The Right to Purposeful Play in Malawi
2018 Global Citizen Application Released!
September 6th 2017. We are delighted to officially release our 2018 Global Citizen Application Form! Now you can apply to be a 2018 Global Citizen and join Coaches Across Continents as we continue to travel the world, working in communities with partners from 6 different continents, while using sport for social impact.
Here are some highlights from our 2017 Global Citizens:
“The work of CAC is powerful – both in the vision and execution. I am very proud of the time I spent volunteering and of the valuable things I learned. I have the utmost respect for those working in social impact. Thank you for letting me be a small piece of the team for a few weeks – I hope to be involved again soon!”
- Nicole Slevin, South Africa & Zimbabwe Team
“I will never forget the moment when a prince said, ‘Now, you are one of us. Don’t be afraid of exploring our village. You are one of us, and we will take care of you.’
The capacity of their love is so big that I want to have them around me all the time. I now have a Malawian family in Chituka village. Hoping to come back to this beautiful place some day, I said goodbye to the warm heart for now.”
- JK Cho, Ghana, Malawi, Kenya Team
“I will miss the people – how they are the real life “energizer bunnies,” never getting tired, always ready for the next task, how they fed me food until I couldn’t possibly take another bite and then proceeded to look at me as if I barely ate anything, and how they welcomed me into their home and country with open arms. I am leaving Uganda with opened eyes, a full stomach, and a happy heart. All I have left to say is: “Webale Nnyo” (Thank you very much)!”
- Kimaya Cole, Uganda Team
Create your own Global Citizen Legacy.
Write your own stories.
Join us in 2018!
Welcomed into the Warm Heart of Africa
July 5th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about working with the Banda Bola Foundation in Chituka Village, Malawi.
In case you have ever asked yourself what the world would look like if people just be nice to each other, I got an answer: it would look a lot like Malawi. With a nickname of The Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi is a tiny country located in Southern Africa. Living up to its “notorious” nickname, Malawians are so friendly and loving they are known for always being willing to help family, friends, and even a stranger. In fact, the welcomes, the meals, and the human interactions that I got here were so warm and earthy, and I certainly have been spoiled by them. I mean I was going to do my laundry at the community well for the first time in a month. And then a neighborhood guy on a bicycle sees me, stops on the road, throws his bicycle off, and starts helping me like my house just caught fire. It’s just another lovely day in Chituka village in Malawi.
Chituka village is the hometown of CAC’s Malawi partner, Keni Banda and the Banda Bola Foundation. Keni moved to the States from Malawi when he was 14. And, he played and coached soccer professionally. After decades of a successful coaching career in U.S. NCAA women’s soccer teams, Keni founded Banda Bola Foundation in 2010 and launched Chituka Village Project to bring social changes in his hometown area in Malawi. As much as he has an inspiring and passionate personality, breaking into chants of “Solve Your Problem!” and “Let’s Figure It Out!” multiple times a day, he is also a funny and kind guy like your typical favorite uncle. His family in Malawi are all deeply involved in social impact as well. His sister, Sekani, is a board member of Banda Bola Foundation and an aspiring social worker. Her two sons, Manyanda and Patici are also passionate about social entrepreneurship. I thought it was very interesting that Manyanda is a social impact music producer going into rural villages with artists, listening to the village people’s issues, and turning them into beautiful songs (Check out Amplified Movement – Bring Them Back on YouTube). The Banda family provided incredible cooperation, food, accommodation, and friendship during the two-week schedule in Malawi.
Team Malawi was comprised of two amazing veteran coaches, Charlie C. and Ashlyn, and two Global Citizens including Charlie O. and me. Besides me, they all were collegiate soccer players. After their athletic careers, they joined CAC to contribute to making the world a better place, using soccer as a messenger. Although they sometimes made a fun of my soccer skill, I loved the team very much for making such good balance and harmonious vibes. Charlie O. even suffered from Malaria in the first week, but he completed the schedule with a smile on his face the whole time. When we arrived at Malawi, it didn’t take us more than two days to find out that corruption and power abuse are the major social issues that Malawi had been facing. Radio and newspapers constantly reported about corrupted politicians and nonsensical policies. People gave a sigh of resignation about losing precious natural resources to foreign corporations as well as jobs to those who got power and connections. Limited access to education coming from poverty also seemed to be a serious and urgent issue. The CAC team and Banda Bola Foundation agreed to focus on addressing those issues during the training sessions, with openness to listen to participants own social concerns.
