• Rwanda: The Country of a 1000 Hills and 1000 Stories

    August 18th 2016. Returning volunteer Earl Strassberger discussed his experience in Rwanda with CAC and Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

    Rwanda is a beautiful country. I have been to many countries in Africa including living in Liberia for over three years, and Rwanda is different! The roads are good, some potholes, but the roads are otherwise very smooth. The people work hard, as best as I can tell without complaint. The hard work takes many forms.

    On the main road to Rubavu, where we worked our first week, there were women all over sweeping the road. There were even more sweepers in Rubavu itself. Then there was a young man holding a small can of white paint in one hand and a brush in the other. He would bend over paint the white line, about two feet long along the side of the road. Then he would walk a few steps, bend down and paint another line – over and over. At the soccer pitch, a man used a torch to put about 12 holes in fence posts. He was there at 8:00 a.m. when we got there. I came back at 3:30pm to watch a soccer match and he was just finishing. He completed holes in about 25 posts.

    There are not many trucks on the roads. Goods are transported by bicycle. Heavy loads of sugar cane, water, branches, wood, and more are carried on the bikes. When going uphill the rider gets off and pushed.

    Did I mention hills? Rwanda is called the Land of a Thousand Hills. Farming takes place in flat areas and up and down the hills. Terraces are made to have flat land on hills. But many plants are on slopes. The hills are high and often steep. The paths always have people, carrying loads, going up and down. There is little mechanization. There are simply many people on each job, working with hand tools.

    We got back to Kigali, rested a day, and then traveled to Kayonza. Even though Rwanda is a small country, it is different here. The land is mostly flat. It is dustier, a little warmer. It is only a one minute walk to our soccer pitch here. But I miss the beautiful two kilometer walk along Lake Kivu on the way to the pitch in Rubavu.

    What is not different is the enthusiasm of the coaches. They listen and do their best to learn our games. There are always smiles on their faces. Many, of course, are serious players too. Watching their speed, quickness, and teamwork is a joy. A few of the coaches speak English very well, but our Community Impact Coach (CIC), Oscaria and our coordinator Gerard do a fine job of translating. Once I forgot to pause for translation. Everyone was still paying attention to me even though only a few understood. Luckily, Nico, our other CIC, nudged me and pointed the translator.

    Our work is about using football as a tool for social impact. We train the coaches to use our games and messages and encourage them to take our curriculum and use it with their players. Our messages are on conflict prevention, female empowerment, child protection and rights, health and wellness, and many more.

    Tomorrow will include one of my favorite activities. We call it Coach-Back. Coaches will work in groups of three or four. We provide markers and flipchart paper. They get time to plan and sketch out the CAC game that they want to coach to demonstrate and solidify what they have learned so far. We encourage participants to tailor the games to the issues of their district, their country. We know only a few of the challenges they face.

    For example, today I ran a game about what could happen if your players got drunk the night before a match!  One team, the team that partied the night before, had to walk. No surprise, they lost. Afterwards, I asked if there were other similar problems. They came up with smoking. But when I asked about injecting drugs they said no, not a problem in Rwanda.

    By the way, I have been in Rwanda for two weeks now. I came early to go gorilla trekking in Virunga National Volcanic Park. That is another story. I bring it up (it was amazing) because in these two weeks I have only seen two people smoking and one of them was a muzungu (white man). Probably the cost of cigarettes is prohibitive too. The hard working life keeps Rwandans healthy.


  • The Importance of Social Inclusion – On-Field and Off-Field

    August 17th 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Evariste Habimana wrote about working in Rubavu, Rwanda with Football for Hope, Peace and Unity.

    Rubavu is the nursery for football in Rwanda. I enjoyed working with the coaches from this district. They are professional and are zealous about coaching.

    As I was working with them I learned many things about coaching styles. But most important to me was watching them enthusiastically learn the CAC games.  Before I joined CAC I thought coaching football was to create professional players.  But now I realize that coaching can be a lot more.

    All football teams around the world play games for technique, tactics, and endurance. With CAC we play these same games, but combine them with messages for social impact. These messages are about gender equity, female empowerment, conflict prevention, child rights, HIV prevention and more.

