• Some Much Needed ‘Girl Determined’ Time

    February 11th, 2019. CAC Community Impact Coach Jaspreet Kaur of YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India joined CAC ASK for Choice Strategist Nora Dooley in Myanmar last December to work with CAC’s ASK for Choice Partner, Girl Determined. Nora and Jaspreet both share more about their experiences here.
    I have been working with CAC for over 5 years. For the majority of that time my focus has been on our ASK – Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge – for Choice program for women’s rights and gender equality. At the end of 2018 I spent an intense month traveling through Asia working with different partners. For 2 weeks I was the only woman present at some of our trainings – for reasons we know very well, and work every day to change. After these 2 weeks I have never been more aware of my identity as a Woman. I then spent one week with Girl Determined and – to put it simply – felt a welcome sense of ‘home’ in a place I had never been before.
    The Girl Determined team of incredible women from all over Myanmar came together for an intense week of training in the northern Kachin State. We integrated CAC on-field activities with Girl Determined strategies for designing new games, developing volleyball skills and learning more about leadership. This was our first year partnering with Girl Determined and we are excited to have them as part of the CAC network. We know from experience in similar contexts how difficult it can be to create spaces for women and girls to safely and confidently play and express themselves. From what I can see, Girl Determined not only achieves this each day but also have grown over the years to engage more girls and women from diverse backgrounds as leaders. It was also – personally and professionally – an immense privilege to experience and support my co-facilitator, Jaspreet, as she shared her knowledge, skills and Punjabi culture with the participants and staff. I’ll let her say more!
    My name is Jaspreet Kaur. I have been working with YFC as a Senior Training and Monitoring officer and Manager of Sports for Development Field since September 2013. I have attended 4 trainings of CAC on different domains and now I am working with CAC as a Community Impact Coach (CIC) from 2017.

    I would like to express my gratitude to Coaches Across Continents organization who gave me an amazing chance to attend the training program in Myanmar. This is the first International exposure for me as a CIC. This journey was one I will always remember. I got the chance to work with expert facilitator Nora Dooley. Everything was new for me, the language was totally different and the participants enjoyed the activities. I enjoyed the training field because the training area is situated between the hills.
    In this training me and Nora delivered the activities. Through this training I feel more confident than before. I have learned many coaching tips from this training such as how we can manage a large group of participants and different ways to use your voice as a coach. With Girl Determined we focused on topics such as Leadership, communication, healthy choices, women’s rights and adaptation of activities.
    This was the first time I visited Myanmar country. I got a chance to learn about Myanmar’s culture, food, clothing and things which are famous of the Kachin state. This was great exposure for me for new learning experiences, most beneficial for my coaching field. This trip will be unforgettable for me. I would like the express thank you of Aleta, Brooke and other staff from Girl Determined organization who gave us amazing gift from Kachin.
  • Rohingya Refugees and UN SDGs

    Over 900,000 Rohingya refugees are now living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This is 3x bigger than any other refugee camp in the world.  Starting last year, renewed violence including reports of rape, murder, and arson forced nearly all the Rohingya people living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, and instantly fracturing their society.

    Imagine all the people living in Austin, Texas fleeing en masse with no possessions, money, or communication – with family & friends permanently separated… or worse.

    The UNHCR has taken the monumental task to lead the care for this population, including feeding, housing, and other basic needs. But these services only address so much. Refugees are coming from an instantly fractured society and arriving at a place where they might not know anyone.  Many have been permanently separated from families, neighbors, and friends.  Individuals, especially children, single women, the elderly, and the disabled are at increased vulnerability to suffer additional harm. It is here that other organizations, oftentimes NGOs, look to work with the UNHCR to provide vital services including Community Based Protection.

    Coaches Across Continents, supported by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF), have started a 6-month pilot program to use football to create Community Based Protection.  Our program is using football to rebuild that fabric of society, and those networks, so that people are able to care for their families, their new neighbors, and each other – so that everyone is better supported and better protected, and therefore at reduced risk for experiencing additional harm.

    Our On-Field interview with Adam Nord (UNHCR Community Based Protection) explains this concept further in this 3+ minute video.

    “I see that this program… is a very important part of this as well.  It’s about using a very strong community-based approach to train new young refugee coaches who are then going to go back into their community to work with and to support other youth / other individuals in a way that engages and strengthens those society ties.  That’s complimented within CAC’s trainings on child protection, violence, and other issues, allows them then to engage through sports… in discussing those issues that are affecting their communities”

    “It’s an excellent example of a community based approach”     – Adam Nord, UNHCR Child Protection

    Over the course of the 6-month pilot supported by the AFC, Coaches Across Continents has trained 75 local Rohingya refugees to become soccer coaches across 25 different camps/districts within Cox’s Bazar. Equipment has been provided by the AFC and BFF so that they can engage boys and girls in their community on a weekly basis, and begin to impact some of the 500,000 children under the age of 17 living in the camps.  Throughout the year the newly minted coaches will receive communication, mentoring, and support from the BFF and CAC.  The 6-month pilot will culminate with a Football Fun Festival in May, 2019, with an eye towards continuing and expanding this program as funding allows.

