• Oh Yes, We Made a Plan!

    November 14th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard Alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson blogs from Nagpur, India about our groundbreaking partnership with Slum Soccer

    I’ve been so lucky as a CAC Global Citizen in so many ways, including having the opportunity to work with longtime partner Slum Soccer here in Bokhara, Nagpur, India. As an outside observer, it struck me that the comfort, familiarity and understanding that CAC and SS have developed together over 8 years, as people and as organizations, created an environment of trust and openness that allowed for real progress to be made this week.

    A common phrase you’ll hear whenever a decision needs to be made is “We make a plan.” This applies to almost any decision that I saw made this week incl: when to leave for Shakti Girls (Girl Power) practice; where to go for delicious Southern Indian dosa and tea; who is going to drive/be a passenger on which motorcycle (all of which read below empty on fuel) and of course which direction to take and grow an organization. Often the decision can take some time; that’s what happens when you have a lot of bright people with different ideas, and/or a lot of bikes and passengers to organize.

    And many plans were made, executed and/or in progress. Highlights include:

    Serious strides in professional and organizational development for Slum Soccer using CAC’s process consultancy framework. It’s not often easy to take the “right” next steps to grow and mature as an organization; the insight and knowledge CAC leaders provided this regard was invaluable and those next steps put into place.

    Development by senior female staff of 3 brand new games for Slum Soccer’s female health & wellness initiative, focusing specifically on menstruation. It was amazing to see the girls open up, voice frustration with, and ask about the verity of, cultural traditions and listen to the SS senior staff support, educate and inform them. You know it’s working and trust exists when the day’s program is ended, and 15 girls are circled around still asking questions and getting answers.

    42 games played with 35 coach/mentor participants, including those designed to address HIV, LGBT, Child Rights and ASK for Choice (Female Empowerment.) It’s truly rewarding to see those girls too shy at the beginning of the week to say anything or even look up from the ground, raising their arms up and shouting “I am strong” or “I have a voice” by the end of the week. Yes change can happen in 5 days.

    An amazing street food tour (once we figured out who was actually on which bike) led by senior SS staff. That “We make a plan” took some time to make following an outing to the cinema featuring Thor, my first Hindi 3D movie, but was so worth it. Thank you Slum Soccer friends and family!

  • Creating Traditions of Woman-Power with Refugees in Jordan

    November 13th 2017. Global Citizen, Ian Phillips, joined us on-field to work with our new ASK for Choice partner, Reclaim Childhood, and their coaches from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and Egypt.

    It’s 5am in Amman, Jordan. The first few tentative rays of light are making their way through the night sky. The stillness in the air is broken by the Muslim call to prayer, and the sound echoes across the hilltops, down in to the valleys, and makes its way to my window. The chants are haunting, and beautiful, but did I mention that it’s 5am? The call to prayer rings out from mosque to mosque five times a day and, like the sound that echoes throughout the city, the influence of Islam is pervasive here. It can be heard, seen, and felt in the streets. While this influence manifests itself in many positive ways – such as the kindness, warmth, hospitality and generosity that I witnessed every day, it’s also fair to say that the traditional attitudes many people associate with this part of the world create significant challenges for the women and girls who live here.

    We’re here in Jordan to work with a local NGO called Reclaim Childhood, an organization that uses sport to empower and educate girls. Often, the practices and leagues set up by Reclaim Childhood represent the only opportunity these girls have to leave their house in order to play, exercise, express themselves, and learn important lessons in a safe space. Their all-female staff and coaches are courageous, intelligent, empathetic, compassionate – and inspirational. The highlight of the week was having the opportunity to visit the coaches in action – and seeing a field full of smiling, happy, vibrant young girls. This, more than anything, shows that the efforts of Reclaim Childhood’s brave coaches are worthwhile, and that their programs are having a positive impact.

    The week of training in Amman was an amazing experience. The CAC coaches and myself were able to work with a group of people who are passionate, thoughtful, and genuinely dedicated to creating positive change in their respective communities. I’m grateful for the chance to get On-Field with CAC, and to meet some of the local partners who make this work so worthwhile.

  • Beautiful On The Inside And Out

    November 6th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson writes about her first CAC experience with YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India.

    This is my first trip with Coaches Across Continents and the first week has already delivered as promised; thought provoking, inspiring, fulfilling, rewarding, fun, and full of firsts for me, the CAC team and the YFC Rurka Kalan partner participants. On the list of firsts, CAC & YFC announced a formal ASK for Choice partnership addressing gender equity, YFC hosted the first Workshop on Community Gender Policy in the community, and the coach mentors designed their own games to bring this policy to life. I also survived my first of many harrowing Indian driving escapades (apparently rules of the road and licenses are optional) realized for the first time just how important tea time is to all and also how the Punjabi are amazingly hospitable, generous, enjoyable and funny- talk about a quick wit.

