The Right to Purposeful Play in Malawi
A New Side of Sport for Sky Blue FC’s McKenzie Meehan
December 13th 2018. CAC Global Citizen and Sky Blue FC playerMcKenzie Meehan writes about working with Naz Foundation in Delhi, India with CAC.
During my first week, we worked with the Naz Foundation, a great organization that seeks to empower young women through the power of play and opportunity to learn in partnership with CAC’s Education Outside the Classroom curriculum. Our primary focus was to work with the netball coaches who teach life skills to young girls at local government schools. Naz’s netball curriculum seeks to fulfill their four main goals: to Be Yourself, Be Empower, to Be Money Savvy, and to Be Healhty.
Because Naz has been working with CAC over the past several years, the coaches were very familiar with the standard CAC games that bring about social change. Perhaps more importantly, it was clear that the coaches truly wanted to engage, teach and empower their players in a meaningful way. Therefore, our week with the coaches was focused on helping them develop the necessary skills to do this, without necessarily following a step-by-step guide in a written curriculum.
After evaluating several coaches at local schools and understanding the challenges these coaches often face, we focused on two main areas. First, we wanted to help Naz expand the number of games in their curriculum, while showing them how each game can have several progressions and can be used to teach numerous social messages. Next, we challenged the coaches to problem solve, to use critical thinking, and to ask players important questions to initiate meaningful conversation about important issues.
Ultimately, the goal was to focus on the development of the ‘master trainers’, trainers, and community sports coaches to enhance the impact of the program on all of the young girls. I was very impressed by all of the coaches, as they were incredibly energetic, confident and empowered young women (as well as a few men!). It was cool to see them grow more confident in their roles as the week went on.
Apart from our on-field work with the Naz Foundation, we went to a football training session with young boys and girls run by an organization called Foot and Boot. Despite the sandy field, the kids had so much fun and it’s amazing to see how much they truly love playing. Another evening, we played pick-up soccer with some coaches from The Football Link, the organization we will be working with in Udaipur later this month.
In terms of Delhi itself, there are over 20 million people in the city, so the traffic and noise is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Our taxi driver told us your need three things to be able to survive in Delhi: a good horn, good brakes, and good luck!
We also squeezed in a bit of sight seeing – we walked by the India gate, the President’s House, and through the crowded, windy streets Old Delhi. Yesterday, we took a day trip to the city of Agra where we visited the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, and the Tomb of Itimad ud Daulah; all three sites were even more beautiful than expected. The food here has also been great, although my mouth is usually on fire by the end of the meal!
Looking forward to heading to Nagpur to work with Slum Soccer – thanks for following along!
The Ultimate Challenge of the Perpetual Social Impact Machine
November 30th, 2017. Second-time Global Citizen, JK Cho, writes about his experience on-field with Coaches Across Continents and ChildReach Nepal, along with the complexities of change.
A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical device that repeats a certain motion indefinitely without an energy source. You might have seen a windmill-looking device in a physics book, which has bearing balls rolling around inside of the wheel or bearing balls swinging attached to the outer side of the wheel. That is called a “mass leverage” device, one of the most famous failures in the effort of inventing a perpetual motion machine. Since the Middle Ages, out of a desire to achieve an everlasting engine without burning fuel, countless efforts made by scientists to create this self-sustaining closed system have failed. The idea is impossible because it violates a couple of the laws of physics – the first or second law of thermodynamics. In simple words, it cannot close the loop because it loses energy gradually due to gravity and friction. The machine will eventually stop.
You can see CAC’s mission parallels to it in that the organization wants to help create social movements that sustain and evolve independently without a need for consistent help and influence from the western world. The organization refuses to do a one-time, feel-good “volun-tour” work and leave. Each visit is dedicated to design and install a perpetual social impact engine in a community’s needs and concerns, using its own assets. Once it picks up the pace, it is supposed to work free and creates their own organic results. Just like a perpetual motion device cannot ignore the physical laws, there is a natural drag as well as intentional resistance in the process of CAC’s work.
This week’s partner, Child Reach Nepal is one of the most admirable charity partners that I have worked with through CAC. With transformational leaders like Prateek, Shamsher, and the rest of the team who truly care and devote their lives to their community, Child Reach Nepal has brought tremendous positive impact to its children. In spite of the notoriously wide daily temperature range and dusty air in the mountain, the program in Sindhupalchok went stellar. Everyone was sincerely participatory with an eager to learn and grow. We learned that female social inclusion in sports and outdoor activities had been one of the major issues in Sindupalchok based schools. The girls said they wanted to play sports with boys, but they were afraid and not invited. We had a great discussion on it with men and women together and separately. It was bought up that women were doing more physical work in the community such as carrying on their backs an A-frame carrier full of heavy items. Everyone agreed girls could be as strong, tough, and athletically intelligent as boys if they had an equal opportunity. Some even said it’s the society and tradition that boxes and limits roles and behaviors in gender.
