• 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

    September 4th 2017. Coaches Across Continents Global Citizen and Michael Johnson Young Leader Ryan Jones writes about week 2 with the fantastic IndoChina Starfish Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

    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.

  • Rained On And Better For It

    CAC regular volunteer Charlie Crawford blogs about enjoying the rainy season in Sihanoukville, Cambodia with M’Lop Tapang.

    September 4th 2015. The rainy season earned its descriptor this week. After two weeks in Cambodia’s Capitol, our coaching staff split into two groups and went to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. As it went, Turner and Spring headed north to Siem Reap while I journeyed to the coast with Markus (or “Helga Mueller” as he appreciated being called after his favorite player’s female alter ego). On the coast, we worked with partner program M’lop Tapang and their 25 participants on one of the closest to ideal fields I’ve ever seen working with CAC.

    Sihanoukville seemed to be rolling out the green carpet for us. For the training we played our games on a beautiful roofed field. A quality astro-turf away from broken glass, mud, and the scorching sun is simply too rare to not show up each day with a smile on your face. As good as it was, there was one moment during this week that the conditions taught an important lesson. Perfect conditions just don’t exist. As we prepared to start the training on Tuesday, the Cambodian rainy season hit the switch. So much rain pelted the roof that we couldn’t hear each other shouting 10 feet away for 3 hours.

    Needless to say, our plan for the day required some last minute reorganizing, yet ended up being one of our best. A feat, in large part because of the flexibility of our three Community Impact Coaches.

    I’ll remember a number of things about this program.  The girl’s team that had better skills than the boys. The 9v9 pickup game we played with our coaches against other locals one evening. The fried noodle meals that left me wanting nothing else (an uncommon occurrence). But as impressive as these and the rain and the beach were, what truly made this a week to remember was the presence of these CIC’s from Phnom Penh. Sameth “Handsome Man”, Ranya, and Makara became more than a couple of coaches throughout the week.

    Making strong connections with people in a short amount of time is a pre-requisite for on-field work with Coaches Across Continents. That being said, having 3 weeks instead of the typical 1 gave Markus and me an opportunity to form a bond with these three coaches even more. From Sameth’s vitality to Ranya’s massages to Makara’s sense of humor, these three have certainly become part of CAC’s and my own family.

    That roof taught me something. Our success this week wasn’t from it. What it taught me was that no matter the conditions, what pulls a program off is the people involved. Everything else can be dealt with, whether that be by huddling in a corner to be heard or huddling in the shade to cool off. Lesson learned.

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