Laura Kane blogs from Jamaica as the team continue their work in Montego Bay with the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.
December 21st 2015. The second leg of our journey in Jamaica brought us to Montego Bay. “Mobay” is the second largest city in Jamaica and a huge tourist attraction. Crime is a major problem as pickpocketing and petty theft are common among tourist destinations. However, our efforts this week were focused on child rights and HIV/AIDS.
A rain storm on our third day forced the group to stay inside for a child rights talk. I was slightly nervous given the resistance we faced in Kingston a few days earlier. But I must say, the coaches of Mobay and the surrounding parishes were engaged, respectful, and open to change! We discussed the topic of homosexuality, different forms of abuse, and the important role that coaches play in the life of a child. In Kingston, most discussions began and ended with someone stating, “but this is just our culture.” Implying that change simply isn’t possible. While we talked about respecting different cultures and the ideals that are unique to Jamaica, we also found common ground in honoring some basic human rights. The coaches did their best to help us understand the issues they face and the cultural norms that make change difficult. But I also felt like we had a group that was actively looking for new ways to help educate those around them. They were engaged and taking notes the entire time. Our discussions were productive and I left the day feeling encouraged.
On the fourth day, we addressed the topic of HIV/AIDS on the field. It was very clear that this topic is not commonly talked about in Jamaica. However, our coaches were open and honest about the taboo nature of this disease. It would be difficult to pinpoint how severe this problem is because men do not often get tested for fear of a positive result. A positive result would mean public shaming within the community. Imagine not being invited to play pick-up on Saturdays because people are fearful that you would pass the virus on to them. Most shocking in our conversation was the fact that most boys become sexually active around the age of 9. The group spoke freely about their culture of men having multiple girlfriends at one time. While the women are more willing to be tested, it is hard to be sure that your partner is being faithful. Our group of coaches identified several ways in which we can help educate others in the community about HIV/AIDS. It was great to see them step up, use their voice, and speak passionately about helping to change the culture.
I’ll be leaving Jamaica with a sunburn, some new friends, and a lot of hope for the future. I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country someday!
One Love – My First CAC Experience In Jamaica
CAC volunteer Laura Kane blogs about Jamaica and her first CAC experience with Go Ballaz.
December 19th 2015. It is natural for us to form an opinion based on the things we see in society, social media, and music. It isn’t until you travel to different countries that you truly form an understanding and appreciation for other cultures. Prior to my first CAC trip to Kingston, Jamaica, I thought that Bob Marley and everything he stood for was representative of the majority. As a fan of reggae music and a belief system of “one love,” I thought for sure my experience in Kingston would confirm this. After four days in Kingston woring with a group of local coaches, I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the culture.
First, Rastafarians (Rastas) only make up a small percentage of the population in Jamaica. Not only are they the minority in terms of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against to this day. In our coaching group of close to 40 coaches, we had two ‘Rastas’. I was able to speak with one of the gentleman, Mike, at lunch and he gave me several examples of times when police had verbally discriminated against him because of his dreadlocks. Mike was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken people in our group of coaches and I feel blessed to have met him.
Second, Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic country in the world because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people. Coming from the U.S. where gay marriage is now widely accepted and legal, it felt like I had jumped in a time machine and was transported back to the 1980’s. The term “battyman” is their racial slur referring to people who are gay. This term was used freely throughout the week and was typically the catalyst for laughter and jokes. The glaring contradiction came when we discussed child rights. They agreed that children should have the right to be who they want to be (freedom of choice). However, the caveat was that if they choose to be gay, they must not tell anyone. As long as they remain in the closet and do not “infect” others with their belief, they would not do harm to them. I must say, it was tough for me to hear but I respectfully listened to their point of view.
Finally, the most encouraging thing I learned about Jamaica was that musicians, disc jockeys (selectors), and professional footballers have a ton of influence. At one point, former national team player and head of Ballaz Football Academy, Andre Virtue, jumped on the back of one of his coaches who was only giving piggy back rides to the girls of the group during Circle of Friends. While we all had a laugh in the moment, it was quite clear that even a small action from a well-respected elder could break major barriers within the culture. During our child rights game, coaches were blindly following the actions of another former Reggae Boy in the group. Even when they knew the answer was incorrect, they didn’t have the courage to be different. While these aspects of the Jamaican culture were eye opening to me, they were also encouraging. It was clear that even a small group of people who are well-respected can work to affect positive change. If groups like CAC will continue to work with coaches and educators in leadership positions, we truly can get to a place where we love one another and respect our differences. Jah Bless!
Equipment Across Continents in Jamaica
March 18th 2014. Coaches Across Continents don’t only bring sustainable social change to communities globally. In 2014, we also donated over $54,200 worth of sports equipment to our partners and other organizations in disadvantaged communities. We have started 2015 in an even bigger way. Our partners in Jamaica, including former president of the Jamaican Football Federation Anthony James, recently received $129,204 worth of sports equipment from Coaches Across Continents.
This donation included different types of sports equipment such as soccer jerseys, zip jackets, soccer balls, backpacks and shoulder bags. The equipment has been and will be used by children and young people in communities across central Jamaica. The equipment donated will kit out a full youth soccer league for boys and girls. Without it there was no way for any of these leagues to take place leading to the children being unable to play organized soccer. A lack of equipment holds back many of our community partners who are always keen to provide their community with the equipment needed to play sport. By making these donations we can help many disadvantaged communities bring happiness to local youth through the power of play.
