• Leaving a Trail with CAC

    December 20, 2014. Coach Kelly Conheeney writes about her final week On-Field in 2014 with teachers from Dodoma, Tanzania. 

    4 months and a couple of weeks ago, I was flying over the Pacific Ocean on a 36-hour journey to Southeast Asia. I picked up my journal and began to write. “and so I’m off”, dated July 31, 2014. It took me several minutes of staring blankly at the title before I could get a single word down on the page. I couldn’t think of where to begin, so I started flipping through the pages of my travel journal and reading the quotes that were printed on the top of each page. I came across one that really stuck with me. “Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I left the page blank. This surely is not the usual path one takes after graduating college. But this is the path I have chosen for myself, and it is changing my life. Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania; slowly making my way around the world. I have reached the beginning of an end; the last program of my volunteering experience for the year, and in January I will begin working with CAC as a full time staff member. My last destination on this long journey, across 3 different continents and 5 different countries, to cities I have never before heard, and would certainly not have encountered in my lifetime if not for this endeavor. Last stop: Dodoma, Tanzania.

    Chaos like I have never seen it before. 80 children flooded the schoolyard celebrating the event of new coaches that were about to play football with them. Screams of joy and screams just to scream because everyone else was doing it. As soon as we stepped near the field, the children flocked towards Markus, Nico, Frederick and I. They latched onto us and started asking us questions in perfect English. The school was an international school where English was a predominant language. It was nice to understand the children and to be understood, rather than the usual conversations I have with kids in the couple of words I know in Swahili. Before the session began we got the children together and introduced ourselves. I also felt it was necessary to show off my new favorite dance move I learned in Tanzania they call the “Kaduku”. I called it the “koo-koo dance” inspired by Nora, a CAC staff member who introduced me to the dance move back in Cambodia a couple of months ago. They quickly caught on. After a short “koo-koo dance off” we split the group up into two, and took the field for a solid hour; teaching them Ronaldo Skills and ending with a game of “Mingle Mingle”. It was a difficult session to coach because the children weren’t very disciplined, but the one thing that never changed throughout the session was the smiles on their faces. It was the first school we coached at in Tanzania where I felt like the kids were free to be kids. It was a refreshing session to be a part of; even when the kids were difficult to tolerate I had to look around and appreciate the safe space the teachers created for the children to learn and express their energy and enthusiasm to play.

    Every afternoon we went back to the international school and were welcomed by beaming smiles and koo-koo dances performed by all. Prior to the afternoon session with the kids, we held a clinic for our coaches every morning from 8 to 11. The value of working with the children in the afternoon is that the coaches we train have the opportunity to coach the games they learned in the morning to the children they work with in the afternoon. It is also a chance for us to give the coaches feedback on the areas where they excelled and areas that need improvement. Since we faced some difficulties with numbers in the session we held the day before, we found that splitting up the children from their classmates was the most efficient way to train. Each coach set up an area in the schoolyard to coach a CAC game they learned earlier that day. The kids rotated every 20 minutes to a new group, which gave every teacher a chance to coach the game three times. It was fulfilling to watch the coaches adapt their games, create their own games and integrate their own creativity into each session as the week progressed. By the last afternoon session of the week the coaches were punctual, prepared at their stations and extremely encouraging towards the children. This week we worked with a wonderful group of teachers. The day before the end of our program, one of the women came up to me and asked if CAC could stay and train in Dodoma for the whole month. She said that on Tuesday morning she woke up with a sore body after our long day of training on Monday, and questioned how she would make it through the week, but by Thursday she had felt better than ever. She raved to me about how she has proved to herself through our training that she is capable of being a strong healthy woman. A realization she came to through the week of training with Coaches Across Continents.

    I am flying over the Atlantic, back to my home in New Jersey right now, a very different person than I was when I embarked on this journey. I flip back to the page in my journal that I left blank on July 31, 2014 and I begin to write under the quote written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 4 months and a couple of weeks ago I did not know what kind of trail I would leave, or what paths I would go down that would alter my worldview. But today I can’t stop writing. Whether my trail in Dodoma was left through the koo-koo dance, or the games we played that inspired women to believe in their ability to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, I think this is my mission in the world. Something I aspire to do everyday on this job, leave a trail. 2015 brings new countries, new cultures, new challenges, new experiences, and new communities to impact through the beautiful game!