We spent the first week getting familiar with Chituka village and trying to get accepted by the people. Chituka village is located right by the beautiful Lake Malawi, surrounded by majestic, evergreen mountains. The area is very underdeveloped, and most of the people there walk around barefoot and live without electric power. First, we met a grand chief lady who oversees about 60 local chiefs’ daily responsibilities. The “zenness” emitted by her was truly amazing. She warmly welcomed us, and it was one of the coolest moments of my life. After that, we visited one of the primary schools where Chituka Village Project originated from. We hung out with the current students who would be benefiting from our program for the next 3 years and got inspired by their innocence and simplicity. Finally, we had a meeting with about 20 local chiefs to discuss what CAC and Banda Bola were trying to bring to the community. It was interesting that some of the chiefs were having a hard time understanding the significance of adopting sustainable solutions. They wanted an immediate help with food, clothes, and money rather than long-term solutions such as implementing Self-Directed Learning skill. It was like we were trying to teach how to catch fish, dried them to save, and sell the rest at the market, but they just wanted fish. After a long discussion, the meeting ended well, and the chiefs officially welcomed us. I will never forget the moment when a prince said, “Now, you are one of us. Don’t be afraid of exploring our village. You are one of us, and we will take care of you.”
The training week was fantastic. We had 64 participants from 33 organizations, which was considerably more than I had expected. Not only that, it was remarkable that 19 of them were female, marking about 30% of the total participants. The participant mix consisted of local teachers, sports coaches, social workers, and volunteers. We delivered lots of games related to gender equity as well as child rights and democratic conflict resolution style (anti-corruption). The participants quickly understood the program and started using their voices to express their own colorful opinions. Keni supported the participants not only by providing an amazing training venue, great snacks, and transportation money but also inspirational speeches. At the end of the training week, I observed participants embracing the importance of Self-Directed Learning and looking to incorporate it into their teaching practices. We estimated a total of 4346 children (2129 girls and 2217 boys) would benefit from the program immediately. Moreover, we anticipated a lot of these girls and boys would become Bonda Bola Foundation volunteers after graduation and transfer the impact to younger children, multiplying our impact radically in future years.
One of the random facts that I came across when I did research on Malawi was that, out of Madonna’s 6 children, four of them are adopted, and all of the singer’s adopted kids were from Malawi. She also has put on many concerts and events to raise global awareness towards Malawi’s social issues. After experiencing Malawi for 2 weeks, I now could understand why the singer has been so married to this tiny country: Malawians are incredibly loving and warm-hearted. The capacity of their love is so big that I want to have them around me all the time. Well, although I’m not a superstar singer, I now have a Malawian family in Chituka village. Hoping to come back to this beautiful place some day, I said goodbye to the warm heart for now and departed for Kenya.
Born to Follow
August 12th 2016. Frederick Schwarzmaier blogs from Mzimba, Malawi and our partnership with Girl Rising Malawi.
“Next, you join the what?” asked one facilitator of the participants to check whether they understood the exercise. “The group,” somebody responded. The facilitator would repeatedly ask the same question until the participants revealed all steps of the exercise. We would constantly pick up these kind of fill-in-the-blank questions while running our program in Mzimba, a remote town located in the northwest of Malawi. Instead, the facilitator could have asked the question in open ways. In the way he asked, he limited the way to find an answer, leaving no room for discovery and creative thinking. In the Mzimba district, children are raised with such phrasings. Adults make even the smallest decisions for their juniors, habitually imposing onto them what is right or wrong, often paraphrasing a book written thirty-five hundred years ago; they are limited in their perspective and trapped in a perpetual, cultural legacy. This legacy seems to rub off in people’s personality traits. In simple games that we played, where participants had to make their own decisions, they postponed their move until somebody else acted whom they could follow or imitate. So is it that these kids were born to follow?
Undeniably, following is important, but what if there is nobody to lead? Or even worse, somebody leading who is not qualified to lead? The above example from Mzimba shows, it needs more gritty young leaders. Leaders, who know their rights, practice integrity, stand up for equality, perpetuate social responsibility, challenge outdated social structures, don’t mind starting over with lessons learned and persevere when they fail. It ideally raises a new generation whose individuals switch between leading and following at different points of time for more dynamic, diverse and equal interactions. In order to cater for this, we need to equip societies with the right knowledge and methodology. Leadership is not born or rises like a phoenix from the ashes but develops in response to following the leading actions of fellow beings. With our ideas, we wanted to set an example in Mzimba.
