• Using Sports to Unlock the Conversation

    June 9th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo blogs about working with the Ministry of Sport in Pemba, Tanzania.

    From Unguja, Nico and I made the short trip to the island of Pemba (also part of the Zanzibar archipelago), where we joined Markus for the next week’s program. From living in Tanzania, I’d heard of Pemba to be one of the most exotic and remote vacation destinations imaginable: a remote tropical island, unblemished by the tourism industry that has overtaken parts of the busier Unguja island. When I told friends in Tanzania that I was to spend a week in Pemba, I saw the jealousy in their eyes, assuming that I was off for nothing more than a beach holiday. While it’s true that Pemba is among the more comfortable CAC program destinations, it, like any CAC program, is no holiday.

    On Pemba, it is not uncommon for men to have multiple wives, many of whom are married as teenagers. The average woman bears at least 6 children. Though a man may have dozens of children depending on him for support, there are few economic opportunities available to make that possible. In keeping with religious-based tradition, women are sometimes not permitted to leave the home – the husband does all the family’s external business. For the women who do go out in public, it is unusual to see anything more than their faces and hands. Domestic abuse of women and children is seldom seen and even less openly discussed. Sexual abuse of children is known to exist in theory, but rarely traced to a specific person or institution (school, mosque, etc). It is safe to say that Pemba has its share of social issues – issues that, over the course of the week, our participants became more willing to acknowledge and discuss.

    On Monday morning, though nearly a quarter of our 40 something participants had attended our program in a previous year, there were many among the remaining fraction of attendees who seemed unsure of what they had shown up for, some perhaps even a little bit skeptical of what they could possibly gain from the three of us. For some, tactical football instruction seemed to be the priority, rather than any sort of social impact coaching. But despite this, throughout the week, I admired the groups’ receptiveness to our discussion and their increasing willingness to listen and participate in the program. Of course, the curriculum itself is the key to opening our discussions and drawing people into the whole program. It is what makes CAC’s work possible anywhere: using something as fun and engaging as sports to direct a group’s energy to focus on heavier topics that, like sexual abuse of children, can be considerably less fun to engage with. The group began to appreciate the subtle ways that sports can be used to teach valuable off-field lessons. I observed several knowing grins and nods of understanding every time we pointed out the ways that the games reinforce using your voice, as the idea of encouraging children to use their voice seemed to be one that appealed the most to our group. At our closing ceremony on Friday, some of those who had been the least involved on Monday vociferously expressed their satisfaction with the program and their gratitude to the coaches for working with their group, and I was proud to have witnessed their transformations over the week. Though Pemba still has a number of social issues its leaders continually grapple with, I am confident that with every class of CAC participants, there are a few more voices in the community who have the confidence and inspiration to push for the changes they would like to see on their island.

  • From Buckingham Palace to Gomoa Palace

    June 2nd 2017. CAC’s Jordan Stephenson blogs on working with Gomoa Sport for Change in Gomoa, Ghana.

    This week the training took place in a tribal village of Gomoa Benso within the Central Region of Ghana. The partner we are working with is Gomoa Sport for Change who are based in a government school and specialize in Football, Handball, Volleyball and Athletics. Among the team from CAC was  myself, JK (one of our Global Citizens this summer) and Oti (a legend within the CAC community and a Community Impact Coach for the Ghana partners this year).

    Upon arrival we were welcomed by the Queen Mother of Gomoa at the Palace where we would be staying. She sent her apologies that the Chief was out of the country and therefore would not be able to welcome us personally. Within the Palace there were staff to cook our Ghanaian traditional food (fu-fuo and banku were our particular favorites), the family of the chief and the queen mother as well as ourselves. It was tough to get a moments rest as after two minutes of arriving back at the palace we have dozens of children outside of our room wanting to hang out with us!

    The day before the training we were taken to watch an FA Cup 4th round match between local team Proud United FC and national giants Ashanti Ktoko, we were hoping to see a giant killing game typical of that of the English FA Cup however that was not to be the case. For the second half we stood next to a commentator for a National Radio Station: Accra FM and he asked myself and Oti to be pundits and comment on the key moments of the game, which was something we grabbed at the chance to do! The experience of exiting the stadium whilst negotiating our way past the disappointed and frantic home supporters was something I will never forget – somehow it is always the referee’s fault!

    During the training we had a combination of coaches and teachers as well as Mr Afried who is the Director of Physical Education within the Ministry of Education for the region of Gomoa Central who has jurisdiction over 250 schools. He was very interested in the work we were doing and will subsequently write a report of his findings to share with the Director of Education – a great advocate of the use of sport for social impact within physical education.

    A big highlight of the training was delivering on Thursday when we showed that being exposed to the elements (heavy heavy rain) was no obstacle for playing sport and being active; especially in a country which has a rainy season lasting for 7 months!!

