• Thank You, Goodbye Cameroon!

    July 25, 2014. Volunteer Kathryn Keefe writes about her last week (and month) in Cameroon. Our last week of Coaches Across Continents programs was spent in Kumba working with the Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP). This was CFDP’s first year of training with Coaches Across Continents. Our mornings were spent on the field with close to 50 coaches, and our afternoons were spent welcomed into the homes of CFDP staff members, sharing a meal together, followed by various capacity building training sessions with the management team at CFDP. We focused on Monitoring and Evaluation, storytelling, and social media for these sessions. And, of course, our later evenings were spent watching the World cup matches!

    During our Coaches Across Continents sessions, were able to have some very rich and in-depth conversations with the coaches this week, specifically those conversations around gender equality and child rights. Both topics for conversation were clearly controversial and at times these conversations became very heated. I was impressed with the young peer-educators from CFDP who were apart of the CAC training. They engaged these issues critically issues and added depth to each conversation.

    Kumba exceeded all of our expectations. The CFDP team hosted a number of events during the week that we were invited to take part in. On our first night in Kumba, we were invited to the CFDP board chairman’s home for dinner, drink and conversation along with the CFDP management team. The board chairman’s name is Dr. Nzume and he along with his brother run a private, non-governmental hospital in Kumba. He shared with us his philospophy of community health and the importance of a holistic approach to development. He was approached by Justin, the founder of CFDP, several years ago and he fell in love with the work that CFDP is doing for the community. It was great to see his support and clear passion for the mission and work of CFDP and their partnership with Coaches Across Continents. This was one of several occasions that the Cameroonian warm hospitality was extended our way this week. We were sad for this week to end, not only because it meant that we had to say goodbye to this beautiful town and the wonderful people we met in Kumba, but also because it meant that we had to say goodbye to Cameroon and prepare for our departure and travels back home.

    Before arriving in Cameroon, Josh had told me that it would be near to impossible to expect what was ahead on this trip, and he was right. My month spent in Cameroon with Coaches Across Continents was challenging and it was hard, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life and I would not trade it for the world. The memories I formed with both my teammates and coaches from our partnering programs are ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you, Cameroon, for the trip of a lifetime, and thank you, Coaches Across Continents, for making that possible.

    Can Kathryn See HIV?

    Can Kathryn See HIV?

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  • The World Cup starts in Mamfe

    June 29th 2014. Hello from Mamfe! We arrived here Sunday afternoon after a long, adventurous trip from Ngaoundere. We took the overnight train on Friday from Ngaoundere and arrived in Yaounde on Saturday morning. Then, we took a bus from Yaounde to Bafousam, then another bus from Bafousam to Dschung where we stayed the night Saturday night. Sunday morning we woke up and took another bus from Dschung to Bamenda, and then a private car from Bamenda to Mamfe. What an experience! I couldn’t believe how many people can fit into those busses!

    Mamfe is HOT and HUMID. I dont know that we’ve ever sweated so much in one week, but not even this sort of heat could slow us down. We hit the ground running on Monday to begin UAC’s third year of CAC training. There were about fifteen participating coaches at the beginning of the week, including several returning coaches from UAC. By the end of the week we had closer to 25 coaches, both male and female. Our trainings were hosted at Mamfe’s brand new FIFA Football for Hope center. We found out shortly after arriving that our CAC training would be the first event ever held at the center. It is a really beautiful facility, equiped with a classroom, a computer room, and an office next to the football field. Wallace, a Community Impact Coach from CFDP in Kumba, joined us in leading our Coaches Across Continents training. He did a great job of leading and coaching games and was great company to us this week. We are looking forward to seeing him in a week when we head to Kumba for CFDP’s training from June 23-27.

    It was fun to lead CAC program in it’s third year. For this week, we focused on environment care, HIV, child protection and gender equality. The HIV games were a huge hit with this group. These games brought out a lot of laughs and a lot of great discussions. There is a game we played called Adebayor In The Community that the coaches really enjoyed. This game represents how quickly HIV can spread and also how making good choices like getting tested for instance, can protect you from contracting the virus.

