in the coach-backs some very promising examples which make us excited about the future of the partnership with the coaches and teachers in Kigoma.

    By the way the bruise is healed and tomorrow Sophie and I fly from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam, so there should be no risk for bumpy roads and a bruised coccyx.

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates