Chala Bagundi! Tales from Hyderabad with Magic Bus
November 29th 2017. Global Citizen, Heather “Action” Jackson reflects on her week in Hyderabad, India with Magic Bus for the Coaches Across Continents program with SDL Charlie Crawford.
My journal is full of new words, phrases and slang I’ve learned here in India. A couple of my favorites come from our week with Magic Bus outside of Hyderabad. “Chala Bagundi” loosely translates to “Awesome!” Magic Bus, whose name derives from the “magic” that happens through the program and its use of sport as a catalyst for education, is Chala Bagundi, as was our time together.
In a retreat setting at the University of Forest Biodiversity in Dulapally village, we spent time on the (homemade) field, in the classroom and in the dorms in the evening. Once again, these youth mentors and coaches were so inspiring and impressive; many had traveled overnight by bus to be a part of this program, showed no signs of weariness and were ready from the start to laugh, sing, play and develop as leaders with CAC.
32 games over 3 days, including a focus on female empowerment and child rights. A favorite was a version of Scary Soccer the MB youth mentors developed using moves from Cricket, Kabaddi, and Handball. Creativity + Local Flavor = Chala Bagundi.
Routine sing alongs in the classroom, including songs about child rights, Magic Bus, India and of course, love. While we focused on having a voice on the field and taking that into life, these voices underscored the leaders’ sense of, and commitment to, community. Thank heavens they didn’t ask for a repeat solo from Charlie and I.
Playing Dam Sharats, also known as action movie charades in Hindi, with the whole crew. Sometimes it can be hard not to understand a word people are saying, but we can all understand the universal language of laughter. Suffice to say, you can only hope to get Titanic as your challenge.
Rock on Magic Bus. Stay Chala Bagundi!
Eagerness, Excitement, Encouragement
CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch talks about his time with Magic Bus in Hyderabad, India.
November 18th 2015. Can you impact a group that you work with for 2 and a half days? That was the question I asked myself when I was approaching Hyderabad for my 2nd program with Magic Bus in India. Tejas (one of our Community Impact Coaches in India) and I arrived together with the participants at the A.P. Forest Academy in Hyderabad on late Saturday morning. This campus would be our home for the next 2.5 days. Due to the Diwali festival the program was scheduled over the weekend and would end on Monday afternoon.
After everybody’s arrival we ate lunch together and I had to realize that the food in Hyderabad was even spicier than in Bangalore. I had to use quite a bit of the yogurt sauce that was provided to soften the taste. After Tejas, who lives in Bangalore, said that the food is spicy for him as well, I was re-assured that everything is fine with my taste buds.
After the heat left my mouth again we met for our first session in the classroom. As part of the introduction we asked the participants about their expectations for the course. As they mentioned their priorities I was putting together in my head the curriculum for the next two days. They asked for a game about nutrition? OK, we can play Balotelli for Health & Wellness. They want to get taught different warm-ups? No problem, I can show them many different variations of Circle of Friends. They want to learn goalkeeping skills? Great, I have planned to play Hope Solo Skills for Life anyway. They want to play Fun games? Sure, during Head Catch we will have a lot of laugher. They would like to learn how to easily introduce to topic of sexual and reproductive health to their children and youth? I think our ASK for Choice game ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ works perfectly for that. And I was excited, because the participants seemed very eager to learn many new things.
Hyderabad is a hot place during the day so we had to hold back with our excitement and only went on the pitch later in the afternoon for our first On-Field session. ‘Circle of Friends’ already caused a lot of laugher and Mingle Mingle kept the energy high. On the 2nd day we then also got to the topic of sexual and reproductive health. I was not surprised by this request, because I knew that India is a country where people have difficulty talking about any topic that is related to our bodies, sexuality and relationships. Again I was impressed by the eagerness of these participants to change that, because they have realized that keeping these topics under wraps impacts the high number of teenage pregnancies and abortions, forced marriages, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ is a game where two teams are standing in a line and the first two people are facing each other. There is some space between the two players and to their left and right are two gates. One of them represents healthy/positive behaviors and the other unhealthy/negative behaviors. Now the coach yells out different choices a person can make and the respective person in the front has to quickly decide if it is healthy or unhealthy. I started with “Eat vegetables”, “Smoking”, “Drink Water”, “Eat a lot of chocolate” and then moved on to statements like “Have knowledge about your body”, “Use a condom”, “Talk about sex”, “Have a boyfriend/girlfriend” and many more. It was a lot of fun and competition and some of the statements caused an argument as they were not clearly positive or negative. The participants were very grateful for this game as it gives the children the opportunity to make a statement without having to raise their voice and the coach can get a very good idea of what his/her players think about sexual education. They were eager to use it as an introduction before they would even talk with their youth about sexuality.
