• 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!


  • 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!

  • An Interview With A CAC Participant

    February 18th 2016. A Q & A with Francisco Ramon Longoria Pacheca, a participant in the recent CAC training in Nogales, Mexico with FESAC.

    Q: How did you come to hear about the Coaches Across Continents training in Nogales?

    Francisco: I’m around this area a lot. I play basketball on the courts just behind the soccer field; I coach over there every now and then too. I don’t play soccer, but I saw you guys out here and thought the course looked interesting. Other coaches from FESAC encouraged me to join so I did.

    Q: You said you do some basketball coaching, who do you coach and for what team?

    Francisco: Well, I’m not a coach in the traditional sense. Basketball is my passion, so if I see a game going on at one of the courts I join in and play a bit while giving pointers and tips to the kids. Here in Mexico we have a lot of talented young basketball players, but they go without good coaching for so long that they develop bad habits.

    Q: Have you found this training useful as a basketball coach?

    Francisco: This training has helped me be more aware of myself and it’s certainly helped me become a better sportsman and person. A lot of the games we played could easily work as basketball games too.

    Q: Which game would you say is your favorite?

    Francisco: All the child rights games! If I had to choose, I think I would go with the [Right to] Information game. To be successful your team has to work together, focus and pay close attention. The game is a fun way to develop intelligence.

    Q: What about the child rights games did you enjoy? Why is this an important issue for Mexico?

    Francisco: I think one of the most important things we talked about this week was the creation of safe spaces for children. Without these how can we expect children to develop into the adults they want to be? Adults also need to be conscious about giving children private space, as this also helps with their development. I really like the idea of people and families working together and coexisting together. When this happens we are able to use everyone’s skills to solve our own problems. These lessons are not just important for Mexico, but for the whole world.

    Q: Thanks for your time Francisco, do you have any other thoughts on your week with Coaches Across Continents?

    Francisco: Thank you for this opportunity, this has been so much fun. Sports is life, man.


  • Integrating CAC Into The Sonora Education System

    An interview with Ana Berta Salazar, one of the authorities of the Education Department, our partners in Sonora, México. 

    February 12th 2016. During our three weeks in Sonora, México, we’ve assisted in the strategic process as the members of the Education and Culture Department (SEC) aim to include Sport For Social impact as a tool for sustainable community transformation inside the public education system. Specifically as a part of the Physical Education Curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. ​​

    Since most of the time you hear how a program went from our perspective as Self-Directed Learning coaches, we wanted to offer this space to one of our implementing partners to share with you how they’ve received the Coaches Across Continents experience in their community.

    Ana Berta Salazar, one of the authorities of the Education Department in Sonora México, said:

    “As the public sector, the Education and Culture Department of the government in Sonora has committed to facilitate the education for children and youth to become people with integrity that can serve our society and community in Sonora.

 As the Director of Linkage in this department I decided to find innovative ways to address subjects of potential social impact, that might promote the improvement of strong values and humanity in local youth. 

We found that opportunity when a member of FESAC (Fundación del Empresariado Sonorense A.C) talked to us about the CAC program. From this conversation emerges a strategic alliance that led to over 200 Gym Teachers receiving the training in 3 of the main cities of the state: Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregón and Nogales.

    Our experience could not have been better: teachers excited, committed and aware of the relevance that their work has with youth that clamor for love and guidance. There is nothing more gratifying than a teacher’s smile. They all attended daily with the best attitude; “This is the type of knowledge we’ve needed for years”, “I’m so happy that I had to tell my family about this”, “we want these trainings to happen again”, “thank you so much for thinking about us” or “yesterday I already started putting in practice what we learned during the morning” are some of the comments we’ve heard so far.

    We know that the effort, the search for spaces and resources to make this happen was worth it. We feel convinced of the impact that this training will have on our children and youth, the future social artists of the development and transformation of Sonora. We are proud to be the first state to integrate CAC’s Hat Trick Initiative into the public education system in México.”