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  • A Week to Remember

    December 5, 2014. Volunteer Coach, Keren Lavi, from Israel partner, Mifalot, joins CAC On-Field in Iringa, Tanzania and write about her first experience with CAC outside of her country. 

    I always knew my first time to Africa would have to be an unforgettable one, after traveling around 3 continents “IT’S TIME FOR AFRICA”.  I arrived to a motel in Dar es Salaam where I waited for Nico (CAC’s local partner and first ever Community Impact Coach) to pick me up for an amazing field week at the new ‘Football for Hope Center’ in Iringa. The morning we left to the bus I happen to fall down the stairs with my suitcase and twist my ankle! How am I going to get through this week now?! I stood up and walked with Nico to the bus, I was ok. The bus station was full with people and buses, I have no idea how he found the right bus but I guess every country has its own order they follow. We get to the bus and Nico goes down to find a cold water bottle for my ankle, after a few seconds I realize the bus starts to leave with no sign for Nico! “Nico, where is Nico” I shout in the bus, the bus has already left the station, I get to the driver “please stop! Nico is missing!” as if he knows who is Nico and that this is my first time in Africa and I have no idea where and how to get to the place I am supposed to get to. The bus driver stopped on the side road, meanwhile I start to panic and cry having no idea what to do. After 5 minutes of total panic Nico arrives hitchhiking on a motorcycle sweating with a cold water bottle in his hand!

    I started my visit at the peak which only continued to climb higher and higher. I met Kelly and Marcus, CAC’s team, when we arrived to Iringa – both seem to be born to the field of football for social impact! I was honored to see them coach and to coach with them! They immediately made me feel part of the team and I am thankful for that! As I already mentioned Nico took great care of me, I must say he is the best local partner an organization could ask for, not only does he organize the coaching seminars and talks to all local partners he is an inspiring coach and person that really connects with CAC’s vision! Working with such awesome people this week was a real treat! The local coaches we met were all part of Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) which hosts the FIFA Football for Hope Center. We had a week full of games, laughs, serious talks, coach-backs, and dancing mingle mingle at any chance of the day! One of the most memorable parts for me was having kids around the field almost 24/7! They will not leave the place till it was dark! It is amazing to see how a football field becomes the center of a community and the safest place for kids to play. I am loaded with energy to get back to my organization in Israel –

    My name is Keren Lavi and I work for Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises which is an NGO located in Israel. We also work globally in order to create social change via the football field. After training with CAC twice in Israel it was my time to join them in another country in order to learn and feel the work CAC does across the continents… My role at Mifalot is to develop the international programs. We provide educational curriculums and share our best practices, this is why partnering with CAC in order to exchange knowledge about football for social change is not only a privilege but an opportunity to grow and spread the love we share to the game and to the impact it can have on people all around the world. Mifalot share with CAC this vision and I can only hope for both organizations to keep growing and touch many coaches around the world.

     

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  • Solving Problems in Tanzania

    November 27, 2014. On-Field Coach Kelly Conheeney writes about our recent program in Njombe, Tanzania, organized by the Njombe Municipal Council. 

    As I was passing a classroom, I wondered why all of the girls’ heads were down. One set of eyes peered up at me as I walked by and I smiled to her before our gaze was interrupted by a sharp smack. Curious to find out where the sound had come from, I looked through the glass window once I made it outside. They were in the principal’s office, otherwise known as detention. This completely unacceptable form of punishment in the USA is common practice here in Tanzania. It’s called corporal punishment. If a child misbehaves, doesn’t finish his/her homework, arrives late to class or does something that the teacher thinks deserves punishment- they are physically hit with a ruler on the fingertips. My first thought – how are children supposed to learn in such a hostile environment? Intimidated to try something new, make a mistake or stand up for what they believe in? My second thought – how will the teachers we will be working with adapt to this new concept they are about to learn called self-directed learning?

