• ¡Viva Mexico!

    March 28th, 2018. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Pedro Perez, writes about his experience working with Fundación Paso Del Norte in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

    Imagine you’re playing a game where the purpose is create a strong competition between groups and see how they react. Suddenly and spontaneously the participants decide that instead competing they will start to work all together to accomplish the goal. Well, this is exactly what happened during our week in Juarez.

    This shocked me. It was surprising that this kind of situation calls our attention and not the other way around, right? I tried to find an explanation for this phenomenon. The word resilience came to my mind.

    Over the years Ciudad Juarez has been a host city of drug trafficking, violence and insecurity. Faced with this situation, people from Juarez – as it happened during the game – have created a system where they are taking care of each other, and where cooperation is more important than competition. They could choose to believe that what once surrounded them was the model they had to follow, but no, they have chosen to create a reality where the collective good is above the individual.

    For me that shows resilience. The people of Juarez after years suffering from an environment full of violence came out strengthened from that period, with the creation of a collective consciousness above the average. Admirable without a doubt!

    After that week working with Fundación Paso del Norte, and the teachers that are part of their program “Juarez en Acción”, I had this idea in my mind….“Do you know the feeling of arriving at a place, that turns out to be completely different from what you expected? Well, that’s Ciudad Juarez.”

  • Empanadas, Mi Amor

    March 20th, 2018. On-Field SDL Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, writes about her month in the state of Sonora, Mexico with the Secretary of Education and FESAC, working alongside the teachers in Hermosillo, Obregon, and Nogales.

    What an interesting time to travel, as a US Citizen, into Mexico to work with the Secretary of Education. In each of the three weeks we spent working together on-field, one of the first issues that teachers referenced was the border with the United States, and the dangers and discrimination their youth feel because of the current political climate and immigration policy debates.

    In each week participants introduced, created, and adapted games about the border situation and “The Wall of Trump”. Each game with a similar message, and a sadly negative one at that. For me, an American facilitator, this conversation had to be carefully managed. As a group we each reflected about these issues and how it is making young kids feel, the dangers it presents if we don’t educate them, etc. But as for right now, the people are so offended, that it is almost impossible for them to focus on the remaining possibilities. This however, we came to realize as the most important part! In our last week in Nogales, a border town split between the United States and Mexico, the group of teachers had an incredible conversation on the importance of not teaching kids to accept defeat in this situation, but to focus on the ways of legal immigration. Together we discussed educational opportunities, possibilities through sporting success, relationship, work visas, etc. Most importantly, we discussed the powerful role of teachers in not breading hatred from both sides, but educating on possibilities.

    My hope is that the people of Mexico continue to be welcoming to US Citizens, that they do not return the rejection they feel, and that they remain positive and bigger people. My greatest hope is that the American people also continue to/begin educating our youth, our future, on the power of inclusion, respect for others, and handling our business respectfully and tastefully.

    If illegal immigration is an issue, okay…. lets fix it. But in the process, let us not offend entire nations of people, who do nothing but welcome us with open arms. For the last 3 weeks the people of Sonora, Mexico welcomed me into their lives, their homes, and their families. They kept me full of tacos, coyotas, carne asada, advocato and galletas. More importantly, these people made me feel welcomed, safe, and happy – in a place where I did not speak the language and entered from a nation of controversy. There are incredibly hard working, good hearted, well informed leaders in the group of teachers from Hermosillo, Obregon, and Nogales, Mexico. They are easily some of the most incredible and professional participants I have ever had the privilege of working with. They smiled at my Spanglish, danced and laughed, brought lots of food, and most importantly – made it clear that they were making an incredible impact in the lives of their children.

    I hope we begin to live in a world where we can look out for our own people, while still showing respect, appreciation, and regard for others. I hope that we go back to continuing progress towards inviting diversity, social inclusion, and love for all people. And lastly, I hope that everyone who reads this blog gets the chance to eat an authentic Mexican Empanada in his or her lifetime. If not, I can confidently say, you do not know what delicious is! And on that note, it is now time for me to officially begin my mission to learn to speak Spanish…. Adios Amigos!

    P.S. VIVA MEXICO!

  • Oh The Things To Do In Juarez

    April 18, 2017. Process Consultant Emily Kruger reflects on the week with CAC partner Fundación PDN in Juarez, Mexico.

    Exploring the modern children’s museum, check.
    Exquisite breakfast with Board Members, check!
    Meeting with the local men’s professional club, check!!
    On camera interview, check!!!
    20-minute presentation at the “Impact Hub” in front of a live audience…check?!
    Tasting tequila in the bar where the “margarita” first got its name…check?!?

