• Clouds and Humans

    August 3rd, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, reflects on week in Vancouver, B.C. working with partners Hope and Health

    In my mind, the best thing about humans is that they are all different. Unfortunately, in my mind, the worst thing about the world is that it makes being different something to be punishable by ridicule, physical abuse, public shaming, inequality, ect. But why? If everything were beautiful, nothing would be. If everyone were smart, no one would be. If everything and everyone were the exact same, none of the qualities we love about ourselves and our loved ones (the qualities that make them/us unique or special in our minds) would mean anything. If everyone is everything then we are all just the same. Does that make us all nothing? In that world, none of us are special, or smart, or kind, or bold. We all can be all of these things in our own way. But if we are all just the exact same… in that world we are one of many, and in my mind that would be a shame.

    I think the best thing about my job is that it constantly has me thinking about who I am, what I believe, and what I know. What I know for sure is that people interpret the world and express themselves differently. We all have a story, and none of them are the same. Those stories derive from where we came from, who raised us, what bad luck we caught, which chemical levels are in our brains, and what we are drawn to in the world.

    For me a smile means happiness, light, joy, or fearlessness. For others, smiling is a mask, a physical escape, a Band-Aid over a wound, or a self-defense mechanism. When I see someone’s smile, I look to see if it is also in his or her eyes. That is how I interpret a really happy smile, where as for others, if you were not frowning they might assume you are happy. The way one person expresses himself or herself may mean something completely different if another does the same.

    If every person at CAC were magically on the same continent, at the same time, near the same place and we were all staring at the exact same cloud… we may all see something different. But, when we all start calling out what animal, vehicle, thing of the planet, whatever it is that we see – instead of telling one another that is crazy, or wrong, or silly – we would look at that cloud, tilt our heads, open our minds and try to see what they are seeing too.

    What is so interesting to me, and sometimes very sad, is that we can do this when it is something that doesn’t matter. “We”, meaning the people of the world. Something as insignificant as what a cloud looks like warrants an open mind and accepting ear. But when it comes to politics, religion, philosophy, business strategy, gender issues, race, child raising, favorite sports teams…  YOU NAME IT (all of the important stuff), if people do not say or do what we (the people of the planet) believe, or what we want to hear, or what we are comfortable with – we (this is me unfairly lumping the human race all into one) judge them, we put them down, shut them up, argue our point, and so on. When this happens, THAT is what makes being different a bad thing. But, when we are talking about clouds and our minds are open, being different is something that brings us closer together. When we are talking about clouds, perspective is something that makes us smile together and appreciate each other. Perspective otherwise is something that we sometimes fear because it disrupts the world we know.

    How does all of this apply to my trip to Vancouver? Working with Hope and Health? Talking about First Nations/ Reservations struggles? Well – these kids are bullied, judged, looked down on for no reason better than the fact that they are of First Nations descent. A story that we all know, and are fully aware, that the First Nations people were not the bad guys. Worse, the intergenerational trauma these kids have passed down to them and the hardships they see everyday (substance abuse, alcohol abuse, young pregnancy, child abuse, gender inequality, poverty, bullying, discrimination) are all reasons the people in the world around them, shut these kids out. Instead of understanding them, accepting them, appreciating their difference, helping them, learning from them… these kids, their families, are treated like outsiders in their own homes. The most beautiful thing I realized about the coaches that are going to be working on the reservations with the First Nations kids, is that they want those kids to accept them. Their biggest concern was learning how to help those kids trust them as coaches, take them in, open their hearts to them. Because these kids have spent their life being shut out for their difference, that is the only way they know to express themselves. The remarkable thing about these coaches, is that they are so willing to see past those surfaced expressions and are looking to find a way to break through and make sure they express themselves in a way that those kids will understand and interpret to know they are valued and important, and worthy – Because THEY ARE.

    I would like to challenge anyone who reads this:

    Dare to be different. Work to be THE difference you want to see. Strive to accept others difference.

    Be your happiness. Be proud. Be one of one.

    And love yourself – just because you are you.

  • The Drink of a Nation

    April 13, 2017. Coaches Across Continents Process Consultant, Charlie Crawford writes about working with partners at Futbol Mas Paraguay.

    The first thing to stand out throughout Asuncion is the fact that a significant portion of the population always carries with them a small cooler accompanied with cup and a flattened looking straw. For those of you that have not had the pleasure, Terere in Paraguay could be considered a form of cold tea and more significantly, an icon and integral aspect of their way of life. In the cup is the supply of mate (crumbled leaves/botanical matter that I did not examine very thoroughly) which, when filled with the ice-water from the cooler and is filtered through the special straw, becomes far more than a refreshing drink.

    Paraguay is hot. As one of this week’s participants told it, “The Devil once came to Asuncion, started to sweat, and has not been back since.” Terere is undoubtedly the principle solution to this heat. This ritual helps and continues to build a community of trust centered around a shared cup. And as with any social construct, there are rules and etiquettes to follow this ritual sharing of Terere. The first thing I learned is that the owner of the cooler is the one to pack the cup, and that there are preferred methods to this packing. Once prepared, it’s up to the youngest member of the group to fill the single cup, pass it to the most senior, refill the cup and continue passing it around. You will continue to be offered a fresh cup until you say “gracias”, signifying your satisfaction. After making the dramatic mistake once, I was informed of the most important rule, ‘don’t move the straw’. The depth, position, and angle of this flattened straw are part of the preferred experience of the owner and are not things to adjust as you will it.

    As much as I wanted to dedicate an entire blog to this cultural drink, there is no possible way to leave this week without focusing on how incredible a program this was. After experiencing Futbol Mas in Lima the previous week, expectations were reasonably high for F+’s Paraguay branch. Participants here ranged from specialists in government organizations, special needs teachers, competitive coaches, competitive players, volunteers, students and more. None had ever experienced a training of this sort before and their earnest attitude, eagerness to learn, and belief in progress through problem solving were second to none. While most of the trainings were held on the National Secretary of Sport’s official compound, two of our days were spent in the local slum of Chicarita. This area is closer to the river than the rest of the city and, as such, suffers severe flooding on a regular basis. Unauthorized housing packs the area and social stigma closes it off from the rest of the world.

    Learning that the vast majority of our participants had never even set foot in this part of their city was not terribly surprising. What was a bit of a surprise, were the attitudes that made clear shifts by the end of the week. It would be accurate to say that there was a feeling of being uncomfortable during the first trip into Chicarita. This atmosphere not only dissipated but was replaced by an opposite eagerness to engage with this world even more. By holding the training within this community, the barrier of prejudice that literally circled this neighborhood was crossed, discussed, and ultimately considered unnecessary by the participants.

    The ritual of Terere remains strong. The ritual of avoidance and turning a bling eye does not. This is a great example  of what our partners are able to accomplish. I am left with only appreciation for being able to work with both Coaches Across Continents and Futbol Mas.

  • Hello Santiago

    April 11, 2017. Community Impact Coach Nico Fuchs-Lynch writes about working with Fútbol Más in Santiago, Chile.

    Stepping into the Fútbol Más office in the heart of Santiago on Monday, I was immediately impressed by how well organized this partner was. Moreover, the enthusiasm that all of Fútbol Más brought to everything stood out to me right from that first day and did not let up throughout the week. At our first training session in Peñon, they proved that they are innovative and thoughtful coaches, never hesitating to modify games and always thinking of ways to connect the games to prominent social issues in Santiago. They truly made the sessions for them, not just learning CAC games and techniques, but incorporating and modifying them into their own methodology that they will use for many years to come.