    My favorite game in Rubavu was “Child Rights: Social Inclusion”. Some groups of children are excluded, such as females, disabled, or for religious reasons. Our coaches will begin to change this. Here is how the game is played.

    It is like regular football, there are two teams. The only difference is that players have to stay in their own zone. The pitch is divided into three equal zones. The forwards must stay in the attacking zones, midfielders stay in the middle zone, and defenders stay in the back zone – in front of their goal.

    Not allowed to leave your zone is like being excluded. In football a defender often scores a goal. Midfielders are expected to score goals and defend their goal besides controlling the midfield. Forwards often have to help defend their goal too.

    Just to give coaches the feeling of being excluded compared to being free to play we make a change to the game. One team is allowed to move wherever they want and the other team is restricted to their zones. At the end, we ask, “How does that feel?” The team that was restricted was not very happy and complained that the game was not fair. We knew: they understood the message of the game.

    Just like footballers must be allowed to play the whole pitch, all who want to play football must be allowed to play. It does not matter if they are old or female or disabled. This applies to all activities, not just sports.

    I expect that our CAC trained coaches will use our curriculum in their regular program. And that it will make a positive social impact for their communities.

    Through my time as a CIC in Rubavu I got to meet new coaches and share with them my knowledge and experience. I feel encouraged by the CAC coaches to now even approach and educate coaches in my home community in Nyanza who never participated in CAC training nor use Sport for Social Impact. I now feel confident to create games myself and implement them at the school I teach.


  • Off to a Great Start in Rwanda

    July 3, 2015.  Long-time CAC supporter, advisor, and now volunteer-coach Jamie Reilly blogs about his first week On-Field with CAC and our partner, Football for Hope, Peace and Unity and their Sport for Peace ‘Play For Hope: Rwanda20’ Initiative.

    I wasn’t sure what would await me when I arrived in Rwanda. I’ve been fortunate to do some traveling in other developing areas in Africa. While incredibly rewarding, travel in these areas can be challenging and you definitely need to keep your wits about you. I’d also seen the film “Hotel Rwanda” about the 1994 genocide. Words can’t quite capture the brutal horror of those 100 days where over one million people were slaughtered in an ethnic cleansing of minority Tutsis (Tootsies) by the majority Hutus (Hoo-Toos). To say that my guard was up, is an understatement.

    My apprehensions and expectations, however, could not have been further than reality. The first thing I noticed was how unbelievably clean it is… EVERYWHERE. And I mean spotlessly clean. Main streets, side streets, parks, schools, homes, bus depots – you name it – everywhere seems freshly swept. Didier Bana, our wonderful host from Football for Hope, Peace and Unity (FHPU), told us that all Rwandans take great pride in where they live. To build unity, every neighborhood and village gathers on the 4th Saturday of each month to do service and connect with neighbors. Indeed, throughout Rwanda, there is a sense of collective commitment to a peaceful and prosperous future and you can see it and feel it throughout the country.

    Our first program was in Rubavu, a community about 3.5 hour drive on great roads from the capital of Kigali. There we worked with 64 coaches from local soccer clubs. This area in particular, has a very established academy system for training players in skills and tactics. It was exciting to see so many turn out to find ways to incorporate social education into their work with their teams.

    Over the course of the week we taught and played 26 different games that illuminated life skills, gender equity, conflict resolution, and health and wellness including HIV. An important element to almost every game is for players to use their voice. Early in the week, coaches were somewhat hesitant, but by the end of the week “muvuge cyane” (translation is loud voices) were echoing across the field on every game.

    My favorite game with this group was Messi for Gender Equity. For those that are unfamiliar with the CAC curriculum, there are different modules built around role models like Lionel Messi star of Barcelona FC or Perpetua Nkwocha former captain of the Nigerian women’s national team. Messi for Gender Equity starts with a brief discussion about different roles and positive qualities of women in Rwandan society. These roles and qualities are then selected by smaller teams of three who then are each called to meet other teams in small sided games.

