• The World Away from Home

    September 1st, 2015.  CAC intern and first-time traveler Emily Zwierzchowski blogs about her two weeks in Cambodia.

    My first, and by no means last, adventure abroad has officially come to an end, and  although I may physically be leaving the country of Cambodia and the city of Phnom Penh, I will forever be changed by the people I met and the things that I saw.  I learned that you can bookend the beginning of your trip, but never the end, because although you may have left you only continue to grow and be impacted by what you saw and did.  It was sobering to realize that there is a “real world” with real problems once you leave your home, and the safety of your small New Hampshire town. A part of the world that many try to sweep under the rug and pretend doesn’t exist. A part of the world where people still live in unimaginable poverty.  A part of the world where a roof over your head isn’t guaranteed, and quite often not there. A part of the world where electricity is too expensive for a vast majority of the population and families live in the dark. A part of the world where clean water and food isn’t always available.  And a part of the world where child and sex trafficking is a massive business.  Its sobering to see that the problems we, as U.S. Citizens, have worked so hard to eradicate are thriving right outside the safety of our countries borders.  But, perhaps what is most sobering is that this is a part of the world where humans are still people, and a smile and a laugh have the power to overcome language barriers, and this is a part of the world where football has the power to change lives.

    I first started volunteering for CAC Off-Field nearly one year ago, and when I asked Brian if I could dive into On-Field work and got the “a-okay” I was thrilled.  The computer screen was no longer going to be my classroom but the football field instead.  When I first arrived in Cambodia I was in a bit of shell shock, the sounds, smells, and sights were all new to me. I didn’t recognize the writing on the billboards, and I had never smelled such smells; sweet smells of street food wafted past me one second, then the scent of garbage the next.  Everything was a whirlwind until I stepped foot on the football field.  I was instantly greeted with hugs and smiles as coaches embraced me and in no time the country that I felt so estranged from was my home.  Few coaches could speak English, but thanks to our translator and the work ethic of the coaches, trainings went brilliantly.  Everyday new games with different themes were translated from English, to Khmer, and then signed to our deaf participants.  Coaches learned valuable lessons on the importance of having a voice, being able to solve problems they faced everyday, and how to protect themselves and ultimately their players from things such as sexual, physical, and mental violence. Days were wrapped up by discussing what we had learned that day; posters scrawled with Khmer and sketches were hung up for coaches to take notes or photographs of.  And with each passing day I felt more, and more privileged to be educating these coaches.

    However, the real reward was when we got to attend these coaches trainings and be first hand witnesses to the impact we were making.  The coaches of Indochina Starfish (ISF) were beautifully implementing the games we taught them to their players who, just like them, were eager to play, learn and most importantly have fun.  One practice in particular that I got to attend was led by a coach who went by Strey Mau.  She was coaching a u14 boys team, and despite my previous encounters with 14 year old boys, they were extremely eager and well behaved.  They were all at practice promptly at 5 pm, and out laughing and kicking the ball around before practice even began.  But, when Strey Mau was ready to start practice they were ready as well.  We started off with a game of “Circle of Friends”, we darted in and out of the circle alternating between dances and high fives we were soon all in stitches smiling from ear to ear. We were just getting a drink when the rain came, and when I say rain I mean a torrential downpour.  Everyone was rushed under the small roof covering some picnic tables where a teacher was waiting to give them a lesson on religion.  I was shocked in the most amazing way that not only did these students work hard on the field, but off the field as well, and that the messages theses games we were using on field were directly correlating to their lives and educations off field.

    My experience in Cambodia will be a mile marker in my life for years and years to come.  The people and places and experiences I had made me see the world in a different light.  No longer is it just the safe small New Hampshire town that I call home, but it’s a massive place full of a million different people with a million different stories, and ultimately, a million different problems.  I feel incredibly lucky that I got the chance to travel with Coaches Across Continents, and make an impact on those problems in the heart of Cambodia and in the minds of it’s people.

    DSC06525

    DSC06849

    DSC02109

  • Worldwide Women’s Day Celebrations

    1495116_638780162837889_1730077393_oMarch 19, 2014. Have we told you how fantastic, passionate, and committed our partners are to making a difference? Well if we haven’t told you lately, let us tell you now! Women’s Day was March 8th, and our remarkable partners took it on full force.  Working in over 20 countries at the moment, we had pictures and stories coming in from South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, and Haiti – and that is just the beginning.

