• ISF Coaches Take the Lead!

    August 30th, 2017. Michael Johnson Young Leader, Ryan, writes about experience working with Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) in Cambodia alongside Coaches Across Continents.

    I went to Cambodia with a very open mind and was excited to see how CAC used football as a tool for social impact. I really liked the self-directed learning model they had in place. I have always felt very passionate about sport and I know from personal experience how life-changing sport can be. I wanted to learn more about the social messages that football has taught in the Cambodian community. I realised that Cambodian people face a number of social issues and it really hit home how many messages through football help people facing these social challenges. Not only face these challenges, but allow the coaches that Coaches Across Continents has been training to take these games and teach them in their communities, making a real difference to so many lives.

    On the first day of training, all the coaches from ISF (Indochina Starfish Foundation) were very welcoming and friendly. We had some younger players from a local program that works with young people who have been affected by HIV. CAC coaches, Mark and Emily, ran games on the first day alongside Nara and Panya who are two experienced coaches that have taken part in the CAC programme for the last few years. It was great to see all the coaches having fun – their love and passion for football was evident. Mark and I visited a disability session at Rabbit School in the afternoon and the session was great as it was very inclusive, fun and the coaches had a great relationship with all the students varying in disability.

    On the Tuesday we returned to the training field where some of the experienced coaches who have been in the programme with CAC before, were asked if they would like to run a game. A few of them put their hand up, and ran games that they knew and had used in their community before. Many were CAC games but some were games they had created in their local community addressing social issues, inspired by the Coaches Across Continents Self-Directed Learning Model. In the afternoon we visited one of the ISF schools for kids whose parents are unable to provide their kids education. We met with some of the staff and students who were really friendly and we watched an afternoon football coaching session led by a some of the coaches from the CAC programme.

    Unfortunately Mark was unwell on Wednesday so the ISF coaches were asked to run more of the games. I also ran my own game too which was a trust exercise where we used blindfolds and I asked the coaches to guide one another through an obstacle course. In this I was also able to get the coaches to run as fast as they could with blindfolds on, which was fun for all. In the afternoon we visited another IFS school, which was much smaller than the school from the day before – but, all the teachers and students were very friendly and they welcomed us at the gate with hugs and lots of questions. They asked us our names, where we are from and whether we would play with them. It was really nice to hang out with the students, watch them play sports with one another and see them having lots of fun.

    After the training on the Wednesday, the ISF coaches were asked to plan and run the activities for the Thursday. As we left after the training the coaches were all in discussions, planning the next day. When we arrived at the training field on the Thursday, the ISF coaches were all ready to go and beginning to set up their activities. They ran a morning of some CAC games but what was most impressive was that they came up with their own games too that had social messages. The training ran smoothly and was really well organised. In the afternoon we visited a school where the ISF coaches worked and there were four football sessions happening with both boys and girls of different age groups. The sessions were fun and it was great to see so many talented footballers at the school.

    On Friday, it was CAC’s turn to run some games and a lot of the activities were game orientated so the coaches were very tired at the end. But, they had good fun and can now implement some of these games in their coaching programmes. I ran a game too which I really enjoyed called Child Rights: Right to Education game. I really appreciate the impact of the social messages that these games provide. After training we headed for some food on the roadside with some of the ISF coaches and kids from a community hub supporting youth who have been affected by HIV. We went to their community and the ISF coaches ran a great session with around 50 kids using some of the HIV social impact games. It was great to see the ISF coaches working with the kids and the amazing laughter and excitement the kids had playing these games.

    It has been a great first week on field in Cambodia, it has been great meeting with all the coaches and seeing their coaching styles, and learning new coaching ideas from them. Seeing the close relationships with the kids they coach was the biggest take away for me. I am looking forward to seeing the ISF coaches coach more next week and personally learn more of the games CAC uses to help social change.