    The next day, our session was in a park close to the Fútbol Más headquarters and one game was very useful for the Chilean coaches. That game was condom tag, a version of tag that simulates how HIV can affect a community extremely fast. The incorporation of safe zones and condoms as protection from HIV further showed participants how they could use this game to teach about sexual safety in their coaching. Many participants were fans of this game because they realized that sexual safety is a major issue in Santiago and games such as condom tag were ways they could raise awareness about these issues. After our training session, we had the pleasure of watching the Chile-Venezuela World Cup qualifier with Fútbol Más. 4 minutes into the match, Chile scored and cries of “Viva Chile!” filled the restaurant. A 3-1 Chile victory and delicious sandwiches left spirits high for the next day’s session.

    On Wednesday, we gave a talk on Self-Directed Learning. Many ideas were brought up about how to best empower kids to learn and create an educational system that puts kids and teachers at an equal level. Later that day, our session was located in a gymnasium in Maipu. Many local university students joined us, as well as the director of Fútbol Más himself. We played games relating to teamwork, creativity, and the power of negative influences. The director running like a cowboy in Circle of Friends is a memory I will never forget. On our way back from the session, we were introduced to a tasty Chilean snack, sopapillas. Eating these delicious fried pastries in front of the metro station was a perfect end to our day in Maipu.

    Thursday’s session was held at the stadium in Maipu. Despite the fire that was smoking in the distance, we discussed gender stereotypes and identity. Participants modified games, living up to the ideas they brought forth during the SDL talk the day before. After the training, we had an exciting 5v5 game with participants. One of these participants happened to be the captain for the Chilean National Dwarf team!

    On Friday, we returned to the same neighborhood where we began the session, in Peñon. Fútbol Más coaches shared some of the games they learned over the course of the week, adding in their own variations and describing the social impact behind the games. One coach did such a good job during her Coachback that she was invited to coach as a CIC during next week’s session in Antofogasta. It was a great ending to a week filled with great food and soccer in one of the coolest cities out there, Santiago!

     

  • Measuring the Immeasurable: Social Impact

    September 1st, 2014. Coaches Across Continents’ unique WISER monitoring and evaluation (M&E) provides a detailed picture of what is happening on the ground. Not only does our M&E measure the outcomes of our On-Field programs, it also gives us valuable insights into the impact CAC is having year-round in local communities across the globe. Accounting for the successes and challenges unique to each partner program allows us to continuously improve the quality of our programs and systems.

    Our team has just finished a half-year review of our On-Field programs. In 2014, CAC has piloted many initiatives, including training in M&E and child protection and our finalized Hat-Trick curriculum. Here is what our monitoring and evaluation is telling us.

    So far, CAC has conducted 42 trainings for 38 implementing partner programs in 2014, reaching 1,859 coaches who will in turn impact 132,375 youth in their respective communities.

    CAC strives to build strong, collaborative partnerships to achieve sustainability by creating local networks of football for social impact leaders around the world. As a result, the number of local member partners CAC works with has considerably increased: since the beginning of 2014, CAC has empowered 685 community partners, five times more than in 2013. Our programs connect like-minded educators who can serve as a resource to one another: local coaches in Zimbabwe created a Facebook group to keep in touch, coaches in Tanzania planned weekly meetings, and a committee was set up in Zambia to oversee the implementation of CAC’s 24-week curriculum.

    In addition to developing a football resource packet for Peace One Day to be played in over 130 countries leading up to September 21st, CAC launched its improved Hat-Trick curriculum in January, based on our ‘Chance to Choice’ philosophy. The curriculum is composed of more than 180 games, including a new child rights module bringing to life the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child. The curriculum allows for even more flexibility to fit the distinctive social needs of each community. In total, more than 120 different games, linked to 36 different role models, have been played in 2014.

     graph 2

     

    CAC is particularly successful in training local coaches and organizations in using football for social impact. For instance, 97% of all local coaches now know a football game to teach children to find creative solutions to their problems instead of asking for the answer, compared to 24% prior to 2014.