    Two of the participants we are working with this week in Njombe, Tanzania are football coaches – the remaining 30 are school teachers. 4 women and 28 men. Every afternoon the coaches played our games with the children that came to the field from surrounding schools. Aside from a few of the coaches that lived more than 50 km from the field, all of the coaches were able to attend the afternoon sessions. It was crucial for them to watch their peers coach as well as experience the coaching themselves. At the last practice of the week, the pitch was filled with 60 children yelling out Messi and Marta skills that could be heard down the dusty Njombe road.

    All week Markus and I had emphasized the importance of letting the children solve their own problems, encouraging them with positive reinforcement, as well as the importance of children using their voices. The biggest challenge the coaches faced was allowing the kids to solve their own problems. In the first afternoon session, the teachers played a game with the children called Messi for Health and Wellness. In this game, there are 2 teams and between the groups there is an area filled with cones, half are right side up, the other half are upside down. One team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced one way, and the other team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced the other way. Players take turns flipping the cones and switch every 15 seconds when the coach calls out their number. A simple yet clear example of letting the children solve their own problem would be to tell them to get into 2 equal teams. The coaches however took a very long time to divide the group into 2 equal teams and individually number them one or two.  When the game finally began, it was important for us to stand back and watch instead of intervening; only through your own mistakes do you learn to look within yourself to find the solution to your problems and become a self-directed learner. We used this example when talking with the participants during our daily feedback sessions. If you always step in and give the answer to your students or players, they will never find solutions to their own problems.

    Through thorough feedback sessions and practice throughout the week, the coaches learned plenty of games to add to their coaching folders and their yearly curriculum. The coaches are one step closer to becoming self-directed learners and I am hopeful that they will implement the games they have learned into their “sport for development” segment of learning in their respective schools. Watching the participants coach the kids was the highlight of my week. Every session the children lit up with joy when they played the games. The smiles and laughs shared by both the coaches and children created an atmosphere that every child should have the right to in this world; a safe space to learn, grow, play and fail without fear of what will follow.

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  • Football for HIV Education in South Africa

    November 10, 2014. Markus Bensch – Senior Staff – returns to his old home in Durban, South Africa to run the CAC program with long-time partners Whizzkids United.

    From October 2012 till December 2013 I volunteered for Whizzkids United (WKU) in Durban, South Africa. Back then WKU had two workplaces, the office in Durban and the Health Academy (HA) in the Edendale Township 70 km away from Durban. The administrative office was in Durban and at the HA children and youth of Edendale can access health services and participate in different programs after school. The focus of WKU’s work is HIV/AIDS prevention through football. WKU is running year-round Life-Skill sessions at local schools that use football to educate students on HIV and raise awareness for the services and programs at the HA.

    Ten months after I left WKU I was lucky to be able to come back, see some of my old colleagues and friends and conduct a one-week CAC program together with my current colleague Kelly Conheeney. I’m happy that I can say colleague, because Kelly just decided to be on board full time with CAC for 2015. Welcome Kelly!!!

    For CAC it is the 5th year that we’ve trained the coaches from WKU and Edendale Township with the difference that the Football for Hope (FFH) Center that WKU has been rewarded with is finally finished and the previous two workplaces are now united at the Center. We were lucky that we could train with the coaches on the brand new artificial pitch and make use of the multifunctional room in the new building.

    Kelly and I welcomed 19 coaches on Monday morning. But first I received a very warm welcome from my old colleagues. It felt for me like I never left and I realized how much the WKU staff had taken me into their hearts. I was very happy to work with some of my old colleagues during our program.

    We started with a general introduction into Football for social impact and into the work of CAC, because it was most of the participants first time attending a CAC training. When we got on the pitch and introduced “Circle of Friends” and “Messi Skills for Life” we realized they enjoyed those games and were capable of identifying the social impact messages of the games very quickly. Circle of Friends is CAC’s most played game, because every session starts with this warm up. Players stand in a circle and one person starts to show an exercise while moving through the circle and finding a person on the outside for an exchange that includes a move (i.e. high five) and the use of voice (i.e. shouting your name or favorite football club). Now different players start to move through the circle doing the exercise that was shown to them and finally finding a person on the outside for the exchange before this person starts to do the same. This game is so much fun and often encourages people to introduce silly as well as challenging moves which creates an exciting atmosphere. This group was so enthusiastic and it was so much fun that from the 2nd day we let them lead the circle and introduce their own exercises. This game works brilliantly to warm up our bodies, but also to warm up and make use of our voice. Another social impact is to communicate with other people in the circle, concentrate to do the exercise correctly and to remember the exchange on the outside.