    Did I mention that we worked with 40 participants, introducing them to CAC’s sport for social impact curriculum and Self-Directed Learning methodology?

    What an incredible whirlwind of a week! Luckily our hosts were logistical wizards, calmly whisking us from place to place with laughter in between. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of these highlights.

    La Rodadora, children’s museum, (let’s be real, this is play time for adults too!) in the center of Juarez, was built in 2004 as a space for families and communities to gather, play, and learn together. I had never thought of a museum as a place CAC would find such similarities, but of course it is: “Education Outside the Classroom”…obviously! A few leaders from the museum attended our training, and they were excited to bring CAC games and Self-Directed Learning into their work with youth and families at the museum.

    FC Bravos is the newest iteration of a men’s professional soccer club in Juarez and so far they have seen huge success in terms of community support. From the get-go, the club has prioritized the community over results. Their primary goal has been to bring something beautiful to Ciudad Juarez, something the city can be proud of and rally behind together. From the Chief Exec to the Marketing Director to the coaching staff and players, the organization is committed to being a staple of the city, not just a professional sports team looking for more money and fame. After having dinner with two representatives from the club, they brought a handful of the players to our “Hub Talk” as they wanted to learn more about CAC and how they might be able to get involved with the teachers and schools who we worked with!

    Which brings me to my final highlight of the week, the Hub Talk. When Fundacion first asked Mark and I to speak at a TED Talk-esque event, we were excited and jumped at the opportunity. Then, as the day drew near, we realized what we had gotten ourselves into and became much more nervous than excited, especially because we thought we might have to deliver it in Spanish! When they assured us that we could speak in English, some of our nerves were calmed but still, neither one of us had ever had an experience quite like that. We spent hours planning what we would say and how we would deliver it so it would not be standard and boring. We agreed that the best way to make it interesting (and make ourselves feel way more comfortable) was to do what we do best, lead an example of a CAC game! In the end, we felt prepared and absolutely loved speaking to the crowd (and the live video feed). What an honor to to be given such a platform to share our stories from CAC! Thanks again to everyone we met in Juarez for showing us such a lovely week!

  • Crossing Borders, Finding Home

    April 13, 2017. Emily Kruger continues on working with FESAC in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico after time in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico (Part 1).

    PART 2: Home

    We found ourselves in Nogales after a full day’s bus journey north, from one end of the Mexican state of Sonora to another. We traveled so far north, in fact, that we were basically in the United States. Within moments of arriving, our host Alma was describing the unique nature of a city on the U.S-Mexican border. She told us how in the morning we would notice the difference between the homes on the hillside of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. Our historic hotel sat on the main strip of downtown, imagine Old Town in classic “Westerns”, with a view of this hill and the jarring wall that splits the hill into two sides. We spent some of Sunday just watching the flow of traffic through border patrol, people’s cars being searched inside and out, some with search dogs. The line to go across into the U.S. was backed up quite long and seemed like it would take hours to get through.

    On the way to the field on Monday morning, Alma mentioned that many of the kids in the local public schools are in families that are transient, as they are either hoping to cross into the U.S. after traveling many miles through all of Mexico or they have just recently “returned” to Mexico from the U.S. I thought of the difficulty of feeling at home when your life is always being re-located. Once we were on-field with the new group of 50 enthusiastic and creative P.E. teachers, we learned more and more about the unique issues to Nogales that differed from those in Hermosillo and Obregon: drug trafficking, lack of economic opportunity, and the ever-changing make up of schools with children from transient families due to migration and deportation. They told us stories of kids coming to class without having had breakfast, of parents involved in drug trafficking because it is a lucrative job option, and of Mexican-American kids who do not speak Spanish being isolated and excluded at school.

    Through conversations provoked by CAC games we dug deeper into these issues: why these issues exist, is this the reality that must be, and what they can do as teaches to best support their students. Notably, “Muro de Trump” brought up a discussion about misconceptions their students and the parents might have and how lack of information hurts them. There was a resounding sentiment that people in Mexico believe in the “American Dream”, that they will make money, be safe, and create opportunities for the future of their families in the U.S. The teachers were keen to adapt the game to discuss the reality of the difficulty of obtaining a visa (expensive and exclusive), and the likelihood of deportation and/or incarceration after crossing the border without one. They wanted to open their students’ eyes to the possibility of a better life in Mexico than in the U.S. because of the negative consequences of immigrating with or without a visa. They seemed to be excited about the prospect of playing the game with their students as a way to think about home and place.

