• Quaking (With Laughter And Learning) in Bhaktapur!

    CAC perennial volunteer Graham Bradford writes about his week in Bhaktapur, Nepal with Childreach Nepal.

    December 16th 2015. Coaches Across Continents Founder,  Nick and 5 year returning volunteer Graham began a two week program with partner organization Childreach Nepal (CRN) in the historic and ancient city of Bhaktapur, a hour’s ride east of Kathmandu.  CRN is an organization with a holistic philosophy and approach to helping Nepali children realize their potential despite widespread poverty, and work in areas of education, child protection, health and enterprise.  The organization had been at the forefront of relief work and emergency shelter provision following the disastrous earthquake of April 2015, particularly in the mountainous region of Sindhupalchok, north of Kathmandu and where the CAC coaches would travel next week.

    Whilst not as badly affected as other areas, the earthquake caused significant damage across the city, including some of the wonderful historic temples in the immediate proximity to our accommodation. Houses on both sides of the hotel were essentially destroyed, although it was amazing and humbling to see families in the rubble seeking to rebuild brick-by-brick and at the same time surviving day-to-day hardships of poverty and increasingly cold nights. Following a first night of restlessness caused by fighting dogs and 5AM puja bells, Nick and G somehow managed to sleep through a 4.2 Richter scale aftershock which we are sure was a great concern to those having to live in already damaged homes.

    Working with a city center school badly affected by the earthquake, we worked with around 40 young and enthusiastic people and 5 local teachers across a program addressing locally pertinent issues, and particularly child trafficking and child rights. The young leaders worked out of temporary classrooms as the main school building, whilst still standing, was structurally unsafe.  This limited the area available to run the On-Field elements of the program, but did not prevent an active, energetic and noisy week of games and Self Directed Learning progressing to a boisterous conclusion.

    The program in Bhaktapur coincided with World Aids Day and gave a perfect platform to address the issues facing the young people through a series of fun but educational and informative games based around the dangers of HIV and good choices that can be made to reduce the risk of infection. Whilst the students ranged from as young as 12 years of age, they approached the issues with openness and maturity, a credit to their community and the work of CRN with the school, particularly our partner workers Prateek and Animika who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and in front of stage to ensure an efficient program.

    Bhaktapur remains a city in the early stages of recovery, a recovery not helped by a dramatic fall in visitor income since the earthquake, however the energy and resilience of our young leaders will make that recovery a more likely outcome in the months and years ahead.

    IMG_0284

  • 90 Trained Social Impact Coaches in Cambodia’s Capital

    August 26th, 2014. Coaches Across Continents has concluded its second week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, working in partnership with IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF).  ISF is primarily an educational program which runs two schools in the capital serving to accelerate the education of children from nearby slums to a stage where they can be assimilated into the state education system.  It has evolved, however, to provide a more holistic social development role including health and welfare services, outreach work and income/employment enterprise for the children and their families. The organization is funded primarily from Australian benefactors and sponsors, and promotes football for boys and girls as one of the many strands of its education program.
    Coaches Nick, Nora, Francis, Kelly and Graham continued into the second week of the program with around 90 young coaches from ISF and other NGOs based around the capital.  The age of the coaches ranges from 14 to over 40.  Included in the mix of young men and women are a group of 13 coaches from the Deaf Development Program of Cambodia.  These coaches have brought with them an extra and enriching dimension of fun, enjoyment and challenge to the week’s activities.  Focus of the week’s football for social development program has been on gender equality, health and wellness and conflict resolution.  These have been delivered in extremely hot and humid conditions but where the energy of all involved has been high and laughter and play has pervaded right across the field.
    Cambodia is a desperately poor country, with significant numbers of people living in slum communities, particularly in the urban areas.  CAC visited one of the ISF schools and met many of the children in lessons who were fascinated to see on world maps where we had travelled from to be with them.  In turn we were greeted by eager demonstrations of their English language skills and beautiful artwork.   On leaving the school we visited the slums which were home to the children which had only just presented us with drawings and paper flowers.  Most of us had ‘experienced’ slum conditions across other continents, but the conditions in Phnom Penh were as distressing as those we’d seen in Africa and India.  In one community tiny, timber and tin shacks on stilts (to raise above the invested pools of stagnant water and trash below) were built within an abandoned cemetery with tombs all remaining in place.  It was humbling to recall that the great young coaches we have been working with on the field day after day returned to these or similar conditions day after day.
    One particularly inspirational example of the success of ISF has been the development of coach Srey Mau, who began her career as a cleaner at the school but through boundless energy, personality and selflessness has become a key coach in the organization and has embraced the CAC program with great energy and enthusiasm.  In doing so she has stood out as a shining example of the positive work and opportunities ISF and CAC are delivering together.