    One of the focuses of the training was HIV/AIDS education, because the battle against this disease is one of the biggest challenges for South Africa as a whole and the community of Edendale. So we played all our five Adebayor games that teach through football how everybody can protect him/herself from getting infected with HIV and take care of his/her sexual health. In the afternoon different participants were responsible to coach the CAC games they learned to the students that came to the HA. One of the female coaches just adapted our “Can Adebayor see HIV?” into a conflict resolution game and asked “Can you see who stole your pen?”. In the original version two lines of players with their hands in the back are facing each other and alternately have to guess who on the other team has the bottler cap or small stone in his/her hands which represents HIV. The social impact of the game is that you can’t know just by looking at the other person if he/she has HIV or not. The only way to know is to get tested. The young woman changed the social impact of the game and taught the youth that you can’t know who stole you pen just by looking at the other person and she discussed with them different peaceful ways the resolve conflicts. We were very happy to see that participants were so quickly capable of adapting games and make them their own.

    Two of the challenges for WKU over the past few years were to secure that participants from past years would come back for further training and to implement CAC games into their curriculum and trainings. The lack of implementation was also due to the fact that the construction of the FFH Center didn’t start for years and once it started it took more then a year to finish it and during that time WKU had to run their services next to a construction site. Together with the management we set some goals for the next year and we very much look forward to see our games being regularly played at the FFH Center and implemented in the schools in Edendale.

    We want to say “Thank you!” to WKU for being again such great hosts for our training. A very special “Thank you!” goes to our two host families in the Edendale Township who spoiled us with warm African cordiality, which includes delicious local food! To stay with locals always adds a very special flavor to our unique programs of letting us experience the local vibe and give us a better understanding of the local conditions.

     

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  • Rebuilding Tacloban with F4L and UNICEF

    October 15, 2014.  Most people have only heard of Tacloban, Philippines because of Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) which struck on November 8th, 2013.  It was one of the strongest tropical typhoons ever recorded to strike a populated area with the official death toll reaching well over 6,000.  However, if you ask any local, they will tell you that the actual numbers are much higher; some bodies were still being found two months after the storm had passed.  Just under a year has passed, and we have found ourselves working alongside many other aid agencies in Tacloban. Partnering with Football 4 Life, UNICEF, and the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST), we have come to Tacloban to provide sport for social impact training to coaches and teachers as they continue to rebuild their community.

    Yolanda has left most of the worlds’ consciousness as we start thinking of more immediate global concerns, but in Tacloban they are still recovering and will continue to rebuild for years to come.  The visits of celebrities like David Beckham have passed, but tens of thousands still live in temporary bunkhouses, buildings (including schools, hospitals, and businesses) are still being constructed, and neighborhoods are adjusting to their new daily lives.  It is because of this rebuilding that we were so excited to work alongside three great partners who see sport as an avenue to restore normalcy to daily life but also to use it as a tool for education and social empowerment.

    Football 4 Life has started operating in eight locations around Tacloban, targeting the most in-need children.  They run football sessions for them in this basketball-mad country, but see the opportunity to use sport to empower these children who have been marginalized.  F4L also brought together over 50 school teachers to participate in our training, knowing that these sport teachers are crucial to the use of sport as an active tool for social change and development of their community.  These coaches and teachers lived through Yolanda, and are the best people who have the vision and enthusiasm on how Tacloban should be rebuilt.  One of the F4L coaches, Margarette Susing, is featured in this video showing the process of rebuilding the community is undertaking and is a perfect example of the effect that a natural disaster can have on a community and on individual lives (4:18 minutes).

    We knew on our first day that this group of teachers and coaches, as well as the experience itself, would be special.  Meeting in a room that still utilizes a warped, water-damaged floor, we began our journey with them.  In fact, there are still very few structures which do not show the lasting damage of the storm.  On-Field our first game is always Circle of Friends.  It is used both as a physical warm-up, but also to get coaches and children to use their voices (and be comfortable with their voices) in a variety of ways.  On the first water break it was explained to me by a teacher that he preferred the students not to speak, so that he could maintain control.  After resuming Circle of Friends and Ronaldo Skills (another game which stresses voice), the same teacher came up to me to tell me that he was wrong, and that these were two of the most fun games he had seen.  And we had just gotten started!  By the end of the week these coaches and teachers now have an arsenal of fun games which address life skills such as developing children’s voices and confidence, but also games which educate about early pregnancy (a major issue in the Philippines due to cultural and religious influences), educating about the environment, and creating self-directed learners through problem-solving games.

