Back To Where It All Began
October 2nd 2017. Self-Directed Learning coach Mark Gabriel reflects on a return to Cambodia after a year with CAC.
Heading to Cambodia’s capital for my next On-Field assignment was different than previous assignments. Right about the same time last year, I was heading to Phnom Penh for my first ever CAC assignment with Indochina Starfish. My first time returning to a place and starting the week with, “Good to see you again!” rather than, “Nice to meet you.” My first time leading with an inside joke, or a hug, or a familiar smile. My first time returning to my favorite juice stand, or ordering my favorite local cuisine (in this case, tarantulas). You get the idea — and let me tell you, it felt good. More so than any of that, it felt good because it was my first chance to personally see the change that accumulates over a year during a CAC partnership. Throughout the first two weeks, I was not disappointed. Not only did I immediately see stark differences between this year and last amongst returning participants, but I witnessed immense growth from day-to-day. I looked forward to the opportunity to work alongside three of these coaches for our final week to go even deeper.
I knew Panha, Ranya, and Nara from before, as all three were Community Impact Coaches the previous year. As coaches, they had grown tremendously. Now, it was Emily and I’s challenge to continue their development. We chose to have them run the program. Part of this was because we saw it as a great opportunity to take the “next step”… and part of it because the participants did not speak English and we had no translator…
Thanks to their previous experiences through the CIC Initiative, they were well prepared to lead a program on their own. Their ability to build a message throughout the week, to lead discussions after the trainings, to foresee problems and plan to avoid them, and to smoothly co-exist and run a training as a team was sublime. Each day, Emily and I were proud but yet relentless. We gave them daily challenges, constant feedback, questioning the why behind their decisions, and they always rose to the occasion. They began to do the same to themselves and began to not only visualize the game unfolding, but the message unfolding — seeing both its impact in that moment and in five years’ time.
My highlight of the week was seeing each M’lop Tapang staff member, at different times, have an “Aha!” moment. The moment that it all comes together, that Football for Social Impact and Self-Directed Learning begin to mean something. To see that moment passed from Cambodians to Cambodians… now that is a beautiful thing.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
I have now completed my second week being a Global Citizen with CAC in Phnom Penh with ISF (Indochina Starfish Foundation) coaches and it has been another great week. The ISF coaches took a lot of ownership this week in terms of delivery and planning on who delivers what game. They also directed the CAC team to deliver too as the delivery was split with half the games being run by ISF and the other half being run by CAC. It was great to see so many excellent coaches deliver the social impact games with so much fun and relevance to a range of social issues.
The last couple of weeks has had a real positive impact on me and I have really valued the ‘just get on with it’ attitude they have in Cambodia. People are genuinely happy with what they have, appreciating the people and opportunities they have around them. The coaches we have been working with have been great at solving problems and have shown this through adapting games and sessions for a range of participants of various ages and abilities.
Nara, who is one of the lead ISF coaches, on numerous occasions quoted “Don’t worry, be happy” which is a quote that I love and something I will always remember from my trip to Cambodia as whatever your circumstances are, you should always be happy and approach all situations in a positive manner.
One other highlight that has stood out was on Thursday evening at the farewell dinner in Phnom Penh for the ISF coaches. Jaime spoke very passionately about the impact CAC and the week’s training has had. He said that he works with 5 boys on a separate programme and 3 of them are affected by HIV. They all gained a greater understanding of the social messages and had great fun playing the games. They also started to speak more openly about HIV as well as their own experiences. It is really touching when you hear these stories and the great impact that the CAC curriculum have on the coaches and young people they reach.
We are moving on to Sihanoukville to train a new group of leaders. I am very excited to be working with a new group of coaches.
ISF’s New Sport Court
March 17th 2017. We are delighted to congratulate our long-term Cambodian partner Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) on their new Sport Court thanks to Connor Sport Court and Beyond Sport (with a recommendation from CAC)!
The brand new futsal court was installed at their new football facility outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It will be used by ISF to continue to empower disadvantaged children in the community through sport and education. They celebrated the new court by hosting a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony and football competition with more than 600 children in the U-14 and U-10 age categories. They also included an inspiring demonstration with vision-impaired youth playing futsal with special “chirping” footballs.
Coaches Across Continents has partnered with ISF to help them develop their capacity for educating youth through sport for 4 years including filming our documentary from there in 2015. It is always incredibly special to see our partners grow and better offer high quality programs for their community. We can’t wait to see the new court in person when we return to Phnom Penh in August this year.
