• Malawi. The Warm Heart of Africa.

    August 1st 2015. Mike Mazzullo writes about his time in Mzimba, Malawi working alongside fellow Columbia University alum and CAC Staff, Nora Dooley.

    The first time I heard that Malawi is the Warm Heart of Africa, slight worry nagged me. Even though it’s winter, the thought of a “warm” place in a continent that has some pretty warm places was alarming. Of course, “warm” probably refers to a generous spirit, but one can never be too careful when it comes to high temperatures. After a week in Mzimba, the double meanings of “warm” Malawi can be safely confirmed.

    To set the stage a bit, this was a first-year program in Mzimba, which is a medium-sized town in central Malawi. Most of the economy is agricultural. It’d be hard to find better tomatoes. Our participants, who come from Mzimba and the surrounding communities, number about 65. The majority of them are teachers, and thus share a special place in my own heart. I learned of their challenges in the classroom. 90 kids per teacher? Small classrooms without fans, in the African summer? Lack of basic materials like notebooks and pencils for everyone? Hard for me to imagine.

    The hope is for CAC’s philosophy – using soccer to teach life or academic or any type of skills – to equip educators with another tool.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Let me explain the Cucu Dance. It’s used as a form of good-humored punishment.

    The Cucu Dance. (Cucu = chicken.) It’s a CAC favorite, and easy to learn. With a slight resemblance to a chicken, you: bend knees, flap elbow-bent wings, and shake your angled legs in and out. Stupid grins are recommended, and tend to come naturally. The whole thing is patently ridiculous and makes a mockery of anyone’s desire to avoid looking like an idiot. It’s a combination of the Charleston, dougie, and Kevin Nolan’s goal celebration. The participants in Mzimba go bonkers for the Cucu Dance. Any awkward silence, on the field or in the classroom or during snack, became an opportune moment to spontaneously break out into full fledged limb-clucking. It’s equally hysterical and shocking. Nora Dooley deserves credit/blame for the proliferation of said dance globally.

    Besides the group’s  willingness to have fun (often at their own expense), there was also a willingness to address the serious social issues in their community. Take something that stirs little laughter: HIV/AIDS.

    One great game to teach about sexual health is the pebble test (officially known as “Can Adebayor See HIV?”). Split your team into two lines, a few yards apart, and facing each other. Everyone put their hands behind their backs. Eyes closed. The coach walks behind the blind rows and quietly places one pebble in a player’s hands, and repeats for the other line. When you shout “eyes open”, one player from each row should be holding a pebble, but make sure everyone keeps their hands hidden. By the way, the pebble represents HIV. Select a player to start the guessing. He or she selects someone on the other row in the hope of revealing the mighty pebble-holder. If the chosen is pebble-less, he or she is the next to guess from the other line. And so on and so on, until finally both owners of the rocks are exposed. What’s the point?

    The pebble test is a simple game with a simple message. Like trying to guess if someone is hiding a pebble, we are blind to someone’s HIV status. You can’t see HIV. Don’t judge someone’s sexual health by using the “eye test”- the way they dress, their reputation, or the supposed guilt on their face.

    The participants in Mzimba loved the set of HIV/AIDS and sexual health games and identified them as a high-point of the week.

    Sexually transmitted diseases are so prevalent, deadly, and misunderstood. What can teachers/coaches/leaders do? Maybe simple classroom instruction is not enough. Maybe some kids need musical songs, other kids need visual aids, others the game of soccer. It’s something worth thinking about, and solving.

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  • CAC’s Clinton Collaboration

    April 2nd 2015. We are delighted to announce that CAC has been awarded complimentary membership to the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).  Membership is by invitation only and the application process is extremely competitive so our acceptance is confirmation of CAC’s position as the global leader in sport for social impact.

    The Clinton Global Initiative convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.  To date, members of the CGI community have made nearly 3,200 Commitments to Action, improving the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.  This membership offers CAC a unique opportunity to interact with influential individuals across multiple sectors and industries.  In the CGI community, today’s foremost thinkers meet tomorrow’s groundbreaking solutions.  CAC will be able to share best practices, forge new partnerships, and instigate actions to achieve maximum impact and measurable social change.

    Nick Gates will be attending the CGI Annual Meeting in New York this September.  Since 2005, these meetings have brought together more than 180 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and prominent members of the media.

    CAC’s Sarah Brown says “We are honoured to be welcomed into such an influential initiative.  CGI is recognised as a community where innovative ideas are transformed into actions that achieve tangible results.  This is perfectly aligned with CAC’s objectives.  We are incredibly excited about this opportunity to share our expertise and contribute to the ongoing success of CGI, while also enhancing CAC’s global impact.”

