• 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.




  • An Inspiring Week On The Importance Of Female Empowerment

    Community Impact Coach David Mulo of Vijana Amani Pamoja and Green-Kenya in Nairobi, travels with CAC to our program in Northern Kenya with Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI).

    25th May 2015.  At 1:45am on Monday the 11th of May I get a call: “Good morning David, Could you please talk to the taxi driver and give him directions to your place so that we can pick you up?” I heard a calm and persuasive voice from the other end of the line. It was Markus, one of the coaches from Coaches Across Continents that I was supposed to travel to Marsabit with. And I don’t want to forget the big man Turner, or “Hooch” as he would like to be called on the field.

    We reached the bus station at 2am, the bus was supposed to leave at 2:30 “Western time”. The word “Western time” is vivid in my mind because when I told Markus that we are going to travel at 2:30am, his first comment was, “I hope it is Western Time”. At the bus station, we met a skinny guy with dark and protruding eyes. He was a Somali youth. I think the reason for his eyes was because he was munching “Mirra” (a local drug that has a stimulating effect) the whole night.

    Our journey of 550km to the north of Kenya felt to me like it was two times longer. I kept on wondering “Where is this place called Marsabit?”. After just a kilometer loud, consistent music started to play and a man sang in Arabic for the next 150 kilometers. The speaker was just next to my head so there was no way I could take a nap. I thought the music signified that I am going to another county and I have to tune my mind. At some point the music begun to sound like a lullaby and the next time I woke up we were in Isiolo.

    Noon: We arrived in Marsabit, after a 10 hour journey. I was really exhausted. After I sorted out our luggage I saw this tall, dark skinned lady wearing a Bui Bui (a long black dress with a hijab covering her head as a symbol of her Muslim religion). With an infectious smile she was talking to Markus and Turnner and I was curious to find out about the discussion they had and who she was. “My name is Khula Dida. I work for Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI).” Khula took us to our Hotel which was just few yards away from the bus stop and promised that Noor (HODI’s program director) will come and meet us later at 8pm.

    I got into my room, took a shower and of course took a nap. Noor appeared at the promised time. He was a soft spoken young man with a small gap between his upper teeth who always maintained eye contact while talking to you. Later I found out through the coaches that people with a gap between their teeth are considered to be intelligent and handsome. The four of us had a nice chat as we tried to find out more about the community. We wanted to know which social issues they were facing, the number of participants we expect, what was the best time to start the training and many more. I realized that through all these questions Markus laid the basis for a successful training.

    During our discussion two social issues caught my attention: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage. These in-humane acts are some of the deep rooted cultural practices in many communities around Marsabit. “Many young girls go through the cut while they are still young and then they get married without their consent. I think many of my friends if not all have gone through it.” said Khula, the woman that welcomed us at the bus stop when we arrived. She had now become my source of information and she spoke very openly about the practice of FGM not wanting it to happen to her own daughter.

    On the first day of our training we met these beautiful young girls who were covered from their head to at their feet. They greeted us with a lot of happiness, perhaps with the quest and knowledge to tackle gender norms. I was surprised that more women than men turned up for the training in this male dominated community.

    As we were going through CAC’s games with the participants many things were going through my mind as a result of the meeting that we had with Noor the day before. I was surprised that I didn’t see Turner and Markus showing a sign of disbelief. Maybe because they have heard and seen many of these stories after working with CAC. After some games we had to take a rest because the heat was unbearable. We ate bananas and quenched our thirst with cold water that was being provided by HODI. At the end of each session we reviewed the games and their social impact.

    I realized there is a huge gap between the males and females in Marsabit County. As we were walking back to our hotel I saw male coaches from the group we trained walking in a group ten yards away from their female counterparts. I wanted to know the reason why and so I asked one of the coaches. “A girl or a woman is not supposed to walk with a man if they are not married otherwise the woman will be considered to be a prostitute or loose” said Amina, who seemed to be annoyed about the whole story. I could read that from her facial expression.

    On Saturday after completing the Child’s Rights discussion I decided that I want to do something for the girls when I get back to Nairobi. Even though the problem is not that big at home still many girls are going through horrendous moments. That happens in different parts of the World. Marsabit and Nairobi are just two examples. I will assemble the girls in my community and let them talk about the issues that they are facing and how they think we can tackle them. I want to let them have a voice to be heard.

    This idea would not have grown in my head if I did not get the chance to be a Community Impact coach (CIC). I would like to take this opportunity to thank Markus, Turnner, Nora, Brian and Nick and the whole CAC family for giving me this life changing opportunity. I am happy to be a part of CAC who are global leaders in Sports for Social Impact. I hope to meet with again with you somewhere else in the world just so we can continue to do our best with the little that we have.