  • Creating Positive Impact in a Conflict Zone

    August 7th, 2017. Salim Blanden, CAC Community Impact Coach and Founder of CAC partner Mbarara Sports Academy in Uganda, writes about his experience working for Coaches Across Continents on-field with Horn Of Africa Development Initiative (HODI), in Kenya. 

    Migori, Rusinga Island, Mogotio, Nairobi – our next destination would be Marsabit with HODI (Horn Of Africa Development Initiative) for our fifth and last program in Kenya. Our ten hour trip to Marsabit started at 7:00 AM in Nairobi with everyone looking forward to working with HODI, an amazing program near the Somalia border which is ran by Fatuma Adan, a recent graduate of law.

    Fatuma established HODI as a community-based organization in 2003 to address the inadequacy of access to legal services for the poor people of Marsabit. She shunned salaried employment at the judiciary to, instead provide a small legal aid desk for people who needed, but could not afford legal representation in court cases. The organization has since grown to be the voice of championing peace and development in Marsabit through advocacy, education, community cohesion and livelihood support programs – all through using football. Today, HODI serves close to seven thousand people with offices in Marsabit and Moyale. For me, I was looking forward to a great week working with an organization that has a lot of meaning to the people of Marsabit.

    As usual, we would start the training on Monday morning. But before we began we held a meeting with Noor Abduqadri, a worker with HODI, and other staff who talked to us about their expectations and what they wanted to learn from Coaches Across Continents. They also wanted to tell us about things to talk about and what not to talk about. Since Marsabit is purely a Muslim majority region, most female participants would wear long dresses commonly known as ‘the Hijab’ and also cover their heads at all times during the training sessions. Noor expressed his fear that the female participants would not be open to us since we were all male. Knowing that Mumina, a staff from HODI and one of the female participants, would be training with us, I knew everything was going to be possible.

    As this was going to be our second week conducting a program as Community Impact Coaches (CIC), I did not want to ask a lot from Mark Gabriel – our leader from CAC. But, I did want to find our own way of running a better week with my friend Nicolas Achimpota, a CIC from Tanzania.

    Our first day on Monday was a great one and very exciting, especially when we started to play. There were no religious issues, the girls felt free to play with boys and were comfortable with us which was not what we thought. This program was unique because we had more female participants compared to males, which was rare to me. All of the past four programs we did in Kenya had more male partcipants than females. For HODI, it was different, proof of how this organization has empowered women in Marsabit. Majority of the girls were very active throughout the program and during our school visit to one of the primary schools in the area, it was the girls that coached games.

    Our third day was a short one, because of the anticipated President’s visit for a political campaign in Marsabit. The President of Kenya was campaigning in Marsabit with a few days remaining to the country’s general elections, and people all over Marsabit wanted to attend this campaign. With little time to the end of the program, one of the participants told us the town would not be a safe place to pass when the president arrives. We decided to stop the training and go back to the hotel, which was the best choice for us. As soon as we reached the hotel, the president arrived and had a peaceful campaign that lasted about one hour with a lot of security personnel on all the streets of Marsabit.

    After the president left however, conflict broke out between tribes that supported different county candidates, and the police intervened. We decided to lock ourselves in the rooms until we were sure of safety outside. After the situation normalized in the evening, I knocked on Mark’s door for a long time but he never responded… Later told me he would not risk opening for anyone, even if he knew them. We laughed about it!

    At the end of the week, we decided to go back to the field to do the last training and give out certificates, we also wanted to hear their experiences regarding the violence and what they thought ahead of elections.

    The coaches held a meeting and talked about how they could keep safe as community leaders during the election period. They all believed that what they had learned from CAC throughout the week and the messages they had learned from the games, especially those about peace and conflict prevention, were necessary for them to practice.

    For me this was a clear sign that we had created positive impact at the right time through games.

     

     

     

  • Searching for Unideal “Ideal” Places

    July 26th 2017. Global Citizen JK Cho writes about his week on-field working with Mother Child Health Foundation in Kenya.