    Health and Wellness is an important component of our curriculum. This includes many HIV behavior change games,and 95% of local coaches trained know a football game to teach children about how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases, compared to only 31% of coaches who had never attended a CAC training. Returning coaches have noticed an improvement in their players’ overall health and their awareness of the importance of taking care of their bodies following the implementation of CAC games throughout the year.

    CAC places an important emphasis on female empowerment and female participation in sports. Out of the 36 role models used On-Field, 25 were female, giving more than 90% of local coaches the tools to teach children about powerful female role models. Games directly addressing female empowerment and women’s roles in society have lead to numerous discussions around the world about the root causes of inequality, traditional roles of women and men, ways of integrating women and girls in the community, or the importance of female participation in sports. This has led to increased female participation, with 70% of local coaches planning on integrating girls in their teams, double the amount at the beginning of the year. Brazil clubs have expressed their desire to add girls to their trainings, and other groups have created girls specific afterschool groups, teams, and leagues. In Zanzibar participants brainstormed five solutions they could implement to give more power to women in their community after playing one of CAC’s gender equity games.

    A few impacts of our conflict resolution and social inclusion games include local coaches engaging in discussions concerning homosexuality and in identifying solutions to tackle widespread corruption. Our Peace Day games have been launched in many communities affected by a long history of conflict and violence such as the DRC and Rwanda. A game between a deaf and an able-bodied team was organized at the end of our program in Sierra Leone that focused largely on integrating people with disabilities; an unprecedented event according to our partner program.

     

    Quantified Impact from our Baseline/Endline Questions:

     

    1. Do you know a football game to teach young people to find creative solutions to their problems, both as a team and individually, instead of asking for the answer?
    2. Do you know a football game to teach young people how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS?
    3. Do you know a football game to teach young people about the role and place of women and girls on the soccer field, at home and in the community?
    4. Do you know a football game to teach young people how best to resolve conflict?

     

     

    graph 1

    100% of our participants have received training in child protection and have promised to “ALWAYS protect and NEVER abuse children and young people in their care”, now mandatory to receive a CAC certificate.Only 14% said they had received child protection training before being involved with CAC. In Kitale, Kenya, 150 children learned their rights for the first time and spoke up about child abuse in their community. Child rights games have been played at 50% of our programs and inspired local coaches to invent new games teaching children about their rights.

    CAC also keeps track of our partners’ progress towards Self-Directed Learning. One third of coaches participating in a CAC program this year had already attended another CAC training a previous year. This is crucial to develop local ownership and self-sufficiency.

    Introducing new methodology and best practices is the first step towards creating self-directed learners. More than 20 of our partner programs reported that CAC introduced ‘new learning’ or a ‘new way of coaching.’

    In spite of 64% of our 2014 programs entering the first year of the partnership, 47% of them are in the adapt or create stages of Self-Directed Learning, whereby they not only understand the concept of sport for social impact but are also capable of adapting or inventing games to address new social issues. Participants all around the world have developed their own football for social impact curriculum. Themes include child rights that address regional laws, deforestation, combating HIV stigma, cholera, malaria, wealth redistribution and maternal mortality.

    CAC has also been active Off-Field, speaking at high-level events in India, Qatar, San Francisco and New York on a wide range of topics including CSR policy for football development, sport for development, youth development and empowering girls through sports. In 2014, CAC launched a new corporate partnership with Chevrolet, which has already had tremendous success with projects benefiting our local partners Rumah Cemara in Bandung, Indonesia and Beyond the Ball in Chicago, USA. The CAC team has also put our writing skills to the test, and our paper on CAC’s Self-Directed Learning model was accepted for publication in a special issue of Soccer & Society. To end the first half of 2014 on a high note, CAC has been shortlisted for the 2014 Beyond Sport Awards for the highly competitive Corporate of the Year category.

     

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