    To support or learn more about this initiative, please contact CAC Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz at

  • The Rose That Grew From Concrete

    December 14th, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Mark Gabriel, writes about his personal reflections from the week on-field in Hpa an, Myanmar with Football United

    The Rose That Grew From Concrete  named accredited to Tupac Amaru Shakur

    My friend’s dad once told me, “You never know the impact you have on people. Something you do now could impact them forever. You won’t know it and maybe even they won’t know it. Just live it, be it, and have faith.” These words have helped me understand my role as a Self-Directed Learning Coach and Process Consultant with CAC. I do this work because I believe that, by empowering community leaders to challenge the status quo and ask themselves, “Why do I believe what I believe?”, they are able to be the master of their ways. To make sure that any changes in mentality and behavior come from within the community, we as CAC only stay in each location for one week (and continue the year-round partnership from afar). I have oftentimes been asked if I really think anything can happen in just one week On-Field. My answer — yes. This approach allows for the community leaders to be the catalysts of change rather than looking at us to be. The only thing is… if there is change, I probably won’t see it. Change takes time, and that goes for anything. If you want to lose weight, or learn how to meditate, it takes time. And those changes only have to do with you! Imagine when it involves an entire community. Or an entire culture and belief system. Yea… it can take a while.
    But we are not here to be the change. We are not here to see the change. We are here to spark the change. As a Self-Directed Learning Coach, we constantly challenge ourselves and our participants to self-reflect. This in and of itself can be life-changing for many (it sure has been for me). Questioning oneself, one’s beliefs, one’s culture, one’s existence, is not a frequented practice, but yet its power is incomparable. Each program is unique in its own right, as are the participants. However, the impact of having them ask themselves the “Why?” behind aspects of their life stays consistent. Many a time, it is a first for participants to do such a practice.

    This week in Hpa-An, it felt much the same. Our participants ranged from players to students to coaches to wannabe coaches, and all were confident in their culture and how life goes in Hpa-An. As they should be! Who knows life in Hpa-An better than them? But once we challenged to think about life itself, and not just in the context of their home, the gears began to spin. Having them question when to award a team a point (do you award the team that finishes first or the team that does it right? Why?), the importance of competition, who can/cannot play sports, what are the differences between man and woman; these questions transcend any cultural norms but find people answer through their own perspective, influenced by their upbringing. Even as a facilitator of these programs, I still find myself falling back to my own culture to paint a picture of the world. Each program I lead, I find myself being challenged more and more to break my tainted perception. This shows us how much our nurture impacts our views on the world. Such realizations and the following inter-personal reflections are what will lead to change.

    As of right now, what will become of Football United in Hpa-An is a bit unclear as it is in the beginning stages. It would be easy to be discouraged by the lack of “impact” when looking at sheer numbers of trainings, numbers of coaches, number of players worked with, etc. But impact is much more than these quantitative measures. If our training led to one participant challenging her or hisself, the potential impact is limitless. Maybe I won’t be the change, or see the change, but maybe I hear of the change. One day.

    Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.”

    — Tupac Amaru Shakur

     

  • What Do Soccer, Mines & Jars Have in Common?

    CAC SDL coach and monitoring and evaluation strategist Sophie Legros talks about her week in Laos with Spirit of Soccer.

    February 13th 2015. I have to confess that prior to this past week, I knew very little about the country of Laos. Laos has the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world. In consequence, Laos has one of the most extensive unexploded ordnance

    (UXO) problems in the world. The workshop with Spirit of Soccer (SOS) was taking place in Xieng Khouang Province, one of the most heavily contaminated provinces in the country.

    SOS is the international NGO that uses soccer to empower and educate young people about the dangers of mines in places that have experienced either past or current conflict. They use soccer as a vehicle to pass on crucial mine-risk education (MRE) messages to children and communities. The key messages of the week were “Keep Away” (or ‘Yu Hang’ in Lao), “Don’t Touch” (‘Ham Jub’), “Report” and “Communicate.”

    In addition to understanding more about Lao culture and history, I learned about the different types of weapons, the mine clearance process, the risks a community faces and what constitutes good and bad behaviors from experts from all over the world. The management team consisted of a multicultural delegation of experts in various fields from Iraq, Lebannon, the UK, the USA and Hong Kong. If that wasn’t enough, SOS brought together 40 female coaches from four countries across South East Asia (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar) to train them in how to use soccer to help stop children from being killed and maimed by land mines and UXO across the region.

    Alternating soccer sessions and classroom workshops in coaching and MRE theory, provided the participants – and the staff – with a comprehensive toolbox to provide quality MRE through soccer, impact their community and save lives. The five-day workshop culminated in a soccer and MRE festival for 200 local Lao girls where the female coaches led soccer and MRE sessions.

    Many of the women are already leaders in their communities and it was inspiring to hear their perspectives and see them integrate MRE messages that they will use to educate the children in their community that are at daily risk from the millions of unexploded bombs and landmines that litter South East Asia.

    SOS’s philosophy is that because of the huge popularity of soccer in the region, it is a powerful way to attract children and communicate vital safety messages. I truly appreciated the experience working with SOS and the entire management team and learning about new ways soccer is impacting lives around the world. Although Lao and MRE are less of an unknown to me, I continue to ponder the mystery of the giant stone jars that are scattered throughout the region. Most common legends are that they were used for brewing huge quantities of rice wine or that they contained human remains. Interestingly, only a few of the plain of jars sites have been found because of the multitude of UXO that have not yet been cleared.

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