• And so it begins…

    September 19th, 2018. Global Citizen Jesse DiLuzio writes about his first country on-field with Coaches Across Continents with Community Partner Reclaim Childhood in Jordan.

    My work with CAC began in Amman, Jordan where I was fortunate enough to work with coaches from a diverse group of countries that included Jordan, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria! As part of this process, CAC partnered with a local non-profit called Reclaim Childhood, an organization that works to empower refugee and at-risk women and girls in Jordan through sport and play. This partnership proved to be a fruitful one, and myself, Markus (full-time CAC Coach), and Rose (Community Impact Coach from Lebanon) were very fortunate to work with an incredible group of motivated coaches.

    Over the course of the week, we discussed a number of issues with a focus on rights for refugees and women in society. During these discussions, it became increasingly clear that many of the coaches in front of us were already great leaders in their communities. Haneen Khateeb, a female coach from Amman is one of these examples. Just last year, Haneen broke a world record through her participation in the highest-elevation soccer match ever played. At the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Haneen along with 29 other players representing 22 different countries played the 90 minute match 5,985 meters above sea level. As extraordinary as this feat was both physically and mentally, it is even more incredible when you consider the social impact of her actions. While the women’s football scene in Jordan has been much improved under the leadership of HRH Prince Ali, the role of women in sports has been a controversial topic across the region, where in some places, women are banned from participating in sports altogether. Haneen’s efforts served as an inspiration for thousands of women looking to overcome their obstacles and pursue their dreams.

    Other coaches that we trained also told us about the amazing efforts that they have put forth in order to provide a positive environment for other underserved groups. Muhammad (Yasin) and Paul, two friends from Amman, have effectively created a space in their homes for over one hundred refugees to discuss, challenge, and collectively overcome the many obstacles they face coming from corrupt, war-torn states such as Syria. Not to mention the incredible women who work with Reclaim Childhood throughout the year constantly recruiting underprivileged girls across Jordan to learn and play soccer in a space free from social pressure.  

    While I entered the week eager and enthusiastic to provide and teach all of the things I have learned in 18 years as a soccer player/coach, I found myself doing quite the opposite. There’s a saying in Jordan that “whenever you are full, you can still eat forty more tidbits of food”. While I was always too full to test its validity during meals, I think this spirit was certainly embodied by the coaches that we worked with this week. Despite the fact that all of them had already accomplished incredible things in their communities, none of them were full. They always wanted to learn more, and their enthusiasm was unwavering. I became the listener, the learner, the “trainee”, as the coaches took the games/discussions that we led and took them to new heights. It was a humbling experience, one that put a lot of my previous assumptions about coaching into doubt. 

    Off the field, the experience was quite wonderful as well! The locals in Amman are very hospitable and have warm hearts. They will feed you till you can’t move, talk to you until days end, and are always down for a coffee or two. Must haves for me are Shawarma from Saj’s, Falafel from Chammad’s?, Frike, Labaneh, and Mansaf from anywhere. Petra beer is pretty good as well. 

    It was truly an amazing first week with Coaches Across Continents and I look forward to more travels with the organization!

    Until next time,

    Jesse DiLuzio
  • Working Towards Equality with Refugees in the Middle East

    November 10th 2017. CAC Self-Directed Learning coach and Sustainability Strategist Jordan Stephenson discussed our first ever program in Beirut, Lebanon with ANERA

    This week Ian, Nora and I traveled to Beirut, Lebanon to work with our partner ANERA.

    The setting for our week was on the coast of the Mediterranean surrounded by large boulders protecting the land from the sea. The length of the training was longer than what I have previously experienced which allowed us to go deeper with the work and allow for more discussions and opportunity for learning to take place.

    ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) work across the Middle East providing support and opportunities for refugee communities. Our role was to facilitate learning with the coaches and coordinators and ANERA’s sport team which brought 25 people from across the country to a central location for the training. The week was so eye-opening to be able to learn from individuals who have found themselves in situations they did not chose and were able to channel their energy into helping others. My mind has been opened to what it might be like to live in a refugee community, especially those who were born in the country yet still do not have the same rights as nationals, restricting their ability to travel, work, and access education. The idea of equality is something which is often sought; however, in reality it is not practiced through discriminatory policy, laws, and culture which prevents refugees being able to choose their futures in such an uncertain part of the world.

    CAC are in a unique position to work alongside individuals who are actively trying to achieve equality within the community and we’re lucky enough to bring individuals together and create a large network of individuals and organizations through an overriding strategy to contribute heavily towards the development of a better world.

    Many participants identified this training as the best they’ve ever received as they were able to take practical learning away and begin to implement within their communities. Our partnership with ANERA has just started and the team are excited to partner with such a great organization over a sustained period of time. Through this partnership CAC will be able to support refugee communities to both integrate themselves within the communities they find themselves in, but also to allow individuals to reach their full potential.

    As a city, Beirut is diverse and vibrant. This is a city which has faced so much turmoil over recent decades which, undoubtedly, has had an impact on society. The trip to the Middle East has been a fantastic experience allowing me to understand struggles within this area from my own eyes, not tinted from the eyes of media.