Today Is Peace Day!
September 21st 2016. Today is Peace Day. This UN recognized day, facilitated by Peace One Day, is a day to promote peace and international cooperation through events and activities. One of the key Peace Day initiatives is One Day One Goal. This initiative uses the power of soccer to unite people, strengthen peace-building efforts and educate about social inclusion. Some of the biggest supporters of One Day One Goal include global sporting ambassadors Gary Lineker, Victor Wanyama and Fabrice Muamba. As part of One Day One Goal over the past few years, we provide a Peace Day resource packet to organizations in over 130 countries. This packet helps them play games to teach youth about understanding forms of violence and avoiding stereotypes. To see a recent example of the reconciliatory nature of the CAC curriculum and sport check out this recent blog from Indonesia which united two conflicting communities. This topic is especially important in the current global climate of ethnic divisiveness often stoked by fear and paranoia. No matter your medium, promoting peace and social inclusion for Peace Day will send an important message of unity.
Today and over the next week organizations will be running events and activities using sport to promote peace. For example, our partners in DRC Malaika, ran sports sessions, dance events and theater at their community center. Training4ChangeS our partner in South Africa ran problem solving games on Peace Day with key community leaders. In Uganda, Soccer Without Borders Uganda had their children, many of whom are refugees; sing songs; play sport; and make crafts. Naz Goal in India ran events to promote peace between their young people. This is just a small sample of the Peace Day activities- there will be many more over the next few days. If you are running Peace Day 2016 events please send the pictures and stories to and we will promote your inspirational work.
Who will you make peace with this Peace Day?
Soccer Is More Than A Game
It was a long journey from Nairobi to Kampala. I left Nairobi on Friday at 7.30pm only to arrive in Kampala at 10am the next morning. This was my second time in Kampala, but it was my first time traveling internationally with Coaches Across Continents to teach games to coaches. It was an exciting week in Kampala since it meant meeting coaches who were welcoming and eager to learn. Some of them traveled from far to the training venue, only to be part of the training in a dusty field, under the hot sun. Their commitment and hard work really inspired me. I also got a chance to visit the Kampala based CAC partner organization Soccer Without Borders .The organization works in the Nsambya neighborhood of Kampala. Through soccer and educational programming, SWB creates a space for urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, and Somalia to integrate with their Ugandan peers.
As a CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) I had the opportunity to engage with more than 20 community coaches who are leading incredible organizations and soccer teams making a difference through sport. Being a CAC Community Impact Coach has really influenced my personal journey in life. What I think makes soccer so incredible is its potential to help change the world outside of professional leagues and international tournaments. Also Coaches Across Continents brings out the picture clearly with the games that we learn, adapt and create. CAC helps grow the game by creating a platform for us to be more creative and come up with games that directly impacts our own communities and the rest of the world.
I felt happier when on one of the training days I got a chance to play a game I had created. It was my highlight of the week and I thank Coaches Across Continents for their Online Education Program that has really shaped me as a CIC and the first hand experience I have gained from working alongside many CAC teams. Football has provided me the self discipline, leadership skills and confidence that continue to shape my life on and off the field. I feel fortunate to be a Community Impact Coach in Kampala. With this role I have been able recognize the power of sport to make a difference, and would like to be defined not only by my knowledge, but by my ability to bring out the best in every partner organization I go to. It is our duty to attempt to make the world a better place than it was when we found it. To realize this dream many of us are happy to go through endless hours of traveling and personal sacrifice. I love soccer but the side of the sport that I love most is one in which success isn’t defined by goals or medals, but instead by community impact and social change.
How Do I Play Messi for Gender Equity Again?
CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Markus Bensch blogs from Eldoret, Kenya with the Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO)
April 21st 2015. After working for 10 weeks Off-Field I was scheduled in Kenya to run 6 different programs in 6 weeks. It was the longest break from working On-Field since I joined Coaches Across Continents (CAC) one year ago. Would I still remember how to play the games? Do I still know how to coach or did I already become a woolly academic after spending hundreds of hours in front of my laptop screen? I would find out very soon. I left Germany just before Easter and arrived in Eldoret on Sunday April 5th. On Monday we had an introduction meeting with about 20 participants and our implementing partner Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO). When the first participants arrived at the meeting hall I could already feel the excitement building. I introduced myself and explained CAC but I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to get back on the field. My colleagues Turner and Kelly arrived on Monday night from Uganda after they just finished our programs there. I was very excited to work with Kelly again after we had so much fun in Tanzania in December running four different programs. And I looked forward to working with Turner for the first time after I met him last year in Uganda when he was still volunteering with Soccer Without Borders (SWB). And we were all very happy to welcome our Community Impact Coach (CIC) Phelix Aloo into our team. It was his first time joining CAC outside of his home community. On Tuesday morning at the breakfast table our team was finally complete and the fun part could start.
We wanted to start our training at 9am, but it is Africa so the clocks work differently, less precise and less commanding. We finally started about one and a half hours late and after asking the baseline questions we could finally get onto the field. We started with Circle of Friends and then I coached my first game after almost 3 months: Messi Skills for Life. As I was coaching I got this warm feeling in my body that tells me that I am in the right place in that particular moment, a place where I belong: the football pitch!
The week progressed very well and the participants enjoyed our games. Our Gender Equity games and ASK for Choice curriculum initiated very good discussions about female empowerment and abuse of women. We discussed the social issues of sexual harassment, rape, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation. When we start these conversations the men are always very vocal in explaining the situation in their community and country. I feel that some of the men try to downplay the situation about sexual abuse and indeed most of them are silent. After some time I invited the female participants, who are usually in the minority and usually a bit shy to speak up in front of men, to share their view and opinion. It is very interesting to see how the women open up when they get asked and how much value they add to the discussion. I feel that they often draw a more realistic picture of the situation due to the fact that most of them have experienced, or at least know somebody, who has been sexually abused. I have experienced several times, and Eldoret was no different, that our discussion about gender equality and female empowerment works like a turning point in the week. The women feel empowered and valued in their views through our encouragement to speak up and the interest we show towards their stories. Afterwards they will speak up without being asked and act as equal participants and revive the dynamic of the group. For me it is always so rewarding to see participants grow in their confidence and self-esteem and witness how their whole bodies become more relaxed.
After the program on Friday afternoon we visited a participant in his community and met with the football team he coaches. We had a short session with the children and youth of the community where we played some of our CAC games and some of the participants got another opportunity to do more coach-backs. Afterwards we played a football game between the local team and a “Dream Team Eldoret” which consisted of participants and us four coaches from CAC. Dream Team Eldoret won with a tight 1-0 score and we all had a lot of fun. It was a great finish to a successful week with KESOFO. And thanks to Turner’s hint I even remembered how to play “Messi for Gender Equity”!
I want to say a big ‘Thank you!’ to Phelix Aloo who has been a great help to our team on and off the field. Unfortunately he couldn’t join us for his 2nd week in Kitale due to a sickness of a close family member that needed his