This is the second Connor Sport Court we have helped our partners receive and build following the court in Kigoma, Tanzania. Thanks to Connor Sport Court for their ongoing commitment to building the capacity of organizations involved in sport for social change.
Mintridge’s Week In Cambodia
August 23rd 2016. We were delighted to have Mintridge Events‘ Alex Paske and ambassador Pamela Cookey join us for our first week this year in Phnom Penh with IndoChina Starfish Foundation. This was their experience.
Monday 8th August 2016
Following arrivals from the UK, Malawi and Thailand, there were some very tired travellers within the Coaches Across Continents and Mintridge teams yesterday and therefore early nights were in order ahead of a busy schedule this week.
05:45 – BEEP BEEP of the alarm and the CAC and Mintridge teams are up and ready for the first coaching sessions of the programme. A light breakfast was in order before a tuk tuk journey to the IndoChina Starfish Foundation (ISF) training ground approximately an hour away from our hotel in Phnom Penh. (ISF are CAC’s local partner here). We were treated to the sights of a Cambodian rush hour throughout the journey to the theme tune of travellers beeping their horn – mopeds galore!
Together with the two Community Impact Coaches that have travelled from Siem Riep, Rueben and Charlie delivered sessions to the eagerly awaiting footballers. For many, this is the fourth year of working with Coaches Across Continents and for others they were arriving for the very first time. Charlie opened the programme with a series of questions for everyone, for example:
“Do you coach men and women?”
“Do you coach youth and children?”
“Do you believe men and women should have the same opportunities?”
“Do you deliver sessions that incorporate the environment?”
The “Circle of Friends” kick started the warm up with Rooney as the role model focus for the coaches followed by a health and wellness game to encourage creativity.
As the morning progressed, the ISF coaches grew in confidence and were generating future ideas for the groups that they lead which represents the Self-Directed Learning process. For example, the proactive nature of moving to a cone to receive a ball rather than standing and waiting was used to echo a message of being proactive to getting a job – a subtle message for the coaches to take to their own communities and deliver.
Other examples of game ideas with hidden social messages including caring for the environment followed. For example; bibs were used to represent rubbish and coaches were tasked with collecting bibs (rubbish) and delivering it to a coned area (representing rubbish tips). A simple yet very effective message for the coaches to take back to the groups that they coach – particularly for youth groups.
The sessions ended and lunch was in order, not before a tuk tuk ride back into the city though for CAC and Mintridge to experience the sights of Phnom Penh once more.
The afternoon was spent in the wonderful setting of Rabbit School, CAC watched the coaches that they have been working with for the past four years deliver a football session to contrasting disabilities. Here, CAC could see the progress that has been made within these particular ISF coaches and the impact that it was having on the youth groups.
A great end to our first full day of the programme before returning to our hotel for a delicious local meal.
Tuesday 9th August 2016
Another early rise for the CAC and Mintridge teams today as we returned to the training ground to focus on areas that the coaches felt were issues in their own communities. They raised these issues at the end of the session yesterday and therefore the CAC team took these away to create an action plan for today’s session.
Despite a minor hiccup and slight delay for Ruben and the CIC coaches in a broken down tuk tuk, the rest of the morning followed with no setbacks.
Areas of focus for the coaches included:
- Traffic Accidents
- Power & Corruption
- Saving money
- Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking
These five areas were conveyed in the following ways:
- Traffic Accidents
The warm up was presented in a circle with players following a role model (Hope Solo) as a command task. Ten players ran through the circle at a time following the completion of their task representing a sense of chaos like the roads of Phnom Penh.
- Power & Corruption
The mirror game was used to demonstrate the government. One player would come forward and their opposition would have to follow the exact movements that they do. A progression could be that if a bad example is given by the “leader”, the other person does not have to follow and this and the next person steps in and takes on the task.
Goals were set by the individual teams in their own area, they wanted to get a certain number of bibs / balls / cones from the middle against the other teams playing. Some teams met their goals but others did not achieve theirs and therefore an element of cheating was brought in – and players could steal from other teams. This is clearly not the end message that is wanted and therefore groups felt they should bring in a sharing element so that all teams could achieve their goal.
- Saving Money
For this game, there were two teams that competed against each other. Once seven passes had been completed by a team, they received money which represented money which they would save.
- Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking
Players that represented bad influences held a ball on the outside of the playing area. The remaining players attempted to run from end to end without being hit, if they were hit, they joined the bad influences to try and hit others. Progressions were introduced to include protection against the bad influences.
We travelled to Stung Meanchey to be greeted by waiters and waitresses in the English class at ISF, they had created a restaurant for us to enjoy and speak to them in English, putting what they had learnt in lessons into practice.
Following this, we were delighted to accept a tour of the local community by ISF where the majority of students that attend the school live with their families. A particular highlight was meeting the Community Librarian Mr Tong who took great pride in his work and had such passion when explaining to his visitors about his duties. CAC and Mintridge could have stopped and chatted to him all afternoon, however a certain netball session was in order.
Pamela Cookey, Mintridge’s netball ambassador and Ex England Netball Captain led a session for ISF students that started with video footage of Pamela’s career highlights. Netball has never been seen by the majority of the group so this was able to give them an insight into what was in order for the next hour.
Pamela started with the very basic skills; passing, pass & move skills and an introduction to defending. It was incredible to see the hunger for learning the new game and the ease with which they picked it up. The session ended with medals awarded to some of the students that showed great potential as well as Pamela’s autograph cards for each player!
Pamela was extremely grateful for the Coaches Across Continents CIC coaches who had also never experienced netball but eased into aiding her with translation and coaching as well.
A great way to round off a fantastic day as the team returned to the hotel for the evening to prepare for the day ahead tomorrow.
Wednesday 10th August 2016
The CAC and Mintridge teams returned to the ISF training group for another morning’s programme. An increased number of coaches arrived today following the end of some school exams.
Today’s session was to focus on “ASK For Choice” which will help the coaches create games focused around gender equality within their communities:
- The warm up centred around the coaches coming up with safe places for women in their communities. Hospitals, schools, homes were some of the places that were considered and these became commands for their first circle task.
- “Jump Like A Girl” followed which gave an insight into both female and male visions of the different ways men and women play sport. For example, when tasked to “Throw Like A Man”, the group demonstrated strong, able throws which was a stark contrast to the “Throw Like A Girl” which largely showed gentle, weak examples. The group gathered at the end of the task to discuss this with the CAC coaches to find out the reasons why these stereotypes appear and how this makes women feel.
- The coaches told CAC that they felt woman should have the right to education, sport, laughing and life and these four words became different cones in the zoned area. The group was tasked to run to the cone that was called out to cause repetition of women’s rights within their sessions.
- Healthy and unhealthy gates were created for the fourth game of the morning. CAC coaches called out different words and individuals had to make a choice as to whether it was healthy or unhealthy and run to that particular gate. For example; smoking, fruit, unprotected sex were called.
- Mintridge’s Pamela Cookey led the next session which focussed on careers that women can aspire to. Individuals came up with different careers such as teachers, doctors, football coaches and if their career was called out by Pamela then they were able to race their opposition for the ball and attempt to score a goal.
- The final game had two teams played a normal game of football except one team had more ways of scoring points – this game represents inequality within communities and the group gathered at the end to discuss ways in which inequality can reduce as well as the perception around it.
The final part of the morning enabled the men and women to split. The men focussed on Child Rights policies while women gathered in a safe place to discuss women’s rights. The area gave them a chance to open up and delve into the issues that they face within their communities such as sexual abuse through technology. “How can we protect against this?” “What rights should women have?” The session is hopefully the start of women opening up and taking the thoughts discussed outside of the sporting environment and into communities.
This afternoon was incredibly exciting for Mintridge as ISF kindly invited them to their second school in Chbar Ampov. After touring the school and local community where the students live, Pamela Cookey led a presentation with a powerful message. She spoke about the lessons that sport has given her and the challenges that she has learnt to overcome through it. Through photos and video footage, the students and staff were able to capture Pamela’s key messages as well as have an insight into a brand new sport…netball!
Following wonderful gifts, Pamela took to the courts and led a short netball session with some of the students. Enthusiasm was definitely not missing as they grasped the various passes, footwork and of course, Pamela brought in some shooting! It was a great way to round of the day! Thank you the Indochina Starfish Foundation for such incredible hospitality.
Thursday 11th August 2016
Our penultimate day of the programme today saw a focus on child rights and protection. As soon as the CAC and Mintridge teams arrived at the ground, the ISF coaches were raring to go with some of the games that they had created themselves.
