• Embracing Change

    Laura Kane blogs from Jamaica as the team continue their work in Montego Bay with the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.

    December 21st 2015. The second leg of our journey in Jamaica brought us to Montego Bay.  “Mobay” is the second largest city in Jamaica and a huge tourist attraction.  Crime is a major problem as pickpocketing and petty theft are common among tourist destinations.  However, our efforts this week were focused on child rights and HIV/AIDS.

    A rain storm on our third day forced the group to stay inside for a child rights talk.  I was slightly nervous given the resistance we faced in Kingston a few days earlier.  But I must say, the coaches of Mobay and the surrounding parishes were engaged, respectful, and open to change!  We discussed the topic of homosexuality, different forms of abuse, and the important role that coaches play in the life of a child.  In Kingston, most discussions began and ended with someone stating, “but this is just our culture.”  Implying that change simply isn’t possible.  While we talked about respecting different cultures and the ideals that are unique to Jamaica, we also found common ground in honoring some basic human rights.  The coaches did their best to help us understand the issues they face and the cultural norms that make change difficult.  But I also felt like we had a group that was actively looking for new ways to help educate those around them.  They were engaged and taking notes the entire time.  Our discussions were productive and I left the day feeling encouraged.

    On the fourth day, we addressed the topic of HIV/AIDS on the field.   It was very clear that this topic is not commonly talked about in Jamaica.  However, our coaches were open and honest about the taboo nature of this disease.  It would be difficult to pinpoint how severe this problem is because men do not often get tested for fear of a positive result.  A positive result would mean public shaming within the community. Imagine not being invited to play pick-up on Saturdays because people are fearful that you would pass the virus on to them.  Most shocking in our conversation was the fact that most boys become sexually active around the age of 9.  The group spoke freely about their culture of men having multiple girlfriends at one time.  While the women are more willing to be tested, it is hard to be sure that your partner is being faithful.  Our group of coaches identified several ways in which we can help educate others in the community about HIV/AIDS.  It was great to see them step up, use their voice, and speak passionately about helping to change the culture.

    I’ll be leaving Jamaica with a sunburn, some new friends, and a lot of hope for the future.  I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country someday!


  • One Love – My First CAC Experience In Jamaica

    CAC volunteer Laura Kane blogs about Jamaica and her first CAC experience with Go Ballaz.

    December 19th 2015. It is natural for us to form an opinion based on the things we see in society, social media, and music.  It isn’t until you travel to different countries that you truly form an understanding and appreciation for other cultures.  Prior to my first CAC trip to Kingston, Jamaica, I thought that Bob Marley and everything he stood for was representative of the majority.  As a fan of reggae music and a belief system of “one love,” I thought for sure my experience in Kingston would confirm this.  After four days in Kingston woring with a group of local coaches, I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the culture.

    First, Rastafarians (Rastas) only make up a small percentage of the population in Jamaica.  Not only are they the minority in terms of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against to this day.  In our coaching group of close to 40 coaches, we had two ‘Rastas’.  I was able to speak with one of the gentleman, Mike, at lunch and he gave me several examples of times when police had verbally discriminated against him because of his dreadlocks.  Mike was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken people in our group of coaches and I feel blessed to have met him.

    Second, Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic country in the world because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.  Coming from the U.S. where gay marriage is now widely accepted and legal, it felt like I had jumped in a time machine and was transported back to the 1980’s. The term “battyman” is their racial slur referring to people who are gay.  This term was used freely throughout the week and was typically the catalyst for laughter and jokes.  The glaring contradiction came when we discussed child rights.  They agreed that children should have the right to be who they want to be (freedom of choice).  However, the caveat was that if they choose to be gay, they must not tell anyone.  As long as they remain in the closet and do not “infect” others with their belief, they would not do harm to them.  I must say, it was tough for me to hear but I respectfully listened to their point of view.

    Finally, the most encouraging thing I learned about Jamaica was that musicians, disc jockeys (selectors), and professional footballers have a ton of influence.  At one point, former national team player and head of Ballaz Football Academy, Andre Virtue, jumped on the back of one of his coaches who was only giving piggy back rides to the girls of the group during Circle of Friends.  While we all had a laugh in the moment, it was quite clear that even a small action from a well-respected elder could break major barriers within the culture.  During our child rights game, coaches were blindly following the actions of another former Reggae Boy in the group.  Even when they knew the answer was incorrect, they didn’t have the courage to be different.  While these aspects of the Jamaican culture were eye opening to me, they were also encouraging.  It was clear that even a small group of people who are well-respected can work to affect positive change.  If groups like CAC will continue to work with coaches and educators in leadership positions, we truly can get to a place where we love one another and respect our differences.  Jah Bless!