    According to Alma and the teachers, if better job opportunities (outside of the drug-trafficking industry) existed in Mexico, then fewer of these families would leave their homes. I wonder if less Mexican families left to the U.S. if they might be able to organize to make change in their home. It’s obviously much more complicated than that, but it brings me back to my belief that I am best served affecting change in the communities I come from. We all know that the consumer dollars, federal and state policies, and attitudes towards immigration, borders, immigrants (humans) that belong to people born in the U.S. affect all of those things belonging to people born in other countries, especially in Mexico.

    Perhaps I’ll play “Muro de Trump” with some PE teachers in the U.S. I wonder what we would learn about ourselves, borders, and home?

     Part 1: Borders

    We arrived in Ciudad Obregón after an incredible 4 days with the Physical Education teachers in Hermosillo, who set the bar very high for the three locations in our partnership with FESAC and SEC in Mexico. Within just a few minutes of Monday morning’s Circle of Friends, it was obvious that these 50 PE teachers would bring the same enthusiasm and creative thinking that enriched the week before. This meant another week with a special flare for a Year 2 program, where CAC could confidently share ownership of the week with the participants. When asked about creating and leading their own games, participants made it clear they wanted more responsibility than they took on last year.

    By Tuesday they were already working together to prepare the session for Wednesday. There were seven groups of 4-5 coaches, each one huddled around big sheets of paper on make-shift tables with markers in hand. We walked around and listened in as they collaborated: pointing, moving, deliberating, drawing, and re-drawing. Within 30 minutes, each group had a full sheet of paper with a diagram up top, description of how to play, and potential questions to ask while leading it. They were even checking the criteria: Are the games you created universally accessible? Is there space for problem solving and critical thinking by the students? Is there a social impact message integrated into the game? We asked if they would be ready to coach them the next day and there was a resounding “sí!” from everyone.

    My favorite game was called “Muro de Trump” or “Trump’s Wall”. They split the groups into four teams and asked each one to pick a Mexican city that borders the U.S. When the coaches called out a city, that team tried to “cross the border” without being tagged by the border control officers. They added ways to get through border control legally, like obtaining a visa i.e. a ball. This was such a creative, locally-relevant iteration of what I called “sharks and minnows” growing up. Considering it was a new idea, the coaches agreed that there was more to the metaphor that they are going to work out because they really want to use this game to talk with their students about the realities and dangers of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. For example, what are the consequences of being caught by border police without a visa? What might happen when you get to the other side? Why do people in Mexico want/need to live in the U.S.? There is so much here to dig into! Not only is it a dynamic game, but it also creates a space for some very important conversations between teachers and students here in Mexico.

    This game made me see immigration through the lens of people in Mexico. It will be an important conversation and reflection to continue as we travel to Nogales for our final week working with the Physical Education teachers of Sonora, Mexico!

  • Crossing Borders, Finding Home

    February 25, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Process Consultant, Emily Kruger writes about FESAC program in Obregón, Sonora, Mexico.

    Part 1: Borders

    We arrived in Ciudad Obregón after an incredible 4 days with the Physical Education teachers in Hermosillo, who set the bar very high for the three locations in our partnership with FESAC and SEC in Mexico. Within just a few minutes of Monday morning’s Circle of Friends, it was obvious that these 50 PE teachers would bring the same enthusiasm and creative thinking that enriched the week before. This meant another week with a special flare for a Year 2 program, where CAC could confidently share ownership of the week with the participants. When asked about creating and leading their own games, participants made it clear they wanted more responsibility than they took on last year.

    By Tuesday they were already working together to prepare the session for Wednesday. There were seven groups of 4-5 coaches, each one huddled around big sheets of paper on make-shift tables with markers in hand. We walked around and listened in as they collaborated: pointing, moving, deliberating, drawing, and re-drawing. Within 30 minutes, each group had a full sheet of paper with a diagram up top, description of how to play, and potential questions to ask while leading it. They were even checking the criteria: Are the games you created universally accessible? Is there space for problem solving and critical thinking by the students? Is there a social impact message integrated into the game? We asked if they would be ready to coach them the next day and there was a resounding “sí!” from everyone.