    “This Is Africa” (“TIA”). People come to Africa and often hear this remark, meaning don’t complain and just shrug off inconvenience or misfortune coming from the cultural or technological difference. As much as I have enjoyed the epic natural beauty and people’s kindness of Africa, I also had to overpass some TIA moments: Catching malaria and spending nights with neither power nor running water were somewhat predictable. It was mentally, physically, and spiritually challenging making a seven-hour-long minivan bus (“matatu”) trip on the bumpiest road I’ve ever been on with 20 people and a bunch of fish and dead animals crammed in. Wherever I go, I would get followed by dozens of kids and get yelled at endlessly, “mzungu (nomad or white man).” If I get lucky, they would call me “China.” Oh, I copped me my Ghanaian tattoo in Kumasi, that is a burn scar on my calf from the exhaust while I was riding a motorcycle taxi (“boda boda”). I was very close to losing it in Gomoa Benso when people full-blasted commercial messages in the streets (like outdoor concert style), from 2 am to 8 am every single night.

    Anyway, these all are unique, cute experiences. When this sort of event happens, I now tell myself it’s one more story to tell when I get back to the states. However, it becomes a nightmare for people working in Africa when their project is put in danger for a “TIA” reason, like this week’s program in Rusinga island in Kenya, for example. Mother Child Health Foundation (Mother Child) was founded by Mary Okech in 2016, with a mission of achieving “0” maternal mortality rate in Homa-Bay County. One day Mary found out that her fourteen-year-old cousin was unwantedly pregnant along with 24 more girls in her high school. The girls starved while they were attending classes, skipping breakfast and lunch. Most of them ended up dropping out of school to find a job to support themselves and their fetus. Mary was mad and devastated and started providing the girls 10 to 20 Kenya shillings (10 – 20 U.S. cents) a day so they could eat and keep going to school.

    In spite of her beautiful mind and passion, Mary had felt inadequate to pursue the task continuously, and Mother Child consistently had faced financial and organizational challenges. Mary found out about Coaches Across Continents (CAC) through her mentor, Joseph, who had had a partnership experience with CAC, and requested a partnership with CAC. Although the start-up charity for young pregnant women’s health was not directly related to training teachers to discuss Self-Directed Learning, CAC decided to work with it to promote sustainable changes in the community. When Team Kenya arrived at Rusinga island, however, things were a lot different from what we were expecting. We found out that Mary got a new job in Nairobi in the mean time and moved out of Rusinga island, so Mother Child had to stop operating tentatively. There was no program. On the first day of the program, a handful of participants from a boy football team showed up, hoping to move to the states, because they thought we were recruiters. T.I.A… Did I not learn that things are subject to get real (or unreal) at any moment? I later figured that there was a significant gap of the way people do things and the expectations between CAC and Mother Child. A lack of technological access in the island also limited communication.

    CAC takes a considerable amount of risk in designing and executing a training program in about 60 different developing countries. It runs 21 programs in Africa this year, and each program is expensive and extremely labor-intense. The nature of social development work in Africa let alone involves lots of uncertainty. Things and words could change quickly here. Language and cultural barriers and limited internet access make it tougher to coordinate a program with a partner in a small rural village. I believe the uniqueness in CAC’s partner selection adds even more risk. CAC choose to work with community’s need based, not based on charity partners’ qualifications and potentials. In other words, CAC seems to want to give an opportunity for any communities who need its help rather than limit it to successful and notable charities. That isn’t a logical decision for growth and security from the business stand point, but a brilliant move for choosing meaningful impact and keeping its integrity. CAC is a mission-driven organization that makes mission-integrated decisions. That is why CAC finds some of these unideal situations ideal. And that is also why CAC is a leading global social impact organization winning Most Impactful Companies and Beyond The Sports awards.