Firstly though, Pamela led a warm up to focus on leadership skills. The group was split into fives and numbered one to five in a line. Number one began and led their group in different directions commanding different tasks such as high knees, squats, star jumps and so on. If your number was called, you left your group to go and lead another and create your own tasks. As Pamela gathered the group at the end of the programme they explained that as they became leader, they grew in confidence and it enabled creativity; something that can be taken back to different communities.
The first session created and led by some of the ISF coaches alone for today followed and this helped raise questions such as:
“Is there anything that is preventing these rights?”
“Who can help us practice these rights?”
The game centred around 4 gates which represented different rights:
- Participation in sports
Once a type of right was called, your team had to race to the gate and pick up an item that would be returned to base. Different limits were put on the game which the group explained aided teamwork and intelligence. The limitations could also be used to represent disabilities for example.
Following the feedback from CAC, ISF coaches moved onto the following game which focussed on different types of child abuse such as:
- Parents prohibiting their child from going to school.
- Child Labour
The idea is for players to represent types of abuse and stand on the outside of the circle with balls. These balls are thrown into the remaining members of the group; if a player is hit they are knocked down which represents being abused. As the game progresses, players in bibs come in and tag those that have been abused and those still aiming to avoid it. The bibbed players represent types of protection such as organisations, teachers, religious leaders, coaches and family. A progression on from this could be one you have been tagged by the bibbed player following on from being hit, you can also collect a bib and help protect. This represents being able to avoid continued abuse and being able to help others. The third game followed a similar theme except it was centred around the game of tag / stuck in the mud.
One question posed by the group was “How can you stop people using their rights to abuse other people’s?”
The fourth game followed a similar theme and idea to the first game of the day. Teams raced to a particular zone when a child’s right was called. This enabled the group to pose the question, “What happens if a child can only access one right?”
CAC ended the games with a circuits session which emphasise the point of support systems. Firstly, teams went around the circuit where each member had to complete each station. However, on the second time around the circuit, only one member had to complete each challenge which helped complete it much more quickly. The group shared that they felt this represented a support system such as a family or football community proving teamwork. This could also be used for an ASK For Choice game with each challenge representing a stereotypical gender career choice or other types of social inclusion.
To finish the morning’s session, teams worked together to create games to lead in the final day tomorrow focussing on areas that they felt were important to their communities and the teams that they coach.
Following lunch at one of Leo’s favourites, the team headed to Krousar Thmey Deaf Mute Blind School Children School to see another ISF coaching session take place. As well as football, we were treated to a spot of hop scotch and time in the playground. We are still children at heart! The football session proves that sport really has no barriers; non verbal communicational skills were just as powerful and successful in achieving goals and it would be great for more to see this.
An early night for CAC and Mintridge was in order ahead of the final day tomorrow, bring it on!
Friday 12th August 2016
We don’t want the programme to end! However today, we had our final day with the ISF coaches before they take what they have learnt into their own communities.
The Mintridge team worked with the women for the first hour of the day revisiting areas from Wednesday’s ASK For Choice session and delving further into the issues raised. Later in the morning, the women would present the rights and policies to the men.
“How do we tell the men about our rights if they aren’t willing to listen?” was a key question posed by some members of the discussion. Ideas included creating an environment that they feel comfortable in, for example, a football match with equal teams or karaoke party to deliver the messages.
“How do we educate parents that are not happy with female coaches or rights in general?” followed and solutions to this posing question included taking photographs, showing trophies and medals to demonstrate the enjoyment and pride that marries their achievements.
Coaches were soon given a short amount of time to prepare for their coach backs which were prepared yesterday. Areas chosen to focus on were:
- The protection of forests
- Eradicating temptation
- Drug Abuse
- Women’s Violation
The games followed patterns and themes that CAC had demonstrated earlier in the week. However, the coaches had created their own progressions and ideas to each one. Following feedback to each other, the six groups gathered and were presented with certificates for their participation in the week. Obligatory selfies and team photographs were taken before CAC and Mintridge left for the final time.
A particular thank you to some of the group that helped us with translation throughout the week, without which it would have been impossible. We have thoroughly enjoyed such a wonderful insight into the ISF Football community which largely falls down to Leo Brogan who has looked after us no end this week, thank you.
As Mintridge head home tomorrow, Pamela and Alex enjoyed the Russian Market to get their must have souvenirs! The Royal Palace was next on the agenda this afternoon which was beautiful and our Tour Guide gave us a real insight into life as a Cambodian King. The farewell meal was a fantastic way to end a great week.