At the closing ceremony we got to see a visual treat as Tejas, who is a freestyle footballer, gave us a short performance of his skills. It was exciting to see what can be achieved through fun and hard work and what can be done with a ball when it is in the possession of an artist. And as we were driving back from the camp to the city of Hyderabad I realized that even a short training of only 2 and a half days has impact if it is paired with eagerness, excitement and encouragement.
How My Lonely Shadow Became My Little Limelight
November 13th 2015. I was sobering up from my solo trip to the Himalayas with 3 footballs and 300+ chocolates for the mountain kids – a trip which redefined my spirituality and perspective on life. On my way back, the purpose of my trip became clear: “everything we can imagine already exists. What more is there to life than making each other happy? And happiness begins with being content with the life that we are given”.
On November 2nd, I was part of Coaches Across Continents . I was part of something greater than myself. As I hopped on my bike with sheer excitement towards the training camp, I encountered a 10 year old kid who was late to his school and trying to hitchhike. I considered it as sign for me to understand my blessings and share my luxury by dropping him to his school which was somewhere in the woods. After dropping off the child, I thought about the conditions of India today, where there are several problems but people are trying to develop different solutions for them. The school kid had one for his!
At the Nirjhari camp, I was happy to see the participants from last year (during which I was one of them) but this year I was a coach. This amazing transition from being a participant to becoming a Community Impact Coach (CIC) drifted my thoughts back to the times where I faced rejection and discrimination for local football coaching jobs, because they all saw me as a college failure. Today this failure of mine is the fuel of my success! As I thanked my universe, I met Markus at the camp. He bailed me out of these intense thoughts and emotions of mine, by presenting me with a CAC t-shirt – an unforgettable moment where all my hard work paid off. All my lonely shadow became my little limelight.
As the session started, Markus addressed the 34 Magic Bus participants with his sharp and amusing introduction. During the session, I had the privilege of translating his English into 3 of our local languages- Kannada, Tamil and Hindi. I was happy to pay tribute to my school education this way. At one point, he correlated “Football for Profession” with “Football for Life” which made me understand that life is not about surviving but life is about living. Next day, I chose this note as a theme for my presentation on a literature examination addressing my college mates, which fetched me an ‘A’ grade. I was pleased to revive Buddha’s wisdom, “A master should create a master” by sharing what Markus taught me earlier.
Back at training, I watched and coached participants who were jumping, dancing and rolling on the floor with such sincere laughter while we all played Mingle Mingle, Circle of Friends with Boom-Shakalaka, Messi for Conflict Resolution, Hope Solo Skills for Life etc. It was inspiring for me to watch the participants, who were 2 times my age, give 100% to the game and create such enormous positivity in the environment, which celebrated all the goodness in the world. This sense of belonging validated my life – I was privileged to be a part of something amazing yet again.
As Markus piloted this roller-coaster ride of fun, he played a new game called “Brazil for Attitudes”. While the game was played, I was baffled and sad, to watch the stereotype actions of participants, when he called out actions such as “Punch like a boy, punch like a girl; shout like a boy, shout like a girl!”.
At the end of the game, I watched Markus handling this critical situation with such subtle brilliance, by analyzing and making participants recognize their notions on the differences between men and women. The group split for a water break after this. Although the discussion reflected a positive attitude towards both men and women, I thought to myself, that the world would have been a better place if these stereotypes, our ‘pigeonholes’, were created just for pigeons rather than for judgmental notions.
As Andy quotes in the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption’ – “Hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies”. With this I understand and believe that in spite of all the good and bad in the world, there is always hope for good things to happen.
And, I hope that in all the pigeonholes we create from now on, the pigeons are going to be safe and happy, leaving our minds free for positivity.
December 8, 2014. Volunteer, Ali Pleiman, writes about her 4th program with CAC in Bengaluru – our second week working with Magic Bus On-Field in India.
I’m not a chef but when I “cook,” these are the usual steps:
- Search kitchen for ingredients (whatever looks good/hasn’t expired)
- Throw it all in a big pot on the stove
- Voila! Let it stew and hope for the best.
Yes, there’s a level of risk in not knowing beforehand how certain flavors or quantities will mix together. What if it’s a disaster? More importantly, why am I talking about cooking? I wanted to bridge this connection because this week felt like one of my cooking experiments…
Our participants traveled far and wide across India to meet in Bangalore for a CAC training. Coming from 5 different cities, our 4-day session would bring together 3 organizations: Magic Bus, Dream A Dream, and Sparky Football. I’ll admit I was skeptical upon realizing that our melting pot would include multiple languages, cultures, and coaching styles. How would we be effective? Is it possible to find a balance with all the different spices?
