• Stories

    August 10th 2016: Volunteer Lea Hinnen shares an emotional story from her time On-Field with CAC ASK for Choice partner training4changeS based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This program was supported by the Games 4 Good Foundation. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals involved.

    In my last six weeks of volunteering with Coaches Across Continents I have heard so many stories. Crazy stories, sad stories, amazing stories and sometimes even funny stories. I’ve heard stories from participants and children stories of gangsters and gangs, orphans, discrimination and the lives in poverty. But no stories would get to me like the stories of rape.

    In our second week with training4changeS we were located in the Football for Hope Center in Khayelitsha. We ran an ASK for Choice program with the male t4c staff and women from t4c partner organizations. It was a smaller group than planned, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened – and that proved on the very last day.

    The participants prepared discussions they find important to address within their communities. One of them ended up being the issue of rape within the townships and all over South Africa. And that’s where the stories began…One of our female participants, let’s call her Nare, shares the story of when she was about 12 years old. She grew up in Khayelitsha and had a best friend, let’s call her Sara. Sara and Nare were like sisters. One day, however, Sara suddenly put her hand under her friend’s skirt… Nare was confused, didn’t quite know what was going on and asked Sara what she was doing. Sara said it was ‘normal’, her stepfather would do things like that to her all the time, he would even sleep with her. ‘That’s rape, Sara! He cannot and should not do that to you!’, protests Nare.

    She tells her mother, who called social workers and Sara’s family. The stepfather denied he ever touched Sara, told everyone they were just two little girls making up stupid stories. Nothing happens and the abuse and rape goes on. Until one day Nare goes over to Sara’s place where no one answers the door. Nare hears Sara whimper and decides to burst into the house: She finds the stepfather on top of her best friend, in the middle of raping her. She cries, tries to get him off her, but he just threatens her in response: ‘When I’m done with her, you will be next!’ – that’s when Nare takes the knife and stabs him, grabs Sara by the hand and they run off.

    Fast-forward a couple of months: Sara’s stepfather survived and ended up in jail for some time. When he gets released, he goes back to the house, rapes Sara and kills her. End of story.

    Everyone is quiet. Nare is not the only one around the table struggling to hold back the tears – me and some other participants are right there with her. No one knows what to say. Everyone knows that there are too many stories like hers out there. Then Keke, a male t4c coach takes parole: ‘We as coaches can make a difference here. We have the responsibility to address that with our young, male players. We have to try to change this ‘boy-talk-culture’: A guy has two or more girls at the same time: everyone applauds. A guy says he didn’t use a condom: everyone applauds. A guy rapes a girl: everyone applauds. We, as coaches, as leaders, we can stop this. We can show them that these things are nothing to applaud for. Nothing any decent man should be proud of. We can make a difference here, and we have to.”

    So I want to thank you, Keke, for turning the moment of a terribly sad story into a new, amazing story. And thank you for creating the chance to improve the stories of so many people we encounter everyday.

    P1120083
  • Beautiful Mountains, Beautiful People, Beautiful Game

    July 15th 2015. Volunteer coach Mike Mazzullo, from New York City, joins fellow Columbia University ’12 alum Nora Dooley on-field in South Africa and Malawi. He writes here about our recent training near Cape Town:

    The first sign that I’m a visitor to South Africa: it’s hard to stop looking out the window. There is no shortage of natural beauty. Landscapes of mountain and vineyards and ocean surprise the eyes at every turn. People buzz alongside highways, walking to work, selling wares, looking for a hitch-hike, and perilously crossing major roads. Different communities pass by, some idyllic, some not.

    Each morning I’m sobered by the disparity between living conditions for the wealthy and the poor. It is hard to overestimate the gap between townships and suburban enclaves. I think of the homeless on Park Ave. Such inequality just doesn’t feel right.

    We arrive in Khayelitsha, the location of CAC’s 2nd-year program for the Western Cape. Cars full of participants arrive and filter into the gym that is our home for the week. Good-bye to any sadness from the morning ride’s sights. Five minutes with the participants fill that space with hope and laughter.

    The participants are a mixture of local community leaders and coaches. training4changeS, the implementing partner, brings their crew of seven coaches. Girls and Football SA brings four, all female. Dumi represents City Mission. There are many others, each with his or her own story and sense of purpose.

    Every day a participant’s story floors me. Take Keke’s. His experience is all too common.

    We are united by the idea that soccer can be a force for positive change in the world around us.

    And the participants brought, along with their enthusiasm and football skills and jokes, problems from their communities. Let me talk about one.
    …………………………..
    Gang violence recurred throughout the week. People spoke of the allure of gangs in offering economic opportunity, how gangs can become a family for those who have none, and how gangs entrap children at a young age. These conversations carried glazed looks, suggesting firsthand exposure. It didn’t take me long to notice graffiti of “28” and “26” – prominent local gangs – marking some buildings and traffic signs.

    …How can soccer deal with such an issue?

    I forgot to mention Nora Dooley. She’s CAC staff leading the program, and happens to be awesome. Nora coached the game called “Say No to Gang Violence”. CAC had originally designed the game to confront human trafficking in Indonesia.

    The set-up is simple. Each corner of the field (or gym) has a coned square box. These will represent what happens when you are “stuck” in gangs. Group discussion identifies the effects of gangsterism. It could be violence, theft, drug abuse, whatever the group thinks.

    Next, the discussion moves to how gangs attract youth in the first place. Three “taggers”-people holding cones- represent the methods of entrapment. It could be involving kids in petty crime, the legacy of an older sibling’s involvement, financial reward and social status, whatever the group thinks.

    The game is for the “taggers” to catch everyone else and send them to the boxes, which represent the harmful effects of gangsterism. It’s a pretty powerful image.

    Next we talk solutions. Are there safe spaces, ways out of gangs, strategies for avoiding them in the first place? Lots of conversation and ideas.

    Nora introduces cones and soccer balls as symbols of safe spaces/deterrents/escape routes – you can’t get tagged if you have the ball. Share the round thing and help others! It’s another powerful image, that football can save youth.

    The game continues with more progressions, further confronting the main question of: What can we do about it? Ultimately the coaches and local organizations will decide.
    ………………

    One of the t4c coaches, Sylvester, imparted an African proverb:”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    I think the mingling of various groups will have a long-term return. In any field – business, education, sport or whatever – ideas stale. One benefit of a CAC program is the ability to bring diverse people together.

    Even nonprofits can succumb to one-mindedness, but these organizations of the Western Cape saw each other as partners and allies. The biggest divisions in Khayelitsha emerged over Man Utd vs Arsenal, Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates, Ronaldo vs. Messi.

    And on the car ride back to Stellenbosch, again seeing the gamut of natural beauty and human experience, I thought less about passing strangers and more about the CAC participants.

    t4c_CAC_20