In order to make these donations we rely on people buying sports equipment from our warehouse. We have bags, cheerleading shoes, jackets, t-shirts, shorts, socks and balls in all sizes for teams and individuals looking to purchase sports equipment. To make an inquiry about purchasing discount sports equipment from CAC and helping us to give more to disadvantaged communities such as those in Jamaica please email
The Jamaican (Video) Farewell
January 21st 2015. Our last program of 2014 was working with Ballaz International, the Real Madrid School for Social Integration, and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation both in Kingston and Montego Bay. Lyrics to the song “Jamaican Farewell” rung in our heads such as “sounds of laughter everywhere” and “the sun shines daily on the mountaintop”. And among our great two weeks of training were the people of Digicel SportsMax who filmed the event and put together this great video of the difference being made in Jamaica because of this partnership.
Thanks very much to Digicel SportsMax for showing this on local TV and putting together a great film about Coaches Across Continents and our incredible local partners in Jamaica.
Equipment Across Continents in Jamaica
January 7th 2014. Coaches Across Continents haven’t only brought sustainable social change to communities globally in 2014. We have also donated over $54,200 worth of sports equipment to our partners and other organizations in disadvantaged communities in 2014. In November we donated $33,080 worth of equipment to a partner in Jamaica.
This donation included different types of sports equipment such as soccer jerseys, shorts, socks, zip jackets, soccer balls, backpacks and shoulder bags. The equipment has been and will be used by children and young people in the community. In Jamaica the equipment donated will be used to kit out a full youth soccer league for boys and girls. Without it there was no way for any of these leagues to take place leading to children unable to play organized soccer. A lack of equipment holds back many of our community partners who are always keen to provide their community with the equipment needed to play sport. By making these donations we can help many disadvantaged communities bring happiness to local youth through the power of play.
In order to make these donations we rely on people buying sports equipment from our warehouse. We have bags, cheerleading shoes, jackets, t-shirts, shorts, socks and balls in all sizes for teams and individuals looking to purchase sports equipment. To make an inquiry about purchasing discount sports equipment from CAC and helping us to give more to disadvantaged communities such as those in Jamaica please email .
Impacting Individuals: Interactions From our Past
December 19, 2014. It’s a week away from Christmas, and we are at our penultimate program of the year. This is the second year partnering with Ballaz International and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation in Kingston, Jamaica. We were impressed with the expansion of and advances made within the Kingston program. There are a greater number of coaches this year with the amount of female coaches up from zero to over twenty percent. It is apparent that Ballaz coaches have made a concerted effort to be the change that they would like to see in their community. With that, this week instead of telling of the larger social impact of our work, we will focus on two Jamaican coaches whose have been influenced by our past interactions and are carrying forward the good work.
Tashana Vincent, who plays for Jamaica Women’s National Team attended our training with three other members of the Reggae Girlz. Staci Wilson, a CAC coach and a former USWNT player was delighted to work with such high quality. Staci has connected with various organizations in attempts to advance the Jamaican WNT, which was disbanded from 2007-2014 for various reaons. Without their existence, role models for young girls faltered and Jamaica’s lack of female participation and gender equity issues snowballed. The team was reactivated this past year.
Staci thought that she had originally met Tashana during a recruiting opportunity in 2012. However Tashana insisted it was earlier than that. On the third day of training, everything clicked. Tashana walked up to Staci and declared that she had played against her over a decade earlier, in 2000 in Kingston. Skeptical at first, Tashana pressed on and told Staci that she wore #27 and played wing-defense, and that she remembered Staci out-working and out-running everyone during the match. At the time the Jamaican national team organization was a relatively haphazard. Fast-forward to today and things are still not equal, however the JWNT now has the support of Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob Marley), the JFF, and the country. Our staff was excited to see such progress and Staci was moved by Tashana’s kind words of recognition. Everything adds up to gender equity and progress to where we are today. Because of Tashana’s comments, it is clear that playing against Staci and her team made a lasting influence and encouraged her to continue to play and improve, even when the National team did not exist. She persisted and now is proud to represent her country. She is still involved in the game as a player and is studying to be a teacher. Tashana will become a coach for the next generation of girls and boys as both a teacher and coach – a true pioneer when things seemed bleakest.
The second coach with a great story is Maximillian McTaggart. He was ‘discovered’ by Ballaz program coordinator Sherrick “Shrek” Williams while working in his home community of Stadium Gardens. Sherrick asked Max why he wanted to coach the kids – and he answered that he wanted to make a change in their lives. Formerly a track athlete and working as a customer service representative, Max’s first soccer training came last year at the inaugural Coaches Across Continents partnership. Although his real job prohibited him from coaching during the week, he found a way to volunteer every Saturday. When his contract expired, he reached out to Ballaz to see if he could work for them full-time. His new and more enjoyable job allows him to coach at three schools and on Saturdays with kids ranging from pre-school through 18. In Max’s own words:
Working with Ballaz means a lot to me. I now have the ability to reach and impact a child and it’s important because in my community I see a lot wrong with they way the children are being socialized. There is a level of selfishness across all Jamaica. With people being very disrespectful, so I saw coming to coaching as an opportunity to change that. That’s one of my coaching mantras, the idea of respect – not just for the adults, but for each other. I really want to thank Sherrick for giving me the opportunity. If all of us as coaches see ourselves as people that can make that change, then Jamaica can be better.