    Although Yolanda only lasted one day, the effects will be felt for years.  Tacloban is still at the start of their rebuilding journey, but with dedicated teachers and coaches, as well as organizations like Football 4 Life, this process will be a success.  In total the coaches and teachers that we worked with will impact nearly 10,000 children around Tacloban through school and soccer activities.  These children will become the lasting legacy of Yolanda.

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    One of three large boats still grounded in the middle of Tacloban

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    Celebrating a great week with CAC!

     

  • Little by Little

    October 13, 2014.  Kelly Conheeney posts her thoughts from our last program in Indonesia in rural Papua.  I am sleeping in a house right now in the middle of Maybrat, a remote jungle land overpopulated with stray dogs and banana trees. There is one road between here and the city of Sorong and we occupied all 240 km of it on our 4-hour drive in. I am convinced my life in Maybrat is the closest I will ever feel to being a celebrity. Kids scream “Bule” (“white person”) when we drive by and giggle when we say hi to them. After every practice session we exit the field in the bed of a pick up truck waving goodbye to the children that sat and watched our 3-hour practice session.

    I feel as though I’ve travelled back in time. Electricity turns on every night at 7 pm and shuts down at 4 am when the roosters and howling dogs start their early morning chatter. Cell phone service can be found at the top of the mountain if you have the patience and time to stand with your hand in the air and wait for a bar to show up on your phone.  What seemed at first like difficult living standards became quite comforting after long days on the field.

    Everyday is a new challenge. Both on field and off field In Maybrat I was taken out of my comfort zone.  Brian had me plan each session and run each game on my own all week which was new to me. A week that was extremely impactful and eye opening in my life and educational, at the least, for the coaches that attended.

    Papua has the highest rate of HIV of anywhere in Indonesia hence the reason we spent two full days focusing on the issue. Some people in Maybrat expressed the belief that HIV is brought into town by people who travel to and from the city of Sorong. It’s a valid thought but it seemed a lack of knowledge over the issue was the dominant reason many of the coaches placed all the blame on that one theory.

    On the 3rd day of training we played Adebayor HIV games with the coaches. Among these games we talk about the facts concerning the spread of HIV as well as the ways it is contracted, and the social stigma attached to the virus. When asked how HIV is contracted; an answer that may seem obvious to some, were not so obvious to the eleven 30+ year-old coaches staring back at me. Some of the answers we heard was why HIV education was a mandatory focus for the next two days for us; Answers that were all false and based more on myths than actual fact.

    It was a memorable moment for me when a little boy who was watching from the sideline jumped into our session, because the game calls for larger teams and our numbers were small. At first he was reluctant to join in on the conversation until he felt a brave voice inside of him tell him to use his words. His little voice very softly muttered under his breath. The coaches laughed and I wasn’t able to hear what he said until Jason translated his answer to me. He was right! The little 10 year old had said the answer I had been waiting for as to another reason how HIV can spread, “through your mom”. The other answers, including “Mosquitos, eating different types of food, sharing the same cup of water as someone else” are not ways one can contract HIV/AIDS. But rather through unsafe sex, sharing needles, and through childbirth/breastfeeding.

    I think the moment may have opened the coaches eyes more than it did mine.

    A 10 year-old knowing about HIV/AIDS isn’t uncommon to see around the world, but HIV education isn’t enforced until later in their lives. Some unfortunately never learn the facts. But it may have been a slight moment where the coaches realized the importance of sending the correct information to the kids so they are able to make educated decisions with their lives.

    The way I see it, Maybrat is an area of the world that needs time to grow. Little by little they will progress, and it will take time. It will take a foundation built upon strong leaders and a system like the hat-trick initiative for existing coaches to have a structure for their lives and be able to impact the lives of the future generation as well.

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