     

    DSC03145

     

  • CAC Hits Israel

    December 10, 2013.  Nick Gates and Graham Bradford arrived in Israel on 17th of November, mentally and physically refreshed after a full 24 hours on the road travelling from Nagpur, India after a wonderfully successful and enjoyable programme with Slum Soccer.  Perhaps ‘fully refreshed’ may be a slight exaggeration on reflection.  The trip included three flights, the world’s shortest hotel stay (for respectable reasons) with the chaps checking into the hotel in Mumbai at around 2.30 am and taking the early morning alarm call at 4.00 am.  Only just enough time for an evening meal, 14 minutes in bed and a full Indian breakfast.

    israel1Destination Tel Aviv was achieved eventually and in zombie-like condition we were met by the delightful Keren Levi, international Development Manager at Mifalot, our partner organisation for the 5 days ahead.  Mifalot is a Beyond Sport Winner and Street Football World member.  Keren had the dubious pleasure of being our driver, guide, bodyguard, interpreter, historian, X-factor correspondent and theological punching-bag for our time in Israel. She was exceptionally welcoming, helpful, patient, and skilled in most of these roles.  We wish her lots of luck in her driving test – which she should be ready for sometime next summer.

    The setting for our stay on Tel Aviv beachfront was in some contrast to our Indian experience, but it was noted that there was a disappointing absence of sacred cows and tuk-tuks in the street.  We just about coped though.

    israel2The purpose of the week was a departure from a typical program, with Mifalot senior manager Clive Lessem seeking to learn from Nick how Coaches Across Continents’ coaching, business and logistics model operates so successfully around the globe, as Mifalot looks to spread their work beyond Israel.  Mifalot is a well-established secular social development organization, affiliated and funded by Hapoel Tel Aviv FC.  It works across a wide spectrum of communities in Israel, using sport for social development across ethnic, economic, gender, special needs and of course religious divides – of which Israel has a few.

    Mifalot works across Israel and Nick and Graham led or observed sessions with a number Mifalot’s regional teams of full-time and volunteer coaches across the country.  A well-developed national programme of volunteers known as ‘civil service’ provides a healthy supply of coaches to support the core team of full-time staff and Nick and Graham took lively sessions in the north, south and west of Israel, including a highly significant session in the West Bank.  In our nation-wide tour of duty we ran coaching sessions for mixed groups of Jewish, Bedouin, Cicassia and Christian coaches in.

    israel3It was clear that the West Bank session was going to be special.  To Nick and Graham there was a significant level of concern that this might be our last ever coaching session together, whilst there was a certain air of excitement and anticipation within Mifalot’s team of full-time staff and coaches who had worked hard to facilitate it.  The setting was to the west of Jerusalem, the playing field – perhaps surprisingly – was exceptional (and the call to prayer from the minaret immediately adjacent to the field particularly deafening) and the participants a mix of volunteer coaches from the Arabic, Jewish and Bedouin communities, including women – which in the context of the West Bank was a highly significant.  From our point of view the session was not particularly exceptional… it was great fun, there was lots of laughing, noise, enthusiasm and healthy debate – the usual Coaches Across Continents fare.  However, for our hosts the coming together of men and women from these communities was hugely significant, and congratulations should go to Seigi and his local coaching team for all the work it must have taken to bring these together on the field, in learning, laughing and friendship.

    bhe2Historic as the program may have been, there were other highlights which Nick and Graham will take with them from Israel.  These include the food, the food and the food.  Wow.  Quantity and quality is perhaps a rare combination on a Coaches Across Continents Program, but was surely the case here.  Of particular note was the restaurateur in Um El-Fahem who produced a fantastic array of around ten dishes of various salads, humus and flatbreads before four of us, which Nick and Graham hadn’t realized were merely starters, before bringing to the table superb Arabic meat dishes.  We couldn’t praise his food enough, but he was devastated we couldn’t eat it all!  But we knew we were in the land of milk and honey when at breakfast our hotel included the option of trifle, tuna salad and porridge….. Well it would have been rude not to!

    Thanks again to Clive, Keren and their great team of coaches for exceptional hospitality and the opening up of a great future working relationship with CAC.

    20131119_194023

  • Disco Pants Hit Nagpur

    November 21, 2013.  While Sophie, Nora and Homkant headed off on what I am sure was a very comfortable 28-hour train ride to Coimbatore for our program with Project Green Hands, Nick, Graham and Sarah remained in Nagpur to conduct a second week of training.