    My favorite game was called “Muro de Trump” or “Trump’s Wall”. They split the groups into four teams and asked each one to pick a Mexican city that borders the U.S. When the coaches called out a city, that team tried to “cross the border” without being tagged by the border control officers. They added ways to get through border control legally, like obtaining a visa i.e. a ball. This was such a creative, locally-relevant iteration of what I called “sharks and minnows” growing up. Considering it was a new idea, the coaches agreed that there was more to the metaphor that they are going to work out because they really want to use this game to talk with their students about the realities and dangers of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. For example, what are the consequences of being caught by border police without a visa? What might happen when you get to the other side? Why do people in Mexico want/need to live in the U.S.? There is so much here to dig into! Not only is it a dynamic game, but it also creates a space for some very important conversations between teachers and students here in Mexico.

    This game made me see immigration through the lens of people in Mexico. It will be an important conversation and reflection to continue as we travel to Nogales for our final week working with the Physical Education teachers of Sonora, Mexico!

  • Emulating Self-Directed Learning

    February 20th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and FESAC in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

    The Coaches Across Continents team landed in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico at 11:30pm after four two-hour flights. While a bit exhausted we were greeted by a bubbly character by the name of Andrea from the local partner, Fundación del Empresario Sonorense (FESAC). She hit us with a burst of energy that quickly permeated our sleepiness. This is an energy that we would continue to experience with the participants throughout the week! Hermosillo reminded me a lot of home in Southern California. Paved roads with some street vendors selling delicious tamales, tacos, and fresh fruits.

    The first day the partner took us to Náinari Lake. It was the place to be! Everyone was there. Vendors were selling food and drinks, there was a stage with live music, people were on pedal boats across the lake, zip lines longer than a football field were hanging above the lake, we saw birds being fed, trampolines being used, and countless children in battery operated cars driving around in front of their parents while they walked the perimeter of the lake. It was stunning. We were able to walk around and watch the sun set over the lake until it became too chilly. Then the partner took us back to our hotel. It was a nice break before getting the week started.

    This week we worked with Physical Education teachers and students in the Hermosillo area. The teachers were eager to learn and get started. A lot of them remembered a couple of the games from last year and mentioned they used them throughout the year. We were told that one of the teachers even took the CAC curriculum they learned from last year to nearby after-school programs outside of Hermosillo. What an impact! It was so great to hear about the CAC curriculum making it’s way around Sonora, Mexico after teachers had gone through the training last year. This group was ready and engaged. As new games were being presented they had plenty of questions, conversations and creative solutions to current challenges facing their schools today. This group was so involved that they were able to adapt games on the spot when asked how they would change the game to make it even more relevant to what they face as Physical Education in schools in Sonora, Mexico.

    Seeing this group take to the CAC curriculum so wholeheartedly, the CAC team decided they were ready for the challenge to create their own games in the realm of health and wellness, bullying, and inclusion issues. These issues were the main conversation points throughout the week. The teachers created teams of three to four people to collaborate, create, and deliver a new game that addressed the three main points above. The CAC curriculum “students” were now becoming the creators! The resources CAC supplied them with in regards to games, social messaging, and questions allowed this group to continue in their learning, challenging of concepts, and adapting to make them relevant to their area. It was phenomenal to see how well the games addressed certain issues and how well the teachers emulated Self-Directed Learning within their sessions. One of the Physical Education university students absorbed CAC so much that she wanted to know more about the philosophy and volunteer opportunities. Below is her story:

    “My name is Dayanna Enriquez from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I attended the training sessions this past week. I currently study physical education and as a student, the sessions Mark, Taylor and Emily provided taught me so many things when it comes to teaching children. How simple games can impact the lives of so many kids and the way we as teachers can help them grow and accomplish many goals in life.

    The week was very productive with a lot of fun games and lessons learned. We had lots of fun and they actually inspired me to find out more about the organization Coaches Across Continents to see if there is any way for me to volunteer and try and help others make the world a better place.

    I want to thank Mark, Taylor and Emily for providing me with the opportunity to take part in the weekly sessions. Also I want to congratulate them for their enthusiasm and their great outgoing personalities that made this course lots of fun and a great atmosphere for us to learn while enjoying ourselves.

    Hopefully one day I can get a chance to become part of this great experience!”

    Coaches Across Continents has created a space for teachers at different schools to come together and start a conversation around how they can overcome the biggest issues facing their kids today. The CAC curriculum has already sparked action within the teaching community in Hermosillo.  After successfully taking on the challenge of creating their own games with social messaging attached, the teachers are motivated and determined to continue the work and adaptation of the CAC curriculum to address relevant issues in their communities. I look forward to seeing the growth of this group in the next few months! Great job CAC!