    And then, what happens is that CAC coaches do magic. These guys are working on the frontline of global social impact, playing multiple vital roles. A lot of CAC’s partners in developing countries have organizational and operational weaknesses. Those weaknesses are big obstacles for them to work with international NGOs like CAC hindering their functions and sustainable growth. Besides providing training, CAC coaches create shared value by consulting about a clear vision and mission, strategic directions, relevant impact measures, and functional networks. Helping partners constructing these essentials would consequently improve CAC’s program quality and impact progress in future years. Traveling about 4 to 7 months a year CAC coaches have to be an excellent coach, an international project manager with extensive sympathy, and a travel expert with high-stress tolerance. It really takes a special talent and personality to do the job.

    This week’s hero was coach Mark Gabriel. When we discovered the program was in danger of cancellation, Mark didn’t let that happen. He grabbed Mary, basically rebuilt Mother Child, and saved the program for the whole week. The flying squirrel (Mark’s nickname) first arranged a partnership with a boy health organization in the island and established a foundation to visit schools and provide proper sexual and maternal education. And then, he talked to a women’s vocational school and other women organizations in the island and got some of the teachers and students involved in Mother Child as volunteers. He customized and complicated female empowerment and sexual health related games for Mother Child. Additionally, Mark created surveys and matrix so Mother Child could record and monitor their activities in the future. Finally, he promised Mother Child that he would give a year-around support to Mother Child as an impact consultant. While Mark was beasting, I backed him up by breathing entrepreneurial fumes all over Mary.

    Mary now feels empowered and believes running Mother Child is her destiny. She believes CAC’s mind-training- using one’s own body helps make a habit of identifying one’s issues, taking actions, and make changes. Mother Child now has a structure, tasks, and people to work with. She said her long-term goal is to build a school for young pregnant women in Homa Bay. The training result also turned out pretty well. 27 Rusinga Islanders of local teachers, students, volunteers, and players participated the training. As a result, we estimated the program would potentially benefit 493 children. The size of this week’s program was nothing impressive, but the meaningfulness of the impact was tremendous and would be memorable. CAC finds another unideal ideal place and gets one-step closer to its mission.

  • My Return to Kenya

    July 11th, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Salim Blanden, writes about his experience working in Migori with Youth Empowerment through Sport, also known as YES Kenya.

    24th June 2017, on a sunny Saturday, my journey from Kampala to Kenya began. On the bus along with me was my colleague and first time ever Community Impact Coach, Nicholus Achimpota from Tanzania. I was so excited to learn I was going to spend the next five weeks on field with Nico. This would be my return to Kenya after running the first program in 2015 in Mbita, Homa Bay with Boychild Agenda.

    On the bus however, we missed our team leader from the USA, Mark Gabriel because of weakness due to a sickness. Mark stayed in Kampala and would travel the following day.

    Our on-field training with Youth Empowerment through Sports (YES) in Migori started immediately on Monday morning with about 30 participants from Migori, and some others from neighboring areas around Migori County.

    Due to Mark’s absence on-field, it was very clear myself and Nico would run the program on our own. This was therefore the first ever Community Impact Coach ran program. A participant said, “I enjoyed this program so much because I really see myself in you.” This showed the value and power of having a CIC led program. The experience was great because we managed to take charge and everyone believed in us. Mark also motivated and encouraged us throughout the whole week.

    This was an example that local coaches (Community Impact Coaches) can make an impact and run programs in different areas, independently and bring about positive social change in communities where they work.

    It was evident there was an impact created because of the cooperation of the participants. Especially with games reflecting gender equity, communication and fun, there was a message that CAC games and participants would continue bringing about positive change even when CAC has left the local area.

    The excitement I got from slaughtering chickens for our lunch on two separate occasions and the confidence I gained from running the program as only a CIC, made me forget the cold night we spent in Kisumu Town Roads before we traveled to Migori one early morning. This taught me a lesson in life, to never stop moving despite the different challenges on the road!

  • Redescubriéndonos a Través del Juego

    April 20, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Panchi, reflects on week in Antofagasta, Chile with partners Futbol Mas.