    The YFC/CAC Workshop on Community Gender Policy was led by Judith Gates who did an amazing job addressing and engaging women and men from the local community. It was particularly inspiring to watch the YFC mentor coaches lead the breakout groups and encourage participants who would not normally speak out, to do so. An eye-opening first: one of the male attendees commented to CAC leader Charlie Crawford that he had never seen a female speak “like that” i.e. with a strong voice at a public gathering.

    On the field, we played 36 games over 5 days with a specific focus on the ASK for Choice curriculum that addresses gender equity and girls’ and womens’ rights. On a personal note, while this was something important to me from the get go, it became even more urgent as a goal based upon my first hand experience. Long story short: it’s not always awesome being a girl in India.

    Highlights on and off the field include:

    1. The success of the game Indonesia for Attitudes which addresses language and stereotypes. End result: girls voicing “I am strong!” and voicing “I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.
    2. In the words of one of the full time program coaches as we watched Scary Soccer, “All these coach mentors, and especially the girls, have become more expressive; compared to even the beginning of this week with CAC you can see they now want to take the lead and actively participate in the games and discussions. You can hear their voices right now.”
    3. The sense of community among the coach mentors and staff at YFC – including sing alongs after session, the dance off post awarding of certificates, selfies at tea time, and so, so many laughs.
    4. The post week visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh temple, with Charlie from CAC and Pradeep from Naz Foundation. A must see if you make it to the area; busy yet tranquil at the same time and amazingly beautiful at night all lit up.

    I look forward to following the progress and expansion of YFC Rurka Kalan in partnership with CAC and to all my new friends at YFC: stay strong and beautiful, on the inside and the outside!

    – Cheers, Action

  • New Eyes on Ireland

    October 25th 2017. Nora Dooley, CAC Gender Strategist, writes about the launch of our ASK for Choice partnership with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI).

    I first visited Ireland while studying abroad in Dublin during college. I lived there for 5 months, went to class, traveled and spent time with extended family members – a heritage that affords me the privilege of having dual citizenship. Returning to this country that so honors my existence as to dub me ‘citizen’, I welcome reflections on what that word – that claim – means.

    With CAC we have the unique opportunity to learn about communities through the eyes of people who live there – citizens. And in my experience our partners amplify the meaning of this legal or informal identifier. It is not enough for the CAC global community to simply live in a space, to exist, to benefit or endure. Citizens of CAC partner communities are people who engage, ask difficult questions, take personal and collective responsibility and hold themselves and each other accountable for the day-to-day, year-to-year realities – in all their beauty and complexity.

    Our new partnership in Dublin added layers to my understanding of Irish citizenship, just as my presence in Ireland as a CAC representative provoked fresh gratitude for the chance to hold this space. With SARI leaders we shared our ASK for Choice curriculum which stimulated conversations around existing inequalities and created opportunities to strategize on and off the pitch around solutions to translate ideas and policies into practice.

    The SARI team welcomed me into their community. They are Irish – and they are also Nigerian, Jordanian, Saudi Arabian, Zimbabwean, Kenyan, Indian, Congolese, Brazilian… and many more. They dwell in Dublin, they build inclusive spaces and they celebrate and thrive on diversity.

    This is not the Dublin I experienced as a naive US American stumbling around a country I thought I had a claim to. I am grateful for my second passport, and because of SARI I feel closer than ever to understanding and truly appreciating what it means to be Irish; and because of all CAC partners, closer to realizing the potential of citizenship anywhere (legal or not!).

  • All the Happiness Around Me is Worth Living For

    October 3rd, 2017. Community Impact Coach and Founder of Coaches Across Continents Community Partner Sparky Football, Tejas, writes about his time in Atambua, Indonesia with partner Increase Foundation and the Bintang Timur Football School.

    Our time in Bali was blissful. Every day at the field I could see the lovely kites flying in the mighty blue sky while it shared many reflections from the ocean close to us.
    As I wished goodbye to these kites and my new friends from the Bali program, I hoped to cherish something similar in Atambua with Bintang Timur- know as ‘East star’ in Bahasa!

    The small flight to Atambua gave me a rollercoaster ride. I experienced turbulence close to 30 minutes from the 1 hour flight journey. I even remember the woman who seeked air sickness bag in the flight- it was a rollercoaster in its own way!

    Atambua was very hot and dull as I looked outside the car. My location on the GPS muddled my thoughts and I said to myself, “I am very far from India”. I regained my sense of belonging when I arrived at the Bintang Timur academy- I saw a huge football field and a futsal pitch surrounded with many mountains. Alma, our coordinator from the program showed us the academy with a small tour. In the evening, I had the opportunity to share some of my freestyle football skills with children also got to play 11-aside football with them. After Sun went behind the mountains Emily, Frans, Alma and I sat down at the dining table to plan for the day one on-field.