    Our partners are not only top notch in the sport for social impact world, but they also host unique events when it comes to special dates like International Women’s Day. We have a partner in Dodoma, Tanzania who hosted an event with over 180 young girls participating, and played female empowerment games including Jackie’s Circle and Tegla identity from the CAC curriculum. Our partners in Uganda hosted events attended by numerous women’s charities where they touched on subjects ranging from gender equality to environmental conservation while celebrating women of all ages, and the importance of having female role models.IMG-20140308-00259

    One of our South African partners, WhizzKids United, celebrated Women’s Day focusing on specific issues for women in their community and having Gugu Mofokeng inspire the young women to stand up against violence. GOALS Haiti celebrated the day by hosting their second girls clinic educating young women about health, and making it a safe and comfortable place to communicate and ask questions.

    Our partner NAZ Goal from India took a different approach on Women’s Day inviting parents of youth from their foundation to come to their celebration, and have young girls teach female empowerment games. The girls taught their parents one of CAC’s favorite games, “Seles Attack”, and helped spread awareness on safe spaces in the community.

    IndoChina Starfish in Cambodia celebrated Women’s Day by highlighting their two incredible female coaches, and telling their inspirational stories. Working first hand with these coaches, and reading their personal stories that got them to where they are now is astonishing.

    Coaches Across Continents wants to thank our partners for the incredible difference they make every day in the lives of the people in their communities. Women’s Day was a huge success thanks to the passionate, hard-working local organizations we are lucky to work with around the world.

    unnamed-1

  • Congratulations to ISF on their new campus!!

    1462984_587643094640810_940161857_nWorking around the world CAC is able to partner with some of the most amazing organizations that exist today.  Many times after leaving sites the CAC coaches are eager to return to those sites the following year, and love to keep updated on the organizations that stole our hearts.

    One fantastic organization that CAC worked with this year was Indochina Starfish (ISF) in Cambodia. ISF works continuously with children throughout Cambodia giving many a chance to a free education and after school activities. They have a football league that they run throughout Phnom Phen, and they share their coaches free of charge to many schools to give opportunities to all children.

    Just this past month ISF opened their second new beautiful school that includes a top-notch football pitch.  The opening ceremonies included crafts, traditional dance and an English language play.

    CAC would like to Congratulate ISF on their hard work and much deserved fantastic new school!!

  • Do We Really Have to Leave?

    IMG_2002August 30, 2013. We don’t want to leave Cambodia. The first-year partnership with Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) has exceeded our own lofty expectations. From the trustees through the staff and into their two schools and football program their positive attitude and enjoyment is evident and infectious. This partnership came about because ISF reached out to CAC to see about capacity-building for their coaches who help to train nearly 3,500 youths through their soccer program and city-wide league.

    IMG_2005Already doing a great job with their two schools for the most disadvantaged children in Phnom Penh, ISF want to bring an education element to their football program. The CAC curriculum and philosophy matches that of ISF. During our two weeks we taught over 40 of our games focusing on Health & Wellness (including HIV), gender equity, and conflict resolution while also addressing general coaching improvement tips. We also watched as these ISF coaches immediately implement what they learned in their afternoon training sessions with various youth teams including one group with intellectual disability. It is great to see coaches implement the CAC curriculum so quickly and proficiently to their players.

    IMG_6124Another great point to mention with ISF is their focus on the most disadvantaged youth in Cambodia. Their schools accept children from two of the poorest areas in Phnom Penh with the goal of educating them to advance into the state school system and then into university. This week we learned that their first student has just been accepted to university. The coaches also come from these same backgrounds, many of whom attended the ISF schools. Instead of a life collecting recyclables from garbage dumps or working in the sex industry as some of their neighbors must do to survive, many coaches now have employment through ISF teaching the next generation of Cambodia’s youth. They take this role extremely serious in preparation for each training while keeping the trainings themselves enjoyable for the students with the right mix of laughter, teaching, and smiles – just like CAC!

    DSC02126During the final week ISF opened our free training to outside coaches from all over Cambodia. We received NGOs from Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battanbang, and other cities over a half day away. A fun group were the six coaches from the Deaf Development Program who learned the games alongside their hearing counterparts and also taught the rules of the games to each other and CAC coaches through signing. The final member of our training participants was Leo, who is on the ISF Board of Trustees. Although he grew up a rugby player in Australia, his enthusiasm for soccer shone through as he watched his coaches and football program take large steps forward in their coaching abilities and in the social impact messages that they now incorporate with the CAC games.  Indochina Starfish Foundation will continue to impact the lives of the children throughout Phnom Penh through their schools and football program, working hand in hand.

    DSC02276

  • Bei, Pir, Muoy, Tow (3, 2, 1, GO!)