    The competition was fierce and fun, but the best part was the discussion afterwards. We are lucky to have Dr. Holly Collision from Loughboro University (UK) with us for two of the four weeks in Rwanda. Dr. Collison’s research specializes in Sport for Development and Peace. In short, it was great to see a very male dominated group, make the connection that they as coaches can not only play a role in challenging limiting gender stereotypes.

    Another highlight was an afternoon trip to a local community center for the mentally and physically impaired. The welcome we received was one of the warmest I could remember. We had a brief tour of the different programs they run to help develop life skills, and then we played a few games with the students in the courtyard. As I zipped back to the guesthouse on the back of moto-taxi, I had a new appreciation for what fun can be. So many smiles and so much laughter!

    Finally, my post wouldn’t be complete without mention of Anike Ishemwe. We met Anike after the first session when we grabbed a cold water at a restaurant on the shore of Lake Kivu. The next day, he was at the field joining in the games taking pictures, collecting scrimmage vests, and just helping keep a smile on everyone’s face. Anike has Down Syndrome, and must be the most popular guy in Rubavu. We were so pleased to present him with a certificate at the end of the week and welcome him as a Coach Across Continents!

    Almost forgot… in Kigali, we stayed at a place that has the only bowling alley in Rwanda!


    Playing Circle of Friends at the Community Center!


    CAC coaches with Rubavu favorite Anike


  • Le Pays de Mille Collines – Rwanda

    July 20, 2014. It is Coaches Across Continents’ first year working in Rwanda and we are so excited to be here. Twenty years ago a human rights atrocity was committed in this country, leaving over an estimated million (mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus) dead and its people in a state of shock and unimaginable grief. What does one do after such a tragedy? What does a nation do? Rwanda’s people were faced with few options after the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994, and they chose to move forward.

    Moving forward does not mean forgetting what has happened, and it is evident every day of our programs here that nobody has forgotten. Moving forward means absorbing the bad, carrying it with you, but not letting it bring you down, not letting it hold you back. Rwanda is an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful country, and though these hills are stained with frightful memories, the nation has come together to make incredible strides in such a short time.

    Our implementing partner in Rwanda is Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) founded by Eric Eugene Murangwa – an incredible man with an incredible story. We are thrilled to be part of the work that he is doing for his people, and, of course, all in the name of the game we love. Football saved Murangwa’s life in 1994 and that is a fact he has embraced in the 20 years since , a fact that has moved him to use this game to save and enrich the lives of others.

    Our program in Rwanda is a bit different as we are part of FHPU’s Play for Hope: Rwanda20 initiative that has us here for four weeks running trainings for teachers and coaches in four different parts of the country. Our first training took us to the west in a town on the north shores of Lake Kivu called Rubavu. 130 coaches showed up for three days from all over the region to learn from CAC coaches about how to use football to achieve social change. Our team was headed by staff member Nora Dooley who was joined by two volunteers, Tom Marsland and Yael Paz, from our partner organization in Israel – Mifalot. The training was fantastic, and although we only had three days with this large group we certainly made the most of it.

    There were a few games that went especially well such as two of our Adebayor games, teaching participants how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS as well as how to prevent teenage pregnancy. The participants enjoyed learning how to teach these lessons using fun football games and were eager to discuss the important social messages. Another game that is a big hit with most groups and was very suitable for the massive numbers we had this week was Leadership Lines. In this game we split the group up into multiple lines where everybody has a number – i.e. from 1 to 6. The first person begins and can do anything from running and clapping to crawling and dancing and everybody following has to do the same – in essence, follow the leader. Then we call a number and that number goes to the front of the line to lead the group. Everybody gets a chance to lead and this brings us right into a great discussion about leadership. Can everybody be a leader? Yes! Does everybody lead in the same way? No! What makes a good leader?

    The success of this training has left us all feeling incredibly optimistic about the trainings to come as well as about the future of partnership between CAC and FHPU. The next few weeks take us to the east, south, and then back in Kigali to close it all out, and we are eager to keep going. There is an energy that permeates this country, and it is not sad, it is not scared, it is not idle. It is an energy of progress, of development, of potential that is surfacing in the most beautiful ways, fitting for such a beautiful land.


    FHPU and CAC team up in Rwanda