    A big focus of the training was looking at traditions, and which traditions have been in place for a long period of time which hold the community back. Therefore it seemed quite ironic that we were staying with the Chief and Queen mother (the cultural leaders of the community) at the palace, whilst at the same time asking what they thought the impact of having cultural leaders was on their society.

    The training was a success and resulted in more coaches and teachers who are highly motivated and upskilled to start to be an agent for social change through sport; whilst being supported by Gomoa Sport for Change who can support them to achieve community change.

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  • This is Sierra Leone!

    May 31st 2017. CAC’s Jordan Stephenson wrote about his experience in Freetown, Sierra Leone working with our fantastic partner Street Soccer Foundation, Sierra Leone.

    The first thing you notice when arriving in Sierra Leone is that it is an adventurous nation! From walking off the plane and getting hit with a wall of heat – you know you’ve landed in the right place! The great thing about arriving in Freetown is that you need to take 3 modes of transport to get there: once arriving at the airport you take a short bus journey to the beach and from there you get on a boat which travels for 30 minutes across the ocean into Freetown! Being a Newcastle United supporter, when arriving at the hotel I immediate was caught up in a debate about who Rafa Benitez should be bringing in next season following our promotion to the Premier League, from then I knew this was a nation of sport lovers! Therefore it seems like an appropriate place to be doing our line of work…

    The training consisted of 100 community coaches and Physical Education teachers from all across the country who’s passion and love of sport exemplified the spirit of the nation. We were lucky enough to have the training in the National Football Stadium, and although the pitch wasn’t what you’d expect to be an international venue to be like, it provided a wonderful amphitheater for the weeks training.

    Mr Abu Johnson, CEO of Street Soccer Foundation highlighted that “this is the first time that the people of Sierra Leone are having training on a national level to cultivate the energy of change agents to create long term sustainable change through sport”. I certainly felt like it was very important to the nation as we were greeted with journalists from TV and radio who wanted to know what we were trying to achieve and how we’re trying to achieve it – that even meant sitting watching myself on TV and on the radio!

    The training itself was a huge success as we explored the ways that the communities in Sierra Leone can embrace sport as an essential vehicle to achieve strong development goals, with an important aspect being one of including community elders and village chiefs within discussions and programs, especially so they can see the value of education through sport as that is something they never experienced growing up.

    A stand out memory for me was a discussion about the number of children people had across Sierra Leone and the impact that has on communities. It was said that in urban communities, like Freetown, it is more beneficial to have less children as it costs more to feed children and it becomes harder for families to send their children to school due to tuition fees; whereas in remote parts of the community, children are seen as assets to the family as they can be used as labor to harvest food, farming and for street traders in order to bring in more income to the family, at the expense of a quality education.

    Looking forward at the three year partnership we have with Street Soccer Foundation, it is very exciting to see how the 100 participants are continuing to be supported and that more community legacies can be created through sport. Street Soccer Foundation are working tirelessly to continue to engage stakeholders such as Sierra Leone Football Association, Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Education in order to have a country wide effort to tackling social change through sport.

    And to all of the people of the peaceful nation of Sierra Leone.. Thank you!

  • Free On The Field

    May 30th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo returns to work with CAC and the Ministry of Sport in Unguja, Zanzibar. 

    This week we were back on the largest island of Zanzibar, Unguja, for what is now the fifth consecutive year. Community Impact Coach Nico and I participated here for the first time, though Nick has been here almost every year. With nearly eighty participants, a pristine turf field at the city stadium, adequate cones, and a horde of One World Futbols, we could not have asked for a better setup for our program. The end result did not disappoint – we dodged (almost all of) the rain, played over forty different games, and capped off our excellent week with a much-hyped full-field match between coaches and teachers. Though we ran the program at a fast pace, we did not sacrifice depth: we had a number of substantial discussions about opportunities for girls and women – on and off the field – the rights of children, and how the prevailing Islamic culture in the Zanzibar archipelago underpins local attitudes on these topics. All around, we had a fantastic week.

    One of the best things about the week was just another simple reminder about why the sports field is such a special place.  On the field, people are free. Free to express themselves in the way they play each game. Despite a language barrier, I’ve often felt like I get to know each participant personally by watching how they play; the way they run or approach the ball reveals something about a player’s personality. It is nothing short of beautiful to assemble a group of men and women of widely ranging ages and watch each of them light up when they receive the ball, or solve a problem, or, most brilliantly, when they celebrate scoring, and to witness them shed some of the restraint they may exhibit off the field. Ultimately, stepping onto the field grants players the liberty to be themselves. It is a form of expression, and the games we play make this joy accessible to participants of any age or ability. For many, sports can be an outlet or a refuge from anything else in their lives; once they take the field, nothing outside of the field matters anymore. While football has this power in all corners of the globe, somehow I never get tired of recognizing it.  