    IMG_5938August 23, 2013.  This was our first week of partnership between Coaches Across Continents and Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF).  This group runs two schools in Phnom Penh and a large soccer program for the most disadvantaged youths in Cambodia.  Overall they impact nearly 4,000 of the country’s youth in this southeast Asian country.  Here are some other important numbers from our first week here.

    1: New Chelsea Kit for Havi, ISF’s newest coach in training.  CAC’s training week has been her first introduction to football, and she returned after day one in head to toe Chelsea blue to show her enthusiasm for the sport.

    1: Unique game of partnered duck-duck-goose invented by one of the top ISF coaches for his U14 boys practice.  The USF coaches have already shown their ability to adapt CAC games and to create their own versions which teach conflict resolution, gender equity, and health and wellness issues.

    5: Key Khmer terms we’ve learned in the first week:

    1. Sok-sa bai – How are you?
    2. Arun suor sdei – Good morning. (If you try to say anything in Khmer, be prepared to smile hugely at their shy faces and wave fiercely until they respond!)
    3. Aw kohn –  thank you (especially NO, thank you, to the hoards of tuktuk drivers ready to take you anywhere. Hint: a broad smile and no response means they don’t actually know the address you’ve given them. Beware!)
    4. Muoy, pir, bei – one, two, three, for the different Messi, Marta, Ronaldo, and Wilshere skills we taught every morning.
    5. Saam leng – Voice.  Our coaches have been finding their voice and confidence all week.

    IMG_57968: Five people and three live chickens spotted on a single motorbike weaving its way through the afternoon Phnom Penh traffic.

    10: The number of goals in a 7-3 win for our ISF coaches in their afterhours futsal competition.  The facility had a netted-in futsal field, foosball tables crawling with kids, and a supportive fan base of ISF and CAC staff gathered together on an unlikely looking side street. The ISF coaches and players are a beautifully tight knit community.

    IMG_579711: The number of times the CAC staff went up and down the waterslides.  ISF’s annual treat for the NGO sponsored students if they finish at the top of their class when enrolled in state school is a trip to the Water Park. The kids jump in fully clothed and splash footprints onto the hot concrete as they turn flips into the pool and pile five-high into yellow inner tubes.

    20: minutes stranded in a bland office building, waiting out an evening thunderstorm on our first night in Phnom Penh. It’s the rainy season in Cambodia, and we’d discovered a few dead ends on our stroll towards dinner.

    25: hugs – a veritable stream of love – from the students enrolled in ISF’s newest school as soon as we walked in the gate. The Khmer staff is incredibly passionate and eager to practice their English as well as show us their facilities and students. In the English class we popped in on, the students rushed to gift us with drawings of lions, bananas, and flowers alongside their descriptions in English and Khmer. The courtyards are filled with children playing football and skipping rope.  Here, education and football go hand in hand.  We have never received a warmer welcome.

    Hopefully these numbers add up to show you the great time we are having here.  Next week we will be working with even more coaches that ISF have invited.

    IMG_5941

  • Meet the Coaches Working in Cambodia

    August 19, 2013. Three CAC coaches have landed in Cambodia for our first-ever program in this Southeast Asian Country. For the next two weeks we will be working with Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) which is based in the capital city of Phnom Penh. ISF looks to help some of the poorest, most disadvantaged children in Cambodia. Part of their organization is a network of football squads through schools, NGOs, and communities throughout the country. Working with ISF for the next two weeks from Coaches Across Continents are Brian Suskiewicz, Emily Lambert, and Helena Bassett.

    Both Brian and Emily are long-time coaches with CAC having worked in over a dozen different countries. However having the opportunity to work in Cambodia made both of them volunteer immediately. Joining them is Helena Bassett, a sophomore at the University of Chicago in the United States. Helena learned of CAC through her good friend and classmate Micaela Harms who volunteered last summer with CAC.  Helena is a former captain of Taos High School in New Mexico (USA) and has traveled extensively in India and other countries.  This is also her first trip to Cambodia.

    helena bassettFive Fun Football Facts with Helena

    Favorite Team: US Women’s National Team
    Favorite Player: Messi
    Favorite Coach: Michael Hensley (former HS coach)
    Favorite Movie: City of God
    Who will win the World Cup 2014 and 2015: Brazil & USA
    Why I am looking forward to working with CAC?I think soccer brings people together across all boundaries and can implement social justice and change more than any other sport or initiative.”
    Coaches Emily, Brian and Helena during our first day of training with Indochina Starfish!

    Coaches Emily, Brian and Helena during our first day of training with Indochina Starfish!