    Desde la experiencia que viví como CIC, y participante de los talleres, considero que ambas organizaciones tienen enfoques similares respecto a los procesos de aprendizaje que se pretenden facilitar, como el conocer nuevos escenarios y salir de tu zona de confort favorece el desarrollo de las personas.

    Plantear el aprendizaje desde el descubrimiento, el desafío, proporcionando  un acompañamiento que impulse, intenta promover y animar al participante a valorar la  aventura,  la experiencia, otorgándole  la confianza  en las propias capacidades  para  enfrentar los obstáculos que se presentan en el camino. Lo más importante de todo,  significar los obstáculos y errores como el tesoro  más preciado dentro de la aventura. Hablamos un mismo lenguaje, nos mueven las mismas cosas y aunque suene cliché, creemos en que podemos construir un mundo mejor. Eso permitió que mi experiencia fuera tan enriquecedora, el poder tomar todo lo nuevo para contribuir a lo que nosotros queremos lograr con nuestra intervención, otorgó un profundo sentido a esta invitación.

    Considero que la forma de trabajo de CAC te entrega la oportunidad de  ir  descubriendo como puedes ser un Coach desde las propias habilidades, como uno puede  apropiar la metodología entregada a sus propias formas  y crear desde ese espacio único y personal. Al comienzo estaba constantemente preguntándome  cuál era la forma correcta, como debo hacerlo, cual es la estructura y pasos, ya que pensaba que existía una sola forma  de intervenir. Luego de observar las dinámicas que se daban en las clases, las diversas alternativas y creaciones que los mismos participantes proponían, me enseñaron a mí que las formas en que uno como coach puede llevar una actividad son infinitas y valiosas.

    Los talleres en Antofagasta fueron increíbles, me sorprende que frente a un mismo estímulo, como lo es un juego, la dinámica durante este y el análisis posterior  puede darse de forma  tan diferente entre un grupo y otro, como se desarrolló por ejemplo en Santiago. Desde las variantes que el mismo grupo de participantes propone, hasta las reflexiones y pensamientos que se comparten en el espacio,   se configura una experiencia única que pertenece a ese grupo humano en particular, lo cual considero simplemente maravilloso. El deporte y juego son herramientas realmente profundas y sabias, las cuales a pesar de  estar presentes  diariamente en lo que hacemos en Fútbol Más jamás me dejarán de sorprender, el clima emocional que generan,  el cómo invitan a participar y a sentirnos cómodos con personas que recién estamos conociendo,  darnos el espacio y la valoración de hacer el ridículo, de reír y mirarnos, con la misma libertad con la que los niños lo hacen permiten una mirada mucho más cercana y empática.

    Cada juego tiene un objetivo, un sentido,  algunos el espacio para agregar variantes e invitar a los participantes a crear, permitiendo inmediatamente establecer  una relación horizontal y de coconstrucción entre el Coach y los participantes. Si una variante propuesta no  funciona, esto se toma como una oportunidad para analizar y realizar preguntas  y así construir aprendizajes más profundos. Dentro de la sesión existen algunas preguntas que pueden orientar respecto a donde queremos llegar con esa conversación,  lo cual no  significa que existan respuestas correctas o incorrectas, pero si un espacio en donde facilitemos el cuestionamiento. Me encanta la flexibilidad de las propuestas, su  simpleza y su  profundidad,  donde definitivamente menos es más.

    Para mí, uno de los aprendizajes más trascendentales  durante  la pasantía  como un CIC  fue redescubrir qué es el juego así como su función simbólica y metáforas lo que permiten la toma de conciencia de nuestro comportamiento,  creencias, emociones y acciones que lo subyacen, brindando la posibilidad de profundizar tanto en nuestros procesos internos como en la contingencia, enmarcado dentro de una vivencia emocionalmente positiva y libre de amenazas.