Insights from 3 Community Impact Coaches
September 3rd 2015. “Monday, all 38 coaches met us at the field, many with no shoes. They were very shy and didn’t know what to expect.” These are the words of Song Sarim, a coach from Phnom Penh’s Indochina Starfish Foundation. “We have many new coaches here for the first time.”
Similarly, Sarim is working in Siem Reap as a Community Impact Coach (CIC) for the first time. As the week comes to a close, Sarim feels extremely satisfied with the growth he has witnessed on the field. That shyness he saw on the first day in each of the coaches quickly melted away, and he could feel their energy on the field. He especially noticed this in the female coaches from Globalteer – the group Coaches Across Continents is partnered with this week. Over half of this week’s coaches were female, as Globalteer strives to empower women in the community. “Everyone seemed to be happy all week and I saw many strong, good players.”
The other two CIC’s who joined us this week seemed to agree. For Yim Sovath, this came to life in a game focused on gender equity. Players are instructed to “run like a girl.” What often happens – and surely enough what happened this week – is that all players, boys and girls, start running with their arms up and begin prancing around. It is always funny to see female coaches do this, women who normally run just as fast as the men.
Sovath comments that this game is very important for everyone – not just women. The conversation at the end of the game helps us to realize where these stereotypes of men and women come from and what we can do to change them as coaches. “I also enjoy the game because it is fun; everyone is laughing, and we also learn a lot,” Sovath smiles.
Srey Mau, the third CIC working with us this week, was able to witness female empowerment beyond our daily training. As a returning CIC in Siem Reap, Srey Mau knows how important it is to encourage girls every day, both on and off the field. She loves games focused on gender equity because they remind her and the other coaches that girls can do the same things as boys, even on the football field.
Srey Mau was able to witness this first-hand as she attended the training of one of our coaches at Stepping Stones Cambodia. At a U14 girls’ practice, she watched girls use their voice, share their dreams for the future, and make their own decisions. Srey Mau believes that successful trainings like this remind women in Cambodia that they are strong and they can do whatever they set their minds to.
Most importantly, all three of these coaches had a blast, as did the many coaches from Globalteer. “From laughter, conversations, everything – you could tell the coaches were having fun…a very fun week!”
Re-envisioning The Field
August 19th 2015. Coaches Across Continents volunteer Emily Spring talks about her first week On-Field in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with IndoChina Starfish Foundation.
We step onto the football field in Phnom Penh for the first time this year on a hot August day. Before the end of our first day training coaches from Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), laughter could be heard in abundance, and this theme of joy continued throughout the week.
“Joy” wasn’t always a word that could be used to describe many fields in Phnom Penh. For most westerners who come to this place for the first time, Cambodia is infamous for its Killing Fields, one of several locations throughout Cambodia marked for its mass graves discovered after the Cambodian Genocide. However, among this group of dedicated coaches – many of whom have returned for the second or third year – the Genocide could not be further from their minds. For these coaches, the field represents a place of fun and laughter for everyone.
ISF – CAC’s partner program here in Phnom Penh – has worked to foster hope in the communities of Chbar Ampov and Stung Meanchey, just outside the city center. This week, ISF and CAC have been working together with 30 coaches who impact thousands of children. The field no longer has to represent a place of discrimination, pain, or suffering. We are working to build a new type of field in Phnom Penh – both tangibly and metaphorically. This December, a new, tangible complex will be built – complete with two full-length football fields and one Connor Sport Court where kids can safely play, run, and kick a ball around.
More importantly are the various fields that ISF has already established throughout Phnom Penh where they train dozens of teams and thousands of children. Through its partnership with Kousar Thmery – a local school for deaf children – ISF has created an inclusive space where kids of all abilities are welcome to play. Through the Rabbit School for children with disabilities, ISF has ensured that the field represents a place where no child is discriminated. And through its various community outreach programs, ISF has already established itself throughout Chbar Ampov and Stung Meanchey, creating several programs based in inclusion, education, and play.
In Phnom Penh, we are working to instill hope to all children involved in ISF’s programs – hope for a better future that moves away from a violent history of harsh discrimination. Thanks to our games in CAC’s Chance to a Choice program, we have not aimed to create an escape from the past; rather, we have created a space where coaches and kids can safely speak about such issues. ISF and CAC are reenvisioning the field for Cambodia – one that is no longer rooted in discrimination, but instead represents an inclusive, fun, and safe environment. One where all children are welcomed and encouraged to speak up – a field where hope can finally be found.