Our approach to Self-Directed Learning was entirely new to the participants. Instead of dictating the only right way, we gave the participants space to test different approaches to find an answer, invited them to be creative and work collectively. Simply speaking, we started with a problem and then gradually progressed to the solution in a way participants could explore. One participant vividly described the CAC method with a metaphor. “You don’t get the fried fish on a plate but you get the knowledge how to catch a fish and prepare it,” he said in front of the group. They got the message. It was just a matter of a couple of days until the youngsters started to vividly express their ideas and challenge different cases. Despite their fashion, they finally spoke up.
In Mzimba, we also encountered participants claiming that specific superstitious practices (in this case that a herbal string which when attached around a woman’s waist would prevent her from pregnancy) as fact based and safe – in front of a large group of kids and teenagers. Not limited to but because of the previously stated inclination of children to follow, we feared that the children would believe these superstitious beliefs. It is only in such instances that we deviate from our approach and dictate factual knowledge – the truth. Although we are all promoters of Self-Directed Learning, we need to acknowledge that every methodology has its limitations.
For the third time I had the privilege to travel with Coaches Across Continents to underprivileged communities across Africa, listen to the people’s stories and tackle their concerns. Every encounter with people as well as with other members of Coaches Across Continents enriched the scope of my mind. I gained the opportunity to do something bigger than myself and find ways to help others while learning and growing in my own development. These experiences ignite an inner urge to challenge almost everything. With every trip, I keep asking myself “why” and “what if” more often. I become more self-aware. At the end of the day, I do not want to be defined by what I did not know or did not do.
So Many Dreams Swinging out of the Blue – Oh Let Them Come True
August 9th 2016. CAC returning volunteer Frederick Schwarzmaier wrote about his time in Malawi with the Banda Bola Foundation.
“We lack messages that reach the households for active participation in matters like early marriage, school drop-outs, Tuberculosis and Malaria deaths, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and sanitation issues” proclaimed Judith Manda, the chairperson of Malengamzoma Women Empowerment Forum, on the first day of our ‘ASK for Choice’ program that focuses on gender equality and female empowerment. We quickly found that it would be vital to address the topics of child rights, women’s rights and health & wellness with fun, far-reaching and universally applicable games throughout our programs in Chituka Village. During the program we thoroughly enjoyed the support and advice of our local partner Keni Banda, co-founder of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Division, a persistent fighter of inequality in his homeland.
It aches hearing stories about children, especially girls, dropping out of school because of early marriage or pregnancy – often suppressed by their male counterparts. Commonly uttered statements like “Mothers desperately wishing for grandchildren” or “We need our children as working power” are entirely egotistical and short-sighted. It comes as no surprise that Malawi has a female literacy rate of only 58.6% compared to the global average of 82.7%. Denying children the right to education forces them down an alley of broken dreams and uncertainty. Affected children will likely never have the chance to make up for their lost years in school – particularly in countries like Malawi where opportunity is a scarce commodity. People focus too much on the short-term benefits while also lacking foresight. This may seem rational to many as benefits can be realized promptly. However, sustainable success will fail to happen when people act for their own benefit and interest – admittedly this is a subliminal process as fear and uncertainty are driving factors when making those decisions. Nonetheless, as Barack Obama said before he was inaugurated, “We must ask not just ‘Is it profitable?’ but ‘Is it right?’”. I don’t claim this pointing at Malawian grown-ups but to every adult in the world. We have reached the point where when something does not make money, it is not a priority. Too often we tend to undermine and neglect long-term as well as indirect benefits. We need to restructure our society, how it is set up and re-prioritize what values are important. Profit of the individual should never be more important than education and human life. The fact that it is, is a problem.
Why are these decisions made so often? Intellectual and material poverty triggers these decisions. If one fights for survival every day it comes natural to put oneself first. In order to make healthy decisions on somebody’s behalf, one needs to act unselfishly to a certain degree. But how to act unselfishly if you don’t possess anything? The question itself seems absurd and contradictory. When you only give but not receive, it needs a lot of love and greatness to act selflessly.
