I Will Be Strong!
July 28, 2018. Board member Dr. Judith Gates is with our team, back in Kigoma, Tanzania where we held our first-ever program ten years ago. #CAC10. #WhatsYourLegacy?
“I Will Be Strong!”
These were the final words I heard amidst all of the goodbyes, exchange of email addresses and chatter about selfie photo ops that invariably mark the end of a Coaches Across Continents programme. Teachers and coaches were jostling with each other and sharing plans as to how they were going to put all they had learned that week into practice. The group of students, identifiable by their green uniforms, were talking enthusiastically about new insights gained.
She came up to me. Tall and athletically built, she unexpectedly hugged me, kissed my cheek and said, “Thank you. I will be strong!”
My spirits soared. I understood what she was saying. I knew what she meant.
This week’s programme was to mark the 10th anniversary of Coaches Across Continents. Ten years ago the very first CAC programme was held in Kigoma, Tanzania. CAC had returned to mark this important anniversary. It all began here. From one programme in one country in 2008, CAC is now working in over 50 countries around the world.
All week, with Nick working alongside Nico as leader, the group had focussed on the challenging issue of Child Rights and Child Protection. Curriculum activities had included games in which participants had identified sources of potential harm, recognised the varying forms of abuse, identified who could be of help and which places could be considered safe. They had explored attitudes and expectations relevant to their local community. Teachers and students had shared ideas together during the games, but also worked separately to discuss factors which were specifically relevant to their age group or profession. They had then talked with each and demonstrated their capacity for understanding differing points of view.
I had led a discussion on abuse. I asked which form of abuse, physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, was most prevalent in their community. Hesitation was minimal. The vast majority of both teachers and students cited sexual abuse. Teenage pregnancies were high. Girls were forced to marry at an early age. Hunger and poverty led to girls being sold, or selling themselves, sometimes for only a bag of rice. The boundary between Child Rights and Women’s Rights blurred as they explored the reality of life for young girls in their community.
I asked teachers and students, each in their separate group, to think about what could be done, how things could improve. Acknowledging the problem openly was seen as key. The students suggested media reporting, government intervention. Their message was clear. We deserve support and help. Children should not have to experience these things. Teachers suggested education and parental involvement. Both groups wanted answers and action. The aspiration of the girl students was to complete their education and find a job, so that their subsequent life decisions were made from a position of relative strength.
The final words I shared with them were about personal responsibility. We can turn to others to make the changes we want, but we each have the capacity to influence in some way the context in which we live. I asked them to be strong. I asked them to contribute to the changes they hoped for.
I told them they each could be part of the solution, they each could contribute to making Kigoma an even better community.
And she had heard me. Her final words were of latent power, of commitment, of hope. “I will be strong!” That is the message CAC endeavours to leave behind, hoping that it will take root and contribute to locally desired community changes around the world. Another first for Kigoma!
~ Dr. Judith Gates
Reducing Teen Pregnancy through Soccer
On December 22nd, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Nicholaus Achimpota, from Tanzania writes about running a CAC program in Kigoma, alone. Nico is pictured above from another training he helped run in Pemba, Zanzibar.
My name is Nicholaus Achimpota. I have a Bachelor of Sports Science and Management at Ndejje University in Uganda. I have worked with CAC since 2008. In the last 10 years I have worked with the government as a sports officer in Kigoma, and for 3 years as the Chamwino district update.
My job is training and monitoring the sports teachers, conducting workshops and seminars to club leaders, acting as the assistant registrar of the sports association and clubs planning yearly sports programs in my district. I work with 120 primary schools and 28 secondary schools.
This week it was my first time to run the CAC program alone. It was not easy to believe that CAC would trust me to run the program in country, completely alone, without the leader from CAC staff – but they did!
I was very happy to have this opportunity and I want to say thank you to all of the CAC staff for giving me this work. This means that I opened the door for other CAC members to work in their communities without the direct on-field overseeing of CAC.
In the first day the participants didn’t believe what happened. During the introduction for the Sports Officer, Mr. Abdul, everyone was surprised that the program was being ran by me (Nicholaus) because the last year was ran by CAC’s Emily from America.
At the end of the first day one of the coaches, Anastasia Busumabi, came to me and she said “Coach Nico, we understood the way you taught and how to use soccer to teach social issues. Because of the language barriers, we have feared to ask questions in previous years.” Another teacher Singo said “By bringing you here, it means even us we can do the same as you”. Which is the purpose of the Community Impact Coach program – to empower coaches to be leaders and role models for other coaches in their communities.