And then, one thing did not sit well with me happened. Immediately after the discussion, I heard there was going to be a friendly football match, and the bet was a 6kg of chicken meat. Guess what happened. All the talk that we just had evaporated instantly. People were recruiting the best players on their teams. As long as I witnessed, no one asked the girls to play for the match. One team even recruited these new faces who had never shown up in the program. I have to say we all were way into winning, playing a competitive, “real” match, or at least winning kilos of chicken meat. The school girls were automatically excluded and also seemed to not even want to play. They knew it would turn out an intense, heated battle. Everybody including me failed in walking the talk.
Almost 20 years ago, the UN made a commitment to achieving gender parity in executive roles by the year 2000. In 2016, with a 16 year overdue, less than one in three director-level positions within the organization were women. Despite the former secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s regular assertions of progress in appointing women to high office, an 84% of his appointments to top posts in 2015 were male. The unconformable truth we have here is that, for chicken meat, natural competitiveness, or whatever reasons, our words don’t always translate into action. Even the world largest and most powerful intergovernmental organization cannot ignore the drag and friction.
The ultimate challenge of creating a self-sustaining impact model is the action part. CAC brilliantly employs the Self-Directed Learning (SDL) principle and Community Impact Coaches (CIC) network to increase the propulsion and reduce the resistance of the motion. SDL style provides the sustainable nature, promoting the spirit of taking initiative in constant self-reflection and transformation. CICs are selected and trained local agent coaches who are capable of running a program locally on behalf of CAC without any cultural, language, physical, and distance barriers. Talking about the closed loop system! Another thing that I have faith in is CAC coaches’ rock-solid integrity. It’s the strong consistency and cohesiveness that are needed to make words straight into action and results. The coaches that I have worked with are special individuals living up to their belief and leading by examples, inspiring the communities to take action now and be the change.
In recent years, big corporations also started creating a closed loop system to be more self-sustainable. One of the world largest fast fashion brands, H&M, has just adopted the closed loop garment production system – they collect unwanted and unsold items and give them a new life. Their goal is to eventually get to the point where it does not source new wools and cottons. The possibility to invent a perfect self-sustaining system seems still questionable, however, the efforts around it did make tangible and meaningful results. Turbines and engines have gotten more efficient than ever, recycling has become such big part of production in the manufacturing industry, and CAC started sending fewer western people and use more indigenous human resources for global social impact. We already have the keys in us to the ultimate challenge – forward/long-term thinking, pure intention, and cohesive character. We just have to live and die by them, and then changes will come as byproducts.
Chala Bagundi! Tales from Hyderabad with Magic Bus
November 29th 2017. Global Citizen, Heather “Action” Jackson reflects on her week in Hyderabad, India with Magic Bus for the Coaches Across Continents program with SDL Charlie Crawford.
My journal is full of new words, phrases and slang I’ve learned here in India. A couple of my favorites come from our week with Magic Bus outside of Hyderabad. “Chala Bagundi” loosely translates to “Awesome!” Magic Bus, whose name derives from the “magic” that happens through the program and its use of sport as a catalyst for education, is Chala Bagundi, as was our time together.
In a retreat setting at the University of Forest Biodiversity in Dulapally village, we spent time on the (homemade) field, in the classroom and in the dorms in the evening. Once again, these youth mentors and coaches were so inspiring and impressive; many had traveled overnight by bus to be a part of this program, showed no signs of weariness and were ready from the start to laugh, sing, play and develop as leaders with CAC.
32 games over 3 days, including a focus on female empowerment and child rights. A favorite was a version of Scary Soccer the MB youth mentors developed using moves from Cricket, Kabaddi, and Handball. Creativity + Local Flavor = Chala Bagundi.
Routine sing alongs in the classroom, including songs about child rights, Magic Bus, India and of course, love. While we focused on having a voice on the field and taking that into life, these voices underscored the leaders’ sense of, and commitment to, community. Thank heavens they didn’t ask for a repeat solo from Charlie and I.
Playing Dam Sharats, also known as action movie charades in Hindi, with the whole crew. Sometimes it can be hard not to understand a word people are saying, but we can all understand the universal language of laughter. Suffice to say, you can only hope to get Titanic as your challenge.
Rock on Magic Bus. Stay Chala Bagundi!
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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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