• Back in Beautiful Biak

    September 6, 2014.  Off the northern coast of Papua lies Biak Island, one of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands that make up the worlds largest Archipelago. This remote island exists today as it’s own natural paradise, untouched by traveling tourists and nearly free of western influence.  But the simplicity of the island is what makes it so unique; Papuans grow and catch their own food and rely on traditions and their own ideas to develop. The remoteness of the land and seclusion from outside sources makes it difficult for Biak to advance in many ways. One of the main problems Biak faces today is the high rate of HIV/AIDS. The regions of Papua and West Papua have two of the highest HIV prevelency rates in Indonesia and the reality is that if traditions stay the same and education about how to protect against HIV/AIDS is never implemented then these numbers will continue to grow.

    Social issues on the island, such as this one are why people like Harry are so important to the future of Biak. Harry founded Uni Papua, a sport for social development NGO, and has been working on Biak island for two years. He has high hopes for the future of Biak and Papua and is adamant about Uni Papua’s partnership with CAC, using football as a tool for social change. Last year Uni Papua existed in one location on Biak, but this year they have coaches in three different communities on the island.

    When Brian and I arrived on Saturday we spoke at Biak’s radio station which aired internationally throughout all of Indonesia and the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea. The People of Biak are very appreciative of our time and efforts in their communities. Over the course of the week the coaches learned football games to teach young kids about gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and and entire day was spent on HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to develop problem solvers, creative thinkers and  educated leaders who don’t need to rely on others to make decisions or solve their problems for them. Once the coaches can fully grasp the self-directed learning model of coaching, they are sure to make a difference in the lives of children in their communities. A couple of the coaches that participated in the first year program stood out among the rest which gives us some knowledge of how CAC has had an impact in Biak.

    The problem solving games were the most impactful over the 5-day coaching camp as the coaches found ways to strategize and problem solve on their own. After playing a game called Old Trafford tag, where players link together when tagged; they used an analogy about how their chain represented a fishing net to catch all the remaining players. It was neat to see them relate a real-world application to solve their problem.

    Personally it was another week full of surprises and sensory overload in the world of CAC. I think the only time I stopped grinning was when I found worms living in the basin of water I used to shower with everyday. From the tree house nestled deep in the jungle that I dreamt of living in as a kid, to laughing with the children we met at schools across the island every morning, I have fallen in love with the Papuan people and the beautifully exotic paradise island I called my home for seven days.

    Writing never does enough to encapsulate all that I experience with CAC, but with every village I enter, every school I visit, and every coach I work beside I am able to see the power football can have on a community. And even more so I am able to see the value of social impact through sport that CAC offers around the world.


  • 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.




  • A Different World in Phnom Penh

    August 15, 2014.  Coach Kelly Conheeny is with us in Cambodia for the start of her CAC experience.  Everyday in Phnom Penh my heart grows a little bigger, beats a little faster, and sometimes I feel as though it stops completely. It grows when the intellectually disabled child wraps his arms around me at the end of the futbol session; or when the deaf 40 year old futbol coach tells me in sign language with a beaming smile on her face that she is happy to see me. It beats faster when I see a 5 year old disabled child with powder on his face and utter joy in his eyes as he slaps my hands and runs off to share his enthusiasm with the world. And although every bit of this experience has brought me extraordinary joy, there are also the days I lay awake at night thinking about the children that walk around the streets at night collecting cans and money for their families.

    Two weeks ago today I was packing my backpack to set off on a new adventure, working with Coaches Across Continents; unsure of what exactly the future would hold for me. Little did I know how much different life would be for me seven days later…

    We have done a lot of on the field work and off the field work this past week with one of our partner programs called the IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF). 31 coaches and an incredible staff of people lead by Leo, the Chairman of the ISF football committee; whom all of the kids adore. From the education system at the two ISF schools to the quality of coaches and leaders I have interacted with over the past week, I have been thoroughly impressed with the opportunity ISF has created for these young men and women. One of the recruiters at the school gave us a tour of the children’s communities after we paid a visit to each classroom in the ISF school system. It’s difficult to describe how I felt walking past the homes that these children come home to everyday. One community is built in a graveyard, surrounded by trash and leaning wooden homes, held together with rope, scraps of metal and tin roofs. The other community, was infested with flies and rotten food; Little children walked naked in filth, digging through the garbage and wandering aimlessly through the wasteland that surrounded them. Visiting the surrounding communities that many of the ISF kids live, gave me an even further appreciation for the work Leo and his team has done over the years.

    On the field this week we played all different games of futbol for social impact. We focused mostly on gender equity, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and using our voice. Circle of friends was a great way for the coaches to get used to using their voices and every morning when we play it, laughter fills the air. It was especially entertaining when Nick asked me to show the coaches how Americans dance, the shimmy is now my defining dance move for CAC. An extremely memorable session for me was when we travelled to Leo’s Soccer Roos under 10 team on a field with a tree in the dead center of the pitch, outside the school yard….Plan B…. After a couple of warm up games, we played a game called Ballotelli for Gender Equity, a game that questions traditional male and female stereotypes in your community. 80 boys and girls stood in front of us and stereotyped both boys and girls. After the game we separated the boys and girls and asked them each to run in place, like a girl would run. The boys impersonated a “girly” run by flailing their arms while giggling and exaggerated a slow, clumsy strut. When it was the girls turn to “run like a girl” they ran like themselves. When we asked both groups to run like boys, the boys picked up their knees faster and higher and looked more intense while the girls’ run didn’t change at all. The game opened up a powerful discussion about gender inequality in Cambodia. The girls all left the session with smiles on their faces after hearing Nora and Nick go to bat for them. One of my other favorite sessions this past week was our session with the deaf and disabled. The field was silent aside from a couple of chuckles every so often, and the smiles were beaming with joy. We went around the circle to introduce ourselves in sign and played a couple of games focusing on communication through eye contact and hand signals, as well as an energetic game of handball at the end of the session.

    My first week with CAC was an incredible success.  I am learning from my incredible staff members Nick, Nora, Graham and Francis who all have a gift for coaching and are incredibly passionate about making a difference in communities around the world. It seems that everyday here is more rewarding than the next. It is in experiences like these that you plan on teaching young kids how futbol can change a community, and they end up teaching you more about life than you anticipated.


    students at ISF often come from this neighborhood

    Kelly smiling with her new friends

    Kelly smiling with her new friends