The five-day program was based on how to use CAC games to prevent social issues specifically teenage pregnancy. So, we emphasized the games for conflict prevention, skills for life, HIV and gender equality.
The participants impressed me, and motivated me to do all the best to make sure they understood how to use soccer to teach social issues to the community.
It was very fun after four years to be back again to Kigoma and enjoy the nice food that they had to offer. Migebuka is the type of fish available at Lake Tanganyika and was my favorite during my stay. On Thursday afternoon I helped the teachers learn how to play Woodball.
To be honest it was a great experience for me to learn and share skills with teachers in my country. Moreover, I never forgot to sing with them the song “Amatosa” and different concentration games. Nothing is impossible under the sun. It is important that all communities benefit with the CAC saying “Smile and solve your problem”.
I am the first Community Impact Coach to run a program alone in Kigoma.
Many more will follow the way. Goodbye Kigoma.
ISF’s New Sport Court
March 17th 2017. We are delighted to congratulate our long-term Cambodian partner Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) on their new Sport Court thanks to Connor Sport Court and Beyond Sport (with a recommendation from CAC)!
The brand new futsal court was installed at their new football facility outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It will be used by ISF to continue to empower disadvantaged children in the community through sport and education. They celebrated the new court by hosting a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony and football competition with more than 600 children in the U-14 and U-10 age categories. They also included an inspiring demonstration with vision-impaired youth playing futsal with special “chirping” footballs.
Coaches Across Continents has partnered with ISF to help them develop their capacity for educating youth through sport for 4 years including filming our documentary from there in 2015. It is always incredibly special to see our partners grow and better offer high quality programs for their community. We can’t wait to see the new court in person when we return to Phnom Penh in August this year.
This is the second Connor Sport Court we have helped our partners receive and build following the court in Kigoma, Tanzania. Thanks to Connor Sport Court for their ongoing commitment to building the capacity of organizations involved in sport for social change.
Epiphanies in Kigoma
December 11th 2016. CAC Global Citizen writes about our work in Kigoma, Tanzania with Kigoma Municipal Council on their Connor Sport Court.
Kigoma was the site of the first-ever Coaches Across Continents program, in 2008. It is a town of about 200,000 on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on the western border of Tanzania. Fortunately, the airport is serviced four times each week by flights from Dar Es Salaam – which saved us a draining two-day bus or train trip last weekend. Its lush green hillsides and the proximity of the second-deepest lake in the world provided a pleasant change of scenery from the dusty plains that have defined so much of our time in this country.
Though it could certainly have just been the small sample of the community that we had, the relative isolation of Kigoma seems to have shaped the social climate there. When we arrived on Monday, Emily and I were immediately swarmed by throngs of schoolchildren who cheerfully called to us Mzungu! Mzungu!;(which means “white person”) and stared at us in awe and with innocent curiosity – something we had not experienced to such an extreme anywhere else in Tanzania. After the participants asked the children to clear from the Sport Court so we could begin the program, a few remained, and one of our participants (a schoolteacher), frustrated at these few who had not obeyed previous commands, ran towards them and swung a full kick at them so that they scrambled out of his way and off the court – just as he had intended. Out of the 44 participants in the week’s program, just five were women – a more steeply imbalanced ratio than anywhere else on this trip. Early in our session that morning, many participants named witchcraft as one of the things they most wanted to change about Kigoma, a phenomenon not even mentioned once in our other programs the past few weeks. Observing all of this on Monday, I sensed that Kigoma was still fixed to traditions that some other Tanzanian communities have begun to reconsider and reshape, and the idea of our CAC program raising questions about these practices already seemed daunting. In many ways, our work in Kigoma appeared to be an uphill battle.
Fortunately, throughout the week there were encouraging signs that some of this could change. In several separate conversations, participants discussed the need to change some harmful traditions (like the normalization of physically abusing children) and how they, holding leadership roles as teachers and coaches, could play a role in driving such changes in their communities. Our program and the games we selected opened the floor for these types of debates, and it felt productive to hear so many people discuss what traditions to change and how to do it, large group conversations which don’t seem to very commonly arise on their own.