    Realizing this anew underscored for me the significance of a major focus of our program: the value of offering all children – boys and girls alike –  the opportunity to play sports, and secondly, ensuring that those children are protected from all forms of abuse on the field. When communities and families can be rife with conflict, violence and abuse, the opportunity to play freely and safely is ever more valuable to children. To deny that to any child, whether because of their gender or ability or by allowing the field to become an abusive environment, slims the chance that any of those children will grow up to escape the cycle of violence. In our program, we spent considerable time discussing the ways that adults abuse children, how to recognize this abuse, and, most crucially, how to find other ways for our coach and teacher participants to discipline their children. We devoted several other conversations to discussing how and why girls are excluded from sports, finding that the often strict Islamic culture discourages people from allowing girls to play sports, football in particular. Though opposing a dominant religion can stir controversy, as the participants seemed to decide that their girls did in fact have the right to play sports, we explored ways that they could offer girls the opportunity to play without contradicting religion. There remains a significant cultural resistance to overcome, but we tried to avoid pitting girls playing sports against our participants’ religion.

    The Ministry of Education also plans to implement CAC curriculum in all of the schools in Unguja, so we can now see how the five years of CAC programs have been appealing to people, and that the discussions we’ve begun on the field have spread off the field throughout the other 51 weeks each year. Excited to see what this program will look like in its sixth year!

  • Encuentro Internacional de Educatión Física

    August 7, 2016.  This past week CAC Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz was a key presenter and speaker at the Encuentro Internacional de Educatión Física in Lima, Peru hosted by the Ministry of Education. This international meeting is a space for exchange of experiences, ideas, practical implementation, and strengthening teaching practices. CAC was invited to present at this prestigious conference based on our partnerships and relationships within Peru with numerous groups such as UNICEF, various ministries, and other strong NGO implementing partners. One of our member partners, Fútbol Más, also presented their curriculum and methodology at the conference.

    Attended by over 2,000 practitioners, teachers, coaches, and pedagogical members of the Ministry of Education and other government officials, the international conference will launch the new National Curriculum and aim to strengthen physical education and school sports across all levels of Basic Education (preschool, primary, and secondary). Registration for the conference exceeded 8,000 people, but space limited the attendees to only 2,000 individuals. The Ministry of Education live streamed the event for more inclusion. Presenters included experts in all fields of physical education from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Peru, and Spain, Chile.

    During the conference Brian was interviewed by TV Peru (national television) and ANDINA, a news agency owned by the Peruvian government. On Thursday, newly sworn-in Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was shown on morning television with his cabinet exercising, sparking an interest in the physical education conference.

    CAC’s methodology and curriculum has been well received and adopted by various government ministries, community partners, and NGOs during our year-round partnerships in the past several years. This presentation will further enhance this exchange of ideas and practices as well as strengthen our relationship with various Peruvian agencies that wish to create pathways for social change through sport.

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  • Chevrolet’s #PlayItForward Reaches China

    Coaches Across Continents continues our award-winning partnership with Chevrolet FC and their #PlayItForward initiative. 

    December 7th, 2015.  For the past week we have been working in Shuanglang, China, located in the Yunnan province.  Participants for the first week were teachers from seven different regional primary and middle schools, as well as volunteers from Red Chalk, Chevrolet’s charity initiative in China.  The Red Chalk Program has been supporting education in rural areas in China since 2005.

    “If we speak to the children it can be boring, but if we use sport to teach the children, it becomes a fun and effective way to educate and give social messages.” – Patrick; volunteer, Red Chalk Program.

    During the first week of training Coaches Across Continents worked with the aforementioned local teachers and Red Chalk volunteers to impart a sport for social impact curriculum.  The training was specifically designed to benefit the teachers and volunteers who work directly in schools, with CAC games that focused on education, the environment, health and wellness, and other life skills.  A special curriculum was then designed that can be implemented by the participants during the 45 minute physical education periods.  Joining the training on the final day were representatives from the Ministry of Education in Dali.
    “I like the way that CAC taught and focused on the local needs of our community.  It is excellent that you can work with the teachers, and we can spread knowledge and involve all our students to have a big impact.” – Mr Zhou; course organizer from Shuanglang.

    This Friday, Chevrolet FC is unveiling a new soccer field at the Houshan school, located near Shuanglang.  During the week CAC will teach Physical Education classes and will play games from our curriculum directly with the students and selected teachers.  It is anticipated that for many students, this may be their first introduction to football in an organized setting.  The highlight of this week will be the event day on Friday with special festivities planned around the launch of the new field.

    “The best thing was learning new concepts of how to teach outside the classroom and how to put ideas and messages into the sports game was really fun and useful.  I can understand education more deeply than before.” – Mr. Lee; Shuanglang Middle School.

    This week, CAC educated and certified 26 teachers in the Shuanglang region and directly impacted 3,375 students.  This is the seventh community of the partnership, and overall 578 teachers and coaches have been educated and certified with 63,705 children directly impacted.

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