When making dinner, my main goal is obviously “don’t burn the food.” Similarly, everyone in the training could be aligned by a shared desire, “coaching for social impact!” I recognized this unifying element in the first morning, as this group of individuals was extremely bright and enthusiastic; their passion was a key ingredient that would see us through the week, making it possible for intrinsic differences to contribute strength rather than weakness. I was excited for this experience with so many great flavors coming into the mix, which would surely widen perspectives and benefit all parties involved.
Of course, there were many challenges! We were fortunate to have some fantastic translators helping us to taste-test our progress along the way, so that we could adapt our strategies and discussions to better meet specific needs. Several coaches in the program were already familiar with the idea of using a game to highlight an underlying social message. As this is also the nature of CAC, I was amazed to see and understand that HOW you coach can make all the difference in the impact. When we introduced the CAC focus on “self-directed learning,” I was surprised that the majority of the participants interpreted this as a pretty foreign concept. I grew to realize that this week’s group was more accustomed to coaching towards one particular outcome, whereas the CAC view is geared more around the process.
For instance, although participants brought many skills to the table, I found their coaching style to be very “by the book.” They were programmed to deliver a social message at the end of a game, in the same way that the rules were delivered at the start. CAC differs in their teachable moments by calling attention to the messages throughout the game; CAC will connect the dots as they evolve through play, instead of after the fact. Plus, learning is more fun when you don’t realize it’s even happening! Children will be more receptive to quick spurts during a fun game than to a long lecture at the end of playing.
Moreover, CAC doesn’t force feed all the answers. In fact, CAC problem solving games are designed specifically to provoke conflict. This methodology was the most difficult to communicate to our group this week. We were met with opposition when we stepped back to say, “solve your problem.” We were encouraging but they were still frustrated when they couldn’t always be told a right or wrong scenario to enforce, wanting more clear-cut rules to clarify. That’s the point! In life, there is not always 1 correct answer. The beauty is in understanding that there can be many solutions to a problem.
Coaches Across Continents strives to create coaches who are active facilitators rather than dictators– asking questions to help children along the way, but giving them the opportunity to think for themselves. CAC aims for coaches to engage the children throughout play and discussion, encouraging their interaction every step of the way. This group was also hesitant to accept this mentality, wondering what should happen if chaos ensues. Sometimes, let it be! Why not? Let the field be a safe space to practice handling conflict, without violence or retreat. A little chaos is okay. It may take a little longer for them to solve their problem but they can do it with guidance. If we just instruct them at every turn, then they will always be looking or waiting for instruction when they need to make their choice and act. Rather than breeding this dependency, CAC games have such a heavy focus on physical and mental skills that help on-field AND off-field. We seek to breed self-awareness, self-control, and confidence. In life, they may not always have the exact recipe laid out for them, or the help they thought they needed. Our job as coaches is to make sure they feel they have enough to work with.
You can prepare as best as possible, but you always reach a point when it’s time to trust your skills and make your choice. Then you own the consequences, good and bad, and learn from them as you keep moving forward. That’s all anyone can do.
We were lucky to have such an incredible group of participants this week, willing to face obstacles head on with smiles and open minds. We did some serious work but we had a blast while doing so. I will miss my new friends who shared their spirit, AND their dance moves. As always, I was pleasantly surprised to see how a crazy concoction could find a way to come together in the end and taste so good! This week quickly became my new favorite dish. So that’s why I like to cook this way, and I’m pretty sure the best chefs don’t always use precise measurements, so maybe my method is genius… Either way, the week solidified my belief that CAC is uniquely valuable in the work they’re doing around the world.
“What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on and the fact that you know how to drive.” – Barbara Kingsolver
CAC Rolls on with Magic Bus
November 17, 2014. Off-Field volunteer Gail Buswell joins the team for her first On-Field Program with Coaches Across Continents and Magic Bus in India.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a volunteer behind the scenes for CAC for a few months and ever since I heard about this groundbreaking organization, I have been itching to find out more and see how they work their magic On-Field. This week I got the chance to see just that in Hyderabad, as I joined Brian and Nora, supported by Pankaj and Prasanna from Slum Soccer, and Ali a fellow volunteer. The team was there for the first year of CAC’s award winning Hat-Trick Initiative with Magic Bus. It was the perfect introduction for me as the partnership between CAC and Magic Bus is a new one and has the potential to impact tens of thousands of children in India through Magic Bus’s extensive network of coaches and volunteers.
Magic Bus had a bit of a head start on other organizations in that their experienced coaches were already familiar with the concept of using sport and play for education. The focus of the week was therefore to add to this knowledge by introducing CAC’s novel and forward thinking approach to Self-Directed Learning. In contrast to teaching by presenting facts and answers, the CAC strategy is to encourage participants to solve their own problems collectively (whilst at the same time learning new football skills and having a huge amount of fun!). Translated to a community environment, this methodology is immensely powerful as it can be applied to any issue or problem. CAC provides a particular focus on key global issues such as gender equality, conflict resolution, and health and wellness– but the messaging is the same across different countries and cultures: communicate, respect each other, and embrace your choice to make the best decisions for yourself and your community.