There was one moment though that offered the strongest confirmation of the effect of our curriculum. Midweek, we closed our session by playing India for Choice, a tag game that first creates scenarios of child abuse (regular tag), and then shows how individuals in the community can protect children from abuse (blocking taggers by using the ball). Finally, we designate zones on the field were players can’t be tagged, and the group labels zones as real world places where children ought to be safe from abuse (school and home, etc.). As the game ended and players migrated off the court after our ensuing conversation about child abuse, one teacher stood behind, drop-jawed. With awestruck eyes, he approached us coaches: “That…that…was awesome. Wow.” He was blown away at seeing how a simple field game can be a powerful metaphor for a social topic. Emily and I lit up; what a strong sign that what we’ve invested so much time and energy in has begun to catch on! Witnessing his epiphany was encouraging and inspiring because I know that at least one teacher came away from our program with new ideas about how to discuss touchy topics like abuse with his children and his peers. Even if he had been the only one of our participants to see the potential of using sports for social change (and I’m sure he wasn’t), no step is too small toward allowing a community to reconsider the impacts of some long-held traditions.
CAC SDL coach Rubén Alvarado blogs from Kigoma, Tanzania as we return to the site of our first ever program!
December 11th 2015. One of my beloved friends (who probably doesn’t remember my name) drank his meals for 21 days. Only juices, nothing solid, nothing processed, everything vegan-raw. He drank his meals because he believes in the power of symbolism. In this journey he saw a chance to return to Earth, to the Origin, and “become flow”, while outstripping the inconsistency of foolish “magical belief” by having a testimony based on his direct experience. He made a movie of it, of the objective, scientifically measurable effects, and the subjective, non visible ones. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched it now, including me, a couple of weeks before I became an official CAC staff member. “Returning to the Origin”. It once more (because the message has just kept showing up over and over again) seems fascinating, but I get that type of fascination that comes with a hole in the middle, of not really rationally grasping what you talk about, maybe because words can’t contain it. However I do not abandon it, mainly because it sounds so cool…
When I knew that I would be coming to Africa the idea gained strength and size. Where it all began for this exceptionally complex and funny creature, for this metaphor of the Universe, where it all began for mankind and womankind. I feel so excited just to remember the excitement that I felt in those moments. In our first days I told Nora, outstanding SDL coach, that I would spend my afternoon saluting the rocks of a mountain nearby our hotel in Iringa. I made it to the top of her list of lovable weird people. I had this major hope that everything would untangle, that clarity and epiphanies would flow like rivers to the ocean of my Mind, that my geographical movement should have allowed some invisible things to move and unlock for me to understand this “Returning to the Origin” thing.
Well, it didn’t. I don’t know if the excess of the local delicacy Ugali blocked the path of the Wisdom or what, but it didn’t. Every experience had amazing value and color, every game played, every person met, participants’ “Aha! moments”, listening to beautiful unknown language, the books I read, resilient communities creating a voice for themselves, the taste of ancient foods, deep passed-bed-time-conversations, bare feet on the grass, everything contained a hint, a possibility, a trace of the ultimate understanding, but it didn’t reveal. Every new answer brought two new questions. This overwhelming (sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter) learning process didn’t generate the spark of desired clarity, however, it delivered a treasurable gift: the humbleness derived of realizing that I know so little, acknowledging all the things that I don’t know and wondering about all those that I don’t know that I don’t know (thanks Dr. J). I joyfully surrendered. “Not my time” I thought…
We arrived to the green and peaceful Kigoma, our last city on the adventurous schedule. Warmly welcomed by our partner and “rafiki” Peter Kilalo. Before we met this year’s participants we honored the municipality’s support by visiting some of its members. “We are very happy to be back in Kigoma, where it all started 8 years ago” said Nora to one of them, my heart bounced a little. I didn’t know that we would finish this journey in the precise origin of Coaches Across Continents, but you know, now that I’d given up with the frenetic quest, the magnetism of symbolism didn’t trigger hope, although it felt cool to add one to the list of serendipities.
The legendary Sports Court, blue as Lake Tanganyika, hosted the session. Children from various ages had just started their holiday season, so, we had guests of honor every day of the week. Laughter available for every Kuku dance, expression of silliness, fall, goal or mistake in Kiswahili (I said Kiwicha, the name of amaranth in Peru, instead of Kichwa, that means head in their language). Things moved forward, Nora, CJ and me danced to the rhythm of the music of the group. Listening, designing, playing, correcting, asking questions, praising, confronting, I felt immersed in the high beat-melodious flow of coaching.