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  • SDL in Israel

    October 28, 2014. Coaches Across Continents develops self-directed learners through sport. We want to create critical thinkers who are able to construct solutions to local problems. We encourage people to question tradition, culture, history, and religion so that may understand why there are certain problems and how solutions to these problems can be constructed and implemented.

    For the past 5,000 years various groups, religions, and nations have controlled the country now known as Israel. Within its borders there are conflicting ideologies, religious influences, and historical precedents. It is not possible to understand all the factors that comprise Israel in just one short week. But hopefully by working with great local partners and coaches we can help them to have the skills to deal with these issues in the best way possible.

    This past week CAC worked with Mifalot. They are a nation-wide organization that impacts 30,000 children using sport. In fact, they also reach out internationally to work with other groups, so their reach continues to grow beyond their borders. This is our second trip to Tel Aviv, but actually we work with them all over this beautiful country, seeing many places and coaches from all walks of life during our week On-Field.

    Our partnership took a big step forward this past year with Mifalot in reaching self-directed learning status. We were able to work with three separate groups of coaches, each with various levels of experience of using sport for social impact. Overseeing everything were three of their senior staff who have also worked (or will work) as coaches with CAC at other partner programs through our CIC program. Earlier this year Tom and Yael traveled for two weeks to Rwanda, and next month Keren will work alongside our team in Tanzania.

    These three coaches help guide Mifalot in curriculum development and implementation. What they have learned abroad is evident when you see their curriculum in action. Many of the their games are based on CAC games, and the theory and methodology looks very similar, albeit with a Mifalot flavor to it. After three days of training their coaches myself, I watched Tom teach a group of new coaches who work with people with special needs. One of the games that he reviewed was Nawal Leadership Lines, something that he and Yael learned in Rwanda.   The ease with which he explained the game shows that our curriculum has been accepted, adapted, and utilized – exactly what we want to see at CAC.

    Ultimately this is the success that we want to see with our partner programs. We want them to be able to choose what their own curriculum looks like, and have the skills to be able to create their own games that teach valuable lessons to the next generation.  This is applied demonstration of self-directed learning. Achieving SDL with local coaches, teachers, and leaders will allow them to come up with their own solutions to issues specific to their own communities. Hopefully it will help the various groups in Israel reach peaceful solutions as conflicts arise.

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  • Sarah’s 100km Race to the Stones

    July 15, 2014.  Sarah Brown is running 100km to raise funds for Coaches Across Continents. We fully support her efforts and hope that she enjoys every one of her 100 kilometers.  If you want to do a fundraising event with CAC as a beneficiary, we would love to talk!  Look for our 99 Juggles event to be launched on July 19th.
    It’s only 5 days to go until ultra marathon madness.  My months of training are coming to an end but the excitement about this has been well and truly replaced by butterflies and nausea!  I find myself wondering why I am doing this crazy run but I am soon reminded why.  It is for an extremely worthy cause, raising money for Coaches Across Continents.
    When I ran the London marathon 6 years ago the only thing that got me to the end, when both my knees felt like someone was attacking them with a hammer and chisel, was the thought of the good cause I was supporting and all of those who had sponsored me.  This little jog is over twice as far so if you’d like to help me crawl over the finish line on Sunday after 100km then here is the link:
    Every little helps and is very much appreciated by both me and Coaches Across Continents.
    Thanks so much for your support,
    Sarah
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  • Sarah’s Race to the Stones

    16th June 2014. Coaches Across Continents on-field coach and sustainability strategist Sarah Brown will be raising money for CAC by running in the Race to the Stones race on July 19th and 20th. The Race to the Stones is a 100km (62.5 miles) ultra-marathon along the Ridgeway – recognised as the oldest path in the UK. It stretches from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire. Sarah has been involved with CAC over the past 2 years having worked as a coach in India and Nepal last November.

    Please support Sarah and CAC by donating using this link: http://www.justgiving.com/SARAH-BROWN57. Any help is very much appreciated.

    You can donate in any of the major currencies.

  • CAC does Netball for Social Impact

    December 3, 2013. Sorry did I say netball? I meant foot… no, no, netball. That’s right. CAC coaches Sophie Legros, Nora Dooley, Sarah Brown, and CIC Homkant Surandase from Slum Soccer, stepped off the football pitch and onto the netball court for two weeks working with NAZ GOAL (nerd-alert! not be confused with the hobbit-hunting ring-wraiths in Tolkein’s classic). These two trainings in India were spent in Mumbai and then Delhi with two great groups of young leaders having a real impact on their communities.

    mumbai scaryOur first week in Mumbai stands as the second year we have sent coaches to work with this team from NAZ. Our staff were very impressed by the manner in which this group presented themselves to us – who they are, what they currently do, what they want to do, and what they need from our team to make the most of our time in Mumbai and to have the greatest possible impact on the communities they work in. The communication was refreshing and the week kicked off – or should I say passed off? – to a great start.

