• Embracing Change

    Laura Kane blogs from Jamaica as the team continue their work in Montego Bay with the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.

    December 21st 2015. The second leg of our journey in Jamaica brought us to Montego Bay.  “Mobay” is the second largest city in Jamaica and a huge tourist attraction.  Crime is a major problem as pickpocketing and petty theft are common among tourist destinations.  However, our efforts this week were focused on child rights and HIV/AIDS.

    A rain storm on our third day forced the group to stay inside for a child rights talk.  I was slightly nervous given the resistance we faced in Kingston a few days earlier.  But I must say, the coaches of Mobay and the surrounding parishes were engaged, respectful, and open to change!  We discussed the topic of homosexuality, different forms of abuse, and the important role that coaches play in the life of a child.  In Kingston, most discussions began and ended with someone stating, “but this is just our culture.”  Implying that change simply isn’t possible.  While we talked about respecting different cultures and the ideals that are unique to Jamaica, we also found common ground in honoring some basic human rights.  The coaches did their best to help us understand the issues they face and the cultural norms that make change difficult.  But I also felt like we had a group that was actively looking for new ways to help educate those around them.  They were engaged and taking notes the entire time.  Our discussions were productive and I left the day feeling encouraged.

    On the fourth day, we addressed the topic of HIV/AIDS on the field.   It was very clear that this topic is not commonly talked about in Jamaica.  However, our coaches were open and honest about the taboo nature of this disease.  It would be difficult to pinpoint how severe this problem is because men do not often get tested for fear of a positive result.  A positive result would mean public shaming within the community. Imagine not being invited to play pick-up on Saturdays because people are fearful that you would pass the virus on to them.  Most shocking in our conversation was the fact that most boys become sexually active around the age of 9.  The group spoke freely about their culture of men having multiple girlfriends at one time.  While the women are more willing to be tested, it is hard to be sure that your partner is being faithful.  Our group of coaches identified several ways in which we can help educate others in the community about HIV/AIDS.  It was great to see them step up, use their voice, and speak passionately about helping to change the culture.

    I’ll be leaving Jamaica with a sunburn, some new friends, and a lot of hope for the future.  I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country someday!


  • The Jamaican (Video) Farewell

    January 21st 2015. Our last program of 2014 was working with Ballaz International, the Real Madrid School for Social Integration, and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation both in Kingston and Montego Bay. Lyrics to the song “Jamaican Farewell” rung in our heads such as “sounds of laughter everywhere” and “the sun shines daily on the mountaintop”. And among our great two weeks of training were the people of Digicel SportsMax who filmed the event and put together this great video of the difference being made in Jamaica because of this partnership.

    Thanks very much to Digicel SportsMax for showing this on local TV and putting together a great film about Coaches Across Continents and our incredible local partners in Jamaica.

  • Yeah Mon, Part 2

    IMG_8454December 27, 2013. The second leg of our Jamaica trip took us to beautiful Montego Bay, a coastal city upcountry from Kingston. We were greeted by Robbie, a local restaurant owner with ties to the Real Madrid Foundation, our local organizing partner here in Mo Bay. The Real Madrid Foundation is a new and growing organization in Mo Bay that is affiliated with the now-familiar Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and Ballaz International. The leader of the Real Madrid Foundation is Aaron Lawrence, a former national-team goalkeeper who represented Jamaica in the 1998 world cup. Aaron participated in the coaching sessions and also doubled as our gracious chauffeur throughout our stay in Mo Bay.

    IMG_8576When we arrived to the training pitch the first day, we were blown away. The field was located right on the water, and luckily we had time to explore a little while awaiting the arrival of the local coaches. After we dipped our toes in the water, it was time to get down to work. We had sixteen coaches throughout the three-day training, which made for a very intimate but intensive course. The majority of coaches had never been introduced to the concept of football for social impact, so it was inspiring to see them buy into the CAC curriculum over such a short period of time. We were encouraged by the effort given by all the coaches, and were happy to see them teach back several of the games with their own Jamaican flavor.

    IMG_8504Some of the most interesting learning in Mo Bay (for the CAC coaches and the local coaches) came off the field, during discussions held over water breaks. Major issues in Mo Bay, and all of Jamaica, include gender equity and HIV/sexual health. We had a frank discussion with the coaches about why girls should play sports and were intrigued by the nuances of gender relations in Jamaica as described by the coaches. They ultimately gave many thoughtful responses to the question we posed and overwhelmingly supported the inclusion of girls in sports. We also had an interesting discussion about HIV and sexual health during our day teaching Adebayor games for HIV education. We were delighted to hear the perspective of not only the coaches, but also of Juliet, a Real Madrid Foundation staff member and parent of two boys who participate in the organization. Juliet and the coaches animatedly discussed the unique roles of parents, coaches, and teachers in HIV education. We left the conversation with the understanding that HIV education can be taught in a variety of different venues and that great strides are being made to accommodate such multifaceted education in Jamaica.

    IMG_8600Overall, our time in Jamaica has been extremely rewarding. Though we have completed our first  year here, we are excited to see what the future holds for our partner organizations. Everyone involved in the program is committed to incorporating football for social impact into their coaching curricula, and we expect the number of participating coaches will multiply over the next two years. With the support of Ballaz International, the Real Madrid Foundation, and the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, we truly believe that football can have a significant social impact in Jamaica.