Over the past week, we were talking a lot about our future which is the children. Sadly, they have no voice, they are not given any choices and they are restricted by culture and customs. To change these unhealthy patterns, culture and custom norms need to be reconsidered and education needs to be made a priority. Reconsideration of norms and particularly education are investments in the future. The more educated we become, the more opportunities will arise. Moreover, education can prevent cases such as child trafficking, alcohol and drug abuse, and other social issues. The term ‘education’ must not be limited to an antiquated view of going to school but to a broader one that also conveys children their rights. Education in this sense can make dreams come true again.
To disrupt this vicious cycle of unhealthy choices at the expense of others we need local superheroes of any gender and age. We need people with courage, persistence, the vision for a better tomorrow and the drive to lead change in their communities. However, in recent years we have made leadership about changing the world. But there is no world, there are only seven billion and counting understandings of it and we must respect every single one. If we can change the people’s understanding of it, understanding of what they are capable of and understanding of how much people care about them, we might change the circumstances. This is where the local coaches come in – our superheros. Small actions that come in numbers can make a big difference.
Although our team in Chitkua Village comes from three different continents, our common understanding is equality. Coaches Across Continents will not retreat from standing up for equal rights and opportunity, neither will I or should you.
Our participants in Chituka Village proved that change for the better is possible. While the children were sent away from the sessions at the beginning of the week; at the end they were included. We had a great time in Chituka Village and time flew by as swiftly as in a good movie. I sometimes felt like I was in a movie when driving in those overcrowded mini-buses or walking across the fields on paths landlocked by head-high crops and miles of car-suitable roads. However, the movie is not over yet and people are still writing their script. For that purpose, we imparted fact-based knowledge, fresh insights and alternative approaches to help them make healthy choices for a better communal living. I hope they are writing towards a happy ending but only the future will tell.
Title IX Crosses Continents
August 4th 2015. Nora Dooley writes through a personal lens about our new partnership in Malawi with Banda Bola Sports Foundation and Chituka Village Projects.
I vaguely remember wanting to be a famous ice hockey player when I was a little girl. For about five minutes. The next five minutes that changed to wanting to play in the WNBA. With confidence I can confirm that those dreams were fluid until I settled on the sport that has been in my blood since age five, ultimately beating out the others to win my heart.
But how is that possible? I’m a girl. Girls can’t dream about becoming professional athletes…? No, not realistically for most girls in our world, but for me? All I can hear is KG’s euphoric outburst in 2008.
And only because I was born in a relative utopia for young girls like me – who followed their older brothers around, strived to be the best in every sport possible, and slept in full football kit.
So whom do I need to thank? The women who came before me, the men who supported them, the leaders who voted through Title IX, and all those who made it count. One of the latter came from Malawi. From a remote community on the stunning shores of Lake Malawi called Chituka Village. And that is the home of CAC’s latest first-year program, kicking off our partnership with Banda Bola Sports Foundation.
Keni Banda’s story is incredible. Among the first batch of NCAA women’s soccer coaches in the US, leading the earliest teams of women reaping the benefits of the new policy, Keni is already part of a pivotal chapter in history. Throw into the mix the fact that he comes from a place where women and girls are every day at the mercy of long-standing traditions that would laugh at the thought of them kicking a ball… and we have a special tale.
Now let’s add the element that takes this story to unprecedented heights. Keni started his foundation in 2010 and guess what lives at the core of his initiative? After seeing what women are capable of when given the opportunity he is bringing Title IX to rural Malawi. He knows it will take time, but beginning with guidelines that require at least one girl’s team from every school that wants to take part in his soccer project is a fine place to start.
Is it working? From what we saw with the 31 participants who joined us On-Field in Chituka last week – absolutely. Similar to what Banda Bola requires for school teams to participate in the program, Keni required schools to send at least one female teacher to the training, or no teachers at all.
This sounds easy – because Keni and his team are making it look just so. But remember, girls born in places like Chituka Village, Malawi do not ‘normally’ get to dream about becoming professional athletes. With Keni Banda, however, and the women and girls he is actively empowering in his childhood community, there will soon be a new definition of ‘normal’ for the local youth. And CAC is excited to be part of the journey.
Here’s to the next generation of little girls with big dreams that know no bounds.