    1This time it was for local physical education teachers who wanted to learn about sport for social impact.  They had never had any experience of this concept so along came CAC.  The program was held at Tirpude Physical Education College in association with Slum Soccer and Nagpur Municipal Corporation.  Unfortunately, due to the Diwali Holiday (where they paint bison, cows, goats and even dogs in bright colors, bang loud drums and set off more fireworks than the UK could manage in 10 Guy Fawkes nights) the attendance by the teachers on the first couple of days was a little lower.  Not that it had any dampening affect on our enthusiasm.  As well as fun games such as Football Golf, Soccer Tennis and Walley Ball (a.k.a. Rooney for Conflict Resolution), Sarah discovered that she might have a future in the Indian Kabaddi team!  Word of how much fun we are must have got out as by the end of the week we were up to 33 attendees.
    0The main thing that CAC learnt this week is that mutton actually means goat (or any other unidentifiable meat) and that being bitten by a rat doesn’t actually turn you into Ratboy (very disappointing).  By far the most important thing that the participants learnt was how to sing and dance to the Sunderland song ‘Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants’.  A remarkable achievement by anyone’s standards!
    On a more serious note, we coached games covering topics such as alcohol addiction, gender equity, health and wellness, conflict resolution and the environment as well as games that concentrated on teaching football skills.  This was all new to the local teachers and it was great to see their eagerness to learn. Hopefully CAC can return next year and coach them in greater numbers.  One of the teachers who attended for the second half of the week approached us and said thank you as he had learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed himself in the process.  The local support for the program is certainly there.  We were joined by some of the Slum Soccer coaches and it was remarkable how they maintained their enthusiasm for a second week and great for us to be working with them again. A big thanks to them once again.
    2One evening Nick, Graham and Sarah went to coach the children of coal miners at Western Coal Fields.  Once again, it’s humbling to see the benefit that spending one hour of our time can bring to young people.  That community is planning to start their own program.  On Friday Arnold, Stephen and Jenn from One World Futbol came to see some of their balls in action.  We hope they enjoyed it and thank them very much for making the time and effort to visit the program.
    Finally, a very big thanks to Nagpur Municipal Corporation and Tirpude Physical Education College for their support and the use of their facilities.  We hope to be working with you all again next year.
    IMG_0165
  • Potatoes are Brilliant

    slum1November 17, 2013.  …you can’t have too many bananas and never ask Nick Gates to share his Kit-Kat. These are the only things I, Sarah Brown (pictured right), learnt in my first week in India!  Actually nothing could be further from the truth.  I had the enormous privilege of spending my first on-field experience working with CAC and Slum Soccer in Nagpur and it was a steep learning curve. Having previously been involved in the business side of CAC it was really important for me to see first hand how much communities can be positively impacted.  I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction.  I had the honor of learning the ropes from Nick, Sophie and Nora.
    slum3Slum Soccer is an amazing organization that creates young leaders through football. They also run an annual nationwide tournament and coordinate the Homeless World Cup squad that represents India each year.  This is the third year that CAC have worked with Slum Soccer and those that had seen where they started were continuously praising them for their achievements.  There were 53 participants in the program, incorporating second and first year coaches as well as young leaders from other organizations such as Naz Goal and Maher.  I was extremely impressed by the commitment, passion and maturity displayed by all who attended and particularly struck by the confidence, tenacity and ability of the girls.  Truly inspirational in a country which is not exactly renowned for its gender equality or child rights.  I slowly got to grips with the games although I’m still rather perplexed by the social impact message in 3 bums.  I’m sure Sophie can explain with time though.
    We also got to coach kids from outside Slum Soccer in the evenings.  It was very moving for me to see how much joy they got out of one hour of our time.  One evening we worked with the kids of the Sunshine Foundation who rehabilitate children of sex workers to try to prevent second generation trafficking. Hopefully this will inspire them to join Slum Soccer and become the young leaders of the future.
    slum2Our accommodation was in a great house situated right next to the football pitch where we worked everyday and also an apartment in central Nagpur owned by the Sunshine Foundation when our numbers increased with the arrival of Graham Bradford.  One of the highlights of the week for Nick must surely have been when he arranged for all the young coaches to burst out laughing when Graham announced what team he supports.  All sympathy may evaporate though when you hear that he is a Sunderland fan!  The other, and perhaps most crucial, member of the team was director/producer/photographer/film-maker Kevin.  He worked tirelessly for the whole week creating what will be the 2013 CAC documentary. We found him an utter joy to have around.  Unfortunately, we discovered that the feelings weren’t mutual when he took the desperate measure of trying to board his plane 24 hours early.
    slum5I learnt so much in one week: About CAC and how it genuinely impacts communities in a sustainable way; about Slum Soccer and the amazing kids and young adults that are showing us how self-directed learning can and should work; and about the incredible passion and commitment of the staff of both organizations.  Thank you to those who have made this such a memorable week for me.  And a special thank you to Abhijeet and his family for being so welcoming and supportive.  Keep up the amazing work.
    slum4