    Muchas veces como adultos y profesionales podemos identificar diferentes temáticas humanas y sociales que consideramos tan importantes de conversar y poner sobre la mesa, tales como la equidad de género, prevención en el área de la salud sexual e  inmigración entre otras cosas. Cómo tutores tenemos la misión de generar  espacios de discusión, de cuestionamiento, de saber  que es lo que piensan e invitarlos a tener una postura consciente y propia  frente a la realidad del contexto, tanto con las niñas y niños con los que trabajamos como con sus comunidades. En  ocasiones no encontramos las formas que inviten a la participación, ante eso nos  sentimos incómodos,  se nos crea una dificultad   para generar un espacio donde las personas se sientan cómodas y  con la confianza de interactuar,  compartir sus pensamientos en un ambiente de respeto por las diferencias de opinión facilitando un espacio de discusión sano. La metodología de aprendizaje auto dirigido nos abre puertas y posibilidades infinitas.

  • Rediscovering Ourselves Through the Game

    April 19, 2017. Community Impact Coach, Panchi, writes about experience working with Futbol Mas in Antofagasta, Chile. Translated by volunteer, Nico.

    From the experience that I lived with CAC and as a participant in the games, I see that both organizations have a similar focus with respect to the form of learning that they aim to create, and how the new spaces and going out of your comfort zone allows you to develop. Putting learning aside discovering, challenging yourself, valuing your experiences, delivering an opportunity that encourages adventure while at the same time gives you the confidence in your own capacities to face the obstacles that are presented in the way, is incredible. Most importantly, we treat the obstacles and mistakes as the most treasured piece within the adventure. We speak the same language, the same things move us and even if it sounds cliché, we believe that we can build a better world. That allowed my experience to be so enriching. Being able to take everything new to contribute to what we want to achieve with our intervention, makes everything meaningful.

    I consider that the CAC work way allows one to discover how to coach from one’s own abilities, as well as use appropriate methodology to form and create from that a space. At the beginning I was happily thinking about what was the right way, how should I do it, and what were the structure and steps, since I thought there was only one way to do it. After observing the dynamics that occurred in classes, the different alternatives and creations that the participants themselves proposed, I realized that the ways in which a coach can carry an activity are infinite and valuable.

    The workshops in Antofagasta were incredible, it surprised me that in front of the same stimulus, as a game, the dynamics during the game and the reflection later may be so different from what we experienced in Santiago. The variants that the same group of participants proposed and the reflections and thoughts that were shared in the space configured a unique experience that belongs to that particular human group, which I consider a simply wonderful part of CAC. The sport and game are really deep and wise tools, which despite being present daily in what we do at Futbol Mas will never fail to surprise me. The emotional climate they generate, how they invite to participate and feel comfortable with people they just met is great. They did so in a way that was ridiculous, laughing and looking at us, with the same freedom with which children do.

    Each game has a purpose, a sense, and some space to add variants and invite participants to create, allowing immediately for a horizontal relationship. If a proposed variant does not work, it is taken as an opportunity to analyze and ask questions and thus build deeper learning.

    Within the session there are some questions that can guide participants about where we want to reach with that conversation, which does not mean that there are correct or incorrect answers but there is merely a space where we can create questions. I love the flexibility of proposals, their simplicity and depth, less was more this week.

    Many times as adults and professionals we can identify different human and social issues that we consider so important as to talk and put on the table, such as gender equity, sexual health and immigration among other things. As tutors, we have the mission of creating spaces of discussion, of questioning, to know what they think, and to invite them to have a conscious understanding in front of the reality of the context. Both with the children we work with and with their communities this is important. Many times we do not find the ways that invite participation, we feel uncomfortable for what it costs us to generate a space where others feel comfortable, with the confidence to participate and share their thoughts, where everyone respects each other’s opinion. We aimed to generate a healthy discussion space. That is one of the things I learned with CAC, through concrete activities and games we can open the space to deepen the contingency due to the program’s richness in symbolism and metaphors.