I was shocked to learn during the week that 51% of men and 54% of women in India believe that in certain circumstances it can be justifiable to beat your wife. Even amongst the 27 kind and compassionate people in the group, initially only one woman was willing to stand up and publically say that she disagrees with this mentality. This was a sobering reminder of the power of entrenched tradition in a culture. Against this background it is clear to see the potential impact of encouraging the next generation to believe that they have a voice, they have a choice, and that there are alternative solutions to violence. Armed with these life skills they, together with their local community, have the power to question and change their existing culture.
CAC changes the way people think in subtle and clever ways. The games focus around footballer role models and one of these is Marta (da Silva). Marta plays for the Brazilian women’s national team and is the 5 time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year. Before starting the ‘Marta’ games Brian asked the group which football player had won the World Player of the Year the most times. Hands shot up and cries of ‘Ronaldo’, ‘Messi’ and ‘Cantona’ rung out. When after several minutes no one had made the correct guess Brian asked the group a simple question – ‘Do women play football?”. There was much shaking of heads – a resounding no. It was a big surprise when Brian introduced them to the player Marta and by the end of the week everyone wanted to play football like Marta!
Throughout the week I was hugely impressed by the energy and enthusiasm and capacity for fun and laughter of all the Magic Bus coaches. They were engaged and creative in all the games and did not shy away from the difficult and impassioned debates that the games provoked. Nora and Brian created a challenging, but safe environment for all the coaches, which allowed them to voice their views and begin to think about things in a different way. They made it look easy, but it’s a tremendously difficult thing to do and it was a privilege to watch them at work. It is this environment that I hope the Magic Bus coaches can help create for their kids. With the passion and potential on display this week, I am sure they can and I am really excited to see where Magic Bus takes what they have learned from CAC. I would love to come back for year 2 of the Hat-Trick program to see how the coaches and the communities in which they are leaders have applied the skills they have learned this week and also to catch up with all the new friends I have made. After all, once you have all ‘cuckoo’ danced like chickens together, you are friends for life!!
CAC Empowers Leaders in Qatar
March 31, 2014. Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation, hosted a three-day event in Doha, Qatar called EMPOWER 2014. CAC’s Chief Executive Strategist, Brian Suskiewicz, was invited to represent our organization as a key player in the field of sport for development. This was ROTA’s 6th annual youth conference on leadership, service learning, and global citizenship. For 2014 the underlying theme was Sport for Youth Empowerment.
Over the course of these three days Brian participated on a panel, held a workshop, and ran an on-field session. The panel discussion was on “Sports for Education and Youth Empowerment” and Brian’s fellow panelists included Pratik Kumar, the CEO of our new partners, Magic Bus India, as well as Mark Haig, the director of the Liverpool FC Foundation and Dr. Aumu Obama from Sauti Kuu in Kenya. During this panel Brian told our story, answering questions such as, “How did your organization get started using sports as a way of engaging youth?” and “What is the biggest accomplishment that your organization has achieved by using sports?” He also spoke of the “power of sport” and what it means to our organization.
The members of this conference were young leaders from the USA, Brazil, and the throughout Middle East between the ages of 16 and 26. A huge part of what we do at CAC, working with young leaders has its challenges but is infinitely rewarding. Brian took the participants through a classroom workshop centered on our self-directed learning model. After speaking about how self-directed learning can be taught through sport, Brian engaged the participants in creating their own sport for social impact games, targeting social issues that exist in their own communities. These games were presented to the group at the conclusion of the workshop.
And save the best for last, Brian’s final task at the ROTA youth conference was the on-field session at the world-class Aspire Zone. Brian taught the up and coming games from CAC’s sport for social impact curriculum. The identical three-one hour sessions with new groups of participants focused on using their voice to gain confidence and leadership while playing Circle of Friends, Ronaldo Skills, and then implementing the learned social message of voice into a game of Ronaldo for Fun. The young leaders learned on-field how to integrate social impact messages in a fun and soccer-intensive way during their brief time on the field. One young girl from Qatar came up after the session and told Brian, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing soccer” which was the highlight of the day for our Chief Executive.
All in all, this was a great opportunity for CAC to share our work with a great group of young leaders and network with like-minded people and organizations that have similar aims – using sport to make the world a better place. This conference comes on the heels of our recent participation in the Next Step Conference held in India in February and just prior to our upcoming presentations at the first-ever Hofstra Soccer Conference which will be held in New York in April, where Pele will be the guest of honor and receive an honorary degree.