    The coaches that participated in our child rights training session Wednesday morning brought a spark to the discussions that carried us through the rest of the week. The new addition to the CAC curriculum was a great opportunity for coaches, teachers, and volunteers alike to discuss, openly and honestly, some of the ways in which children in Mamfe are marginalized. We talked about how sometimes children are expected to work for their families and that those responsibilities are engrained in cultural expectations but can impede on that child’s right to play. We discussed the possibility and importance of not ignoring thst cultural norm but working within it, within reason. If a child is expected to perform chores or work for their household, some of the coaches stressed that it is important that they support these roles at home but thst they intervene if these chores become problematic for that child’s social development. It was great to hear coaches talking about how to tactfully and respectfully interact with parents and work to resolve the issue so that the child can enjoy the benefits of play and contribute to his/her household.

    Another fun thing to make mention of is that the World Cup started this week! We had the opportunuty to watch it with some of the coaches here in Mamfe on Thursday and Friday night at a nearby restaurant that played the game on a big projector screen. The power went out just before the opening game on Thursday, but thankfully the restaurant was able to find a generator quickly so that we didnt miss more than the first few minutes. Cameroonians sure love their soccer!

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  • Getting our feet wet… literally

    June 11, 2014.  This blog was written by our volunteer coach Kathryn Keefe in her first Coaches Across Continents experience – a memorable one!  Our first night together in Cameroon is a night that our team will not soon forget. I had a suprise awakening at four in the morning to what I first thought was rainfall, but then quickly it started sounding more like a waterfall – a very close waterfall. It was then that I realized that this sound was actually my water pipe that had burst in my hotel room bathroom! I woke up both Sophie and Josh and in the process also accidentally woke up Paul, the director from Breaking Ground, the program we were working with this week. Thankfully, he ran in and was able to shut off the water pretty quickly. After this alarming welcome that left us literally getting our feet wet in an inch of water, we were ready to begin our adventure in Cameroon with Coaches Across Continents.

    This is my first trip with Coaches across Continents and is also my first trip outside of the United States. As a graduate student studying sport for development, I was excited to have the opportunity to move beyond the theory learned in class to being a part of a program that focuses on the use of sport for social change in partnership with local communities.

    Ngaoundere is experiencing its first CAC coaching program, much like myself and Josh. Sophie and I were able to stay with a nice host family who provided us with amazing food, great hospitality, and hot showers. Josh and Paul were able to stay at a nearby hotel, but joined us for meals at the family’s home. When we werent coaching, we managed to keep ourselves busy this week by hiking Mt. Ngaoundere, hanging out with local Peace Corps volunteers, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the home of one of the local coaches.

    This week we worked with Breaking Ground, a local community development non profit focusing on rural development, entrepeneurship, and female empowerment as well as other coaches from nearby. It was exciting to see over 30 coaches ready to go when we arrived the first day and even more showed up throughout the week. They were excited, engaged, and very vocal throughout the training. Neither Josh or I speak very much French and the coaches spoke very little English, so it made for an interesting week of learning and teaching games without words. It also made us very thankful for Sophie’s ability to speak French to be able to translate and coach in their native language. You really realize how much you take your teaching voice for granted to when you are forced not to!

    It was during our first training session, during a game called ‘Mingle Mingle’ that I first felt the warm welcome of the Cameroonian community. In this game, everyone jogs around in a circle chanting “mingle, mingle, mingle” until a coach yells out a number. Then, everyone must quickly scramble to get in groups of this size. As you can imagine, there was a lot of pushing and shoving to make sure that your group is complete because if not, your group must do a short dance in front of everyone. This is a great game to teach about conflict resolution and it was also a nice ice breaker to begin feeling like we were among friends.

    Josh really enjoyed a game we played called, ‘95% football’. In this game, we play a generic game of football, except without a ball, and the player who has possession of the ball holds a hand on their head. To pass the ball you point to a teammate and say their name, forcing us to learn some of the coaches names. The experience brought out a feeling of unity among coaches. Regardless of where we are from or what our coaching objectives are, we are all here because we believe in sport and there is something about it that fosters such feelings. We are lucky to be working with organizations that work to cultivate this unity.

    It was hard to say goodbye to such a fun group of coaches at the end of the week. If this week was even a taste of what lies ahead for us, we are in for quite a treat in Cameroon. Speaking of taste, the food here is amazing! We would all silently cheer when our host family served us dinner because we quickly realized that we couldn’t be disappointed; everything that they cooked was delicious. Ngaoundere, you’ve really spoiled us!

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