    The Government head arrived an hour late delaying the morning session and some more with his speech. He said a lot about becoming the best football coaches but nothing he knew of the program being football for social impact. We turned that frustration into motivation for running the best social impact program possible. There were about 50 coaches, 4 soldiers and 5 Government officials in the hall. The session kicked off at 10am with Circle of Friends and all the coaches carried great energy in the intense heat. They celebrated ’ole ole’ and ‘mingle mingle’ for a long time but games like Marta for conflict resolution, know your rights, old Trafford tag were thought provoking.

    Alma was a great host; late in the evening he took us to eat corn. He has charming Italian accent for English. He spoke 8 languages including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and some local. He was raised in Atambua, where once he was forced to be a church priest but escaped from the situation to be a university professor. The night at the dinner me, Emily and Alma shared our thoughts on the idea of religion and I was pleased to know that we all were to lean on the same belief that higher spirit is same for all and we share the same air, Sun, moon, water, star and things like that. This was some thought provoking to me in a way.

    On the second day, participants addressed their local social issues such as alcohol abuse, gambling, trafficking, stealing etc. Emily, Frans and I took responsibilities to adapt CAC games to help them solve/tackle these problems. I strongly believed that we three were a good team. Frans spoke less English but tried his best to participate in our off filed meets. He also supports us and takes responsibility in times like photography, airport check in, finding a taxi or a hotel. Emily and I call him ‘dad’ often for that. He always laughs at it!
    Some of the games which we chose to address their social issues were Gazza support system, Indonesia for choice, Say no to trafficking and Emily’s new dice game- it’s a cool one!

    By the third day, participants continued to sing mingle mingle as nasi nasi (rice) has their humming song. There was laughter everywhere and the expression of wisdom from the after game talks. The ambition to learn and to make a difference was quite evident. I see them has the change makers, very few of them spoke English but they listened to us, smiled often and participate with their entire being in the heat. While English didn’t help them much as a language they instead took pictures with us- a lot. I have heard somewhere that “We can’t build a society purely on interests but we need a sense of belonging” and I think this is what I found in here.

    After a intense three day coaching program, Alma had planned to take us and the academy staff to a picnic on the mountains which was a 2 hour drive from the academy. We went with the academy minivan and a car. The roads were slushy, curvy and hilly but the drive was very thrilling. As we reached the location, we could see the wide mountain plains and with a small hike, we were able to identify the border of the country, East Timor. The place was wide and beautiful. Everyone was excited and took a lot of pictures together. Surprisingly the staff had carried lunch for 20 people. We all housed under a tree and feasted the delicious food with the beautiful Mountain View.
    After we were back, we played some more football with children in the evening and settled for the next day’s agenda which was to visit two schools from which teachers participated in the program.

    In the morning, we visited Don Bosco and SMP Negsi School. The purpose of the visit was to meet the School head, watch the sport teachers implement the games with children and if they needed any help with it. They did a good job on coaching. As the sport teachers introduced us to children, Emily, Frans and I had the privilege to share our journey and the importance of education outside classroom. It was motivating to have us say this to them. I also took the privilege to showcase some of my freestyle football skills to give them a new perspective on football learning. I received some great response and cheer for this!

    The week was very tiring, however the sense of satisfaction to keep up the week productive and to make an impact in the Atambua community is a fulfilment.

    At the end of the day, I recapitulate the week in my mind- my heart fills up with all the sincere laughter and joy participants shared on the pitch. Sometimes, I miss being a kid and that little happiness from the PE classes in school.
    As we grow up things change, we change and start to like that way.
    My personal reflection is to love what I do every day and to be grateful for all the happiness around me that is worth living and fighting for.

    TERIMA KASIH (Thank You)

  • A New Experience

    September 26th 2017. Michael Johnson Young Leader Jamie Tomkinson wrote about working with CAC and The Door Albania in Shkoder, Albania.

    Our week in Albania was both an experience and a program I learnt a lot from and won’t forget in a hurry. We were living on a farm and were very much back to basics with no internet and being a 45 minute walk from the nearest city. Having grown up in the heart of Edinburgh, a busy capital city, this was a new experience for me entirely. We became accustomed to seeing 6 dogs, 4 cats, geese and even the occasional donkey just wandering past. I didn’t even need an alarm clock for the first time since I was kid, thanks to our friendly but noisy rooster family. And who needs a TV when you’ve got 6 dogs? They were a constant comedy show!

    We also had lots of fun On-Field. As this was a year 3 program, the participants who had been before already had a great understanding and knowledge around the games and knew what types of things to expect. We had a small group who were engaging and wanted to learn. My personal highlight from the week was giving them the time and opportunity to create their own games using their experiences and past knowledge of the previous two years, and then each of them delivering it to the rest of the group. It was encouraging and rewarding to watch them all give positive and constructive feedback to each other after delivering some great games.

    It was evident that this 3 year program has had an impact on these people, they were open-minded about the various social issues we discussed and had a real desire to make a difference in their own communities, using sport as a vehicle to do so.