    IMG_0254The participants consisted partly of peer leaders from the GOAL program. These are young female GOAL participants that are emerging as leaders among their peers and are pursuing the opportunity to play a more active role in their community. The rest of the group was made up of Community Sports Coaches (CSCs) and Senior Coaches. The CSCs are girls who have developed from peer leaders into coaches, and the Senior Coaches are young women – and one man! – who have come into their own as role models to the others, leading all things NAZ GOAL throughout Mumbai and beyond.

    sophie and coachThe priority for this week, as communicated to us by the NAZ senior leaders, was for us to go through each GOAL game thoroughly to ensure that all participants understand how the game connects with the social message, and how to balance the dynamic between GOAL games and GOAL classroom activities. To assist in this effort we asked to be taken to a GOAL classroom session at a school so we, CAC, could better understand that aspect of the program. Our team started the day off by coaching the GOAL participants, a large group of giggly young girls, in one of our Be Money Savvy games called Budgeting with Yelena. This is a game of tag where the taggers represent things we should not be spending our money on, or “wants”, and we ask the players to come up with examples. This group thought of makeup, fast food, parties, and jewelry to begin the game. We play the first round where the  “wants” chase everybody else and if they tag somebody they give them the cone and that person becomes the “want”. Then we add netballs. The netballs represent money. If a player has a ball she is safe and they must pass to each other to keep each other safe from the “wants”. But, if they drop a ball, or it goes out of bounds, they’ve lost the ball, the money. The players are forced to make smart, quick decisions to stay away from the “wants” and not lose their money. In life we must make good decisions and not spend our budget on the things we want but the things we need. We ask the girls after the game about “needs” and to give us examples of things in life that we need. This game corresponds with the classroom session “Wants and Needs” that we observed afterwards led by some of the CSCs. This activity expands on the differences between the things we want and those that we need, giving more examples, as well as giving the participants a sample budget and asking them how they would spend it.

    After this day we really understood what the NAZ Mumbai team needed and how we could best help them. The rest of the week was terrific and both groups left feeling satisfied that we accomplished our goals, enabling each other to do our jobs and achieve maximum impact.

    As we bid farewell to the heat of Mumbai, the wonderful YMCA where we stayed, and that incredible group of game-changers, we set our sights on Delhi, and prepared for the sensory overload that comes with the capital city.

    Same organization. Same country. That’s about all that was similar between our two weeks with NAZ GOAL.

    Delhi was a different state, different city, different group of participants, and a vastly different week overall.

    And that’s the beauty of Coaches Across Continents.

    homkant and naz goalInitially the program was to be the same with both groups, as we had previously planned with Senior Coaches from both cities. But just as we discover with every program, in every city/town/village, in every country we work in, plans change, adapt, transform as we begin to understand who we are working with, the dynamics of the group, the unique situation they are coming from, working in, striving for. It is all part of that magical CAC equation that yields success worldwide.

    NAZ GOAL Delhi is where NAZ began in India, and it was obvious from the outset that this program was farther along in terms of organizational structure, management and sheer size. A larger group of participants, made up mostly of peer leaders and CSCs, the priority for this group was for the younger members to step up as coaches and practice their leadership skills.

    Built in to the week were two of the regularly planned GOAL sessions where peer leaders and coaches run games and classroom activities for about 150 students from the school where we were working. The plan for these sessions was for the GOAL team to assist the CAC team with one game, and then run the second on their own. Our team decided to play Mia Hamm Communication in one massive circle with 150 screaming, hormonal teenagers. Good idea? Great idea! Chaos ensued, naturally, but who doesn’t love a bit of mayhem at the office? The students went absolutely nuts, especially the boys, but they were so happy, so excited to play, so eager to learn and listen to every single word we had to say, and spoke great English so we actually managed to get bits of the social message across – wow! That was a ton of fun.

    The young leaders were great all week. At each and every session they could not wait to play, learn netball skills (from our CAC master netball coaches, of course), and participate in discussions about everything from the importance of budgeting and saving money, to keeping our bodies healthy and how important it is for women to empower each other, for men to empower women, and for women to empower men.

    Another great week with NAZ GOAL, a long blog, and our last stop in India as we say bye to CIC Homkant and coaches Sophie, Nora, and Sarah finish up long trips on the field for one last program in the beautiful mountains of Nepal – jealous? Yep.

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