Kids came one afternoon, the coaches experimented with the new knowledge. We didn’t intervene. In between games I saw 2 kids seriously playing, with no identifiable purpose, just kicking a ball and making a tire roll with a stick. Their full self given to the game, no distractions, absolute presence, for a few seconds at least. I raised my head and found Adebayor’s condom tag happening among a flood of laughter. “Yaya one”, “Yaya two”, “Yaya three”, carrying the unmistakable sound emergent from the shape of a smiling mouth, I could hear. Suddenly I remember having read somewhere: “The Universe is made of play”. In 8 years, I can’t imagine how many times a person felt the grace of fun playing one of our games. Coaches, kids, teachers, parents, ourselves. I effortlessly start to feel the Giggle in my heart, it started making sense. We must play, not intermittently, to rest from hard work, but constantly, like breathing, as a natural expression of human nature. In pure play, not the one conditioned by competition, we experiment countless manifestation of boundary dissolution, the fundamental requirement for equity and peace. Even in opposition, we become a unity, acknowledging the value of the presence of the other, without whom the game would not exist, or myself as a player. When purely playing we defy a culture that says we must surrender to all the misery that it creates and thoughtfully displays.
We all know the places where our society and the world need great healing. And by highlighting playing as an urgent human need to rescue, I don’t mean we should only play and not address those other things that hurt us. We want peace, but how can we find peace if we carry the war within? I risk myself to say that fight and play cannot co-exist within the same human being at the same time, not in the heart, not in the body, not in the neural space. Creating spaces for people to play has the same power and value as any other action that aims for social development.
I did not get the answers that I expected, but the ones that serve the most, as usual. They came in the form of a ball, once again. I see it clearly, to have enough ink to write that most wanted story of equity, peace, harmony and happiness, we must return to that origin from where unity, bliss and Love emerge.
Punto y seguimos.
7th Year in Kigoma
May 5, 2014. CAC returns home to the birthplace of our organization – Kigoma, Tanzania. Markus Bensch writes about his experience in Kigoma as he continues his training with Staff member, Sophie Legros.
After we finished with our programs in Uganda Sophie and I had one week time to complete the 850 km from Entebbe, Uganda to Kigoma, Tanzania. After we reached Bukoba on Tuesday we went on a 12 hour bus ride to Kigoma on Friday at 6am. It was one of the roughest bus rides for me due to bumpy, gravel roads which even left a bruise on my coccyx as a memory for the following week.
But the very warm welcome by Mr. Peter Kilalo, the Sports officer, and Mr. Sombwe, the Cultural officer, of the Kigoma Municipality at the bus stop made me quickly forget about it. On Saturday we went to meet all the district school officials and introduce our program to them. Everybody was very excited about our program and a lot of people recognized us as CAC due to our 6 years of lasting cooperation with Kigoma.
After we had time to rest over the weekend we started on Monday afternoon with 28 coaches and teachers for our first session. The training conditions were very good, because we could use the new pitch which was built in 2011 initiated by CAC. We had a good mix of returning coaches and newcomers. Some of the returning coaches remembered games they learned in the previous years like “Mingle Mingle” or “Ronaldo Skills”.
Due to the fact that it was our 7th year in Kigoma we could teach them any game from our three year Hat-Trick curriculum. Games like “Tim Howard for Gender Equity” and “Know Your Rights” they enjoyed the most and got very competitive. The first one is a handball game of two teams where they are only allowed to run with the ball at most three steps and the players can score by throwing the ball into the goal. It turned out to be a brilliant problem solving game where the players set up new rules to make the game more enjoyable. The 2nd game is a child rights game where you need fast thinking and quick feet, because the coach is yelling out different child rights which are associated to different corners of the pitch and two team members of each team have to run to the child right that is yelled out first or second respectively. The participants got again very competitive and had a lot of fun and the game caused a lot of confusion which gave us the opportunity to engage them to discuss strategies to solve their problems.
We were positively surprised by the coach-backs on Friday. During the week we weren’t sure if they always understood the games and the social impact of them. During the coach-backs we could see that they really did understand and they even choose the more difficult games like “Can Adebayor see HIV” or “Know your rights” to practice coaching.
Over all it was a successful week although we faced quite a big fluctuation in the numbers of participants, due to the fact that the teachers had an important meeting on Tuesday afternoon and on Thursday they celebrated the 1st May (Workers’ Day) which caused a reduced numbers of participants on both days. In total we welcomed 39 coaches during the week and we’re looking forward to hear from them about their successes in implementing and adapting the games in their weekly sports classes and football trainings. As mentioned earlier we saw in the coach-backs some very promising examples which make us excited about the future of the partnership with the coaches and teachers in Kigoma.
By the way the bruise is healed and tomorrow Sophie and I fly from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam, so there should be no risk for bumpy roads and a bruised coccyx.