  • Kickin it with Sadili in Kibera, Kenya

    DSC00733July 30th 2013. An 11 hour bus from Marsabit found us back in a slum of the Kenyan capitol. Kibera is one of the largest poverty stricken areas of Nairobi and we could not have been more warmly welcomed.  Sadili  (our host organization) was founded by Dr. Liz Odera over 20 years ago, and today serves as a school and sporting program giving local kids from Kibera the chance to play and learn.  Not only does Sadili provide a gym, tennis courts, basketball courts, grass field, and classrooms for their kids, but nearly everything from the courts to the walls were made of recycled material.  These walls, made of condensed milk cartons, provide a location for the kids to learn, to excel in sports, and to give back.  Liz sets a standard for the rest of the organization and expects all the kids to give back to their community. Given the emphasis on sustainability an giving back to the community, we don’t see how an organization could use its resources more efficiently.
    Mornings had us working with some of the local coaches and the Sadili boys team (the captain of said team broke 1,800 juggles but was forced to stop due to a jokingly jealous teammate chasing him around the field).  Because the field we trained at was situated next to the rest of the facilities, one of our coaches (Charlie) couldnt help but embarass himself on the basketball court during our break. However, he was able to redeem himself by beating a whole host of young rugby players with his superior frisbee skills. Charlie 1, ten-year-olds 0.
    In the afternoons we worked with Girl Power, an organization started by Liz to provide a safe space for girls to meet, talk, and learn. We showed the Girl Power educators and GOAL champions how to use the on-field part of the GOAL curriculum to emphasize what the girls were already doing in the classroom. On Thursday, coaches AJ, Charlie, and Meg went with the Girl Power group further into Kibera to run a practice at Olympic High School.  Following the wide roads that are in the process of being built, we climbed down the steep hillside and through the narrow trash-filled streets of Kibera to Olympic.  The girls were wonderful, fun, and for a moment the subject of the rest of the entire school’s interest (seemed like all the boys and other classes were watching us play games).  We had a great time teaching them HIV and GOAL games, discussing powerful female role models. We hope that Girl Power continues to use our games to teach girls throughout Kibera. Overall, we had a great week with Sadili Oval and are looking forward to continuing the partnership in the future.
    Check out the Sadili blog showing their view on working with CAC here.
  • Wonderful World of Marsabit, Kenya

    July 15, 2013. A six-hour ride in a mutatu, another five hours traveling on unpaved
    road, an encounter with an ostrich family of thirty-some offspring, and we finally arrived in Marsabit. The town, located in remote Northern Kenya, is a complete 180 degree turnaround from Nairobi’s crowded, noisy city streets. In Marsabit, we found ourselves under a blanket of stars (which only became brighter when the power went out), and lulled to sleep each night by the music and prayers emanating from the local mosque.

    Coach Brian left early Wednesday morning to head to the next CAC program in Tanzania, but Coaches Charlie, AJ, and Megan managed to run the program just fine, even without “dad” around. We worked with HODI’s U-13 and U-16 girls and boys teams, their coaches, and a group of peer educators who work in local schools. The Kenyan public school teachers are still on strike, which meant that we were able to work with the younger players all day. Sessions ran in both the morning and the afternoon, oftentimes alongside some combination of cattle, sheep, or donkeys. Two main problems that the group identified in their community are tribalism and restrictive attitudes towards girls playing sports. As a result, we focused on games for conflict resolution and gener equity throughout the week.

    It was great to hear the young coaches and players use their voices more and more as the week went on. As the week progressed, we also saw more and more girls come to the pitch wearing soccer shorts rather than longer skirts. Despite the fact that many of our participants started fasting for Ramadan this week, they brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to the field each day. We had a great time collaborating with HODI for the second year in a row, and we hope that the young leaders that we worked with will use the games and skills that they learned this week to help bring change to their community.


  • Soccer for Change, Soccer for Life

    Mario Kurki at Coaches Across Continents training in Marsabit, Kenya

    August 20th, 2012:  By Mario Kurki, freelance journalist, participant in Horn of Africa Development Initiative partnership with Coaches Across Continents

    Soccer is now a game for all in the world. Its through my first encounter with Coaches Across Continents that my initial view about soccer skills had entirely changed where simple soccer skills had turned to a tool of change in our society.

    In a delightful tone I am glad to be part of training session facilitated by Coaches Across Continents. It was until then that my perspective about soccer had really get a new meaning. Rather than playing soccer for fun and professionalism now soccer can be a fundamental tool of change to transform lives and livelihood in our society.

    Through soccer we speak what is in our mind, we communicate and act as a team hence settling our problems like conflicts, tribal clashes and social disputes amongst us, irrespective of our ethnic differences, culture, attitude and level of understanding and now soccer skills are applicable in solving problem in real life situation.

    Its only soccer that players of different ethnic background can browse shoulders where ball turn to be a common interest for the teams and now a channel of communication is created for the togetherness of the players. Where the disparity between them is forgotten and virtues are nurtured and vices are eroded for a peaceful co-existence.

    GOAL program is another flipside of the coin as a part of training sessions delivered by Coaches Across Continents and we are grateful as Marsabit people to be part of the marvelous program being the first in Africa, the program addresses the issue of women and girl child empowerment through soccer where confidence, healthy living, role modeling, conflict resolution, happy and holistic life for positive change in our society through soccer.

    Its from the life skills acquired from Coaches that inspired many to change their ways of life, where gender sensitivity in society is an important aspect in sustainable development since everyone has the ability to change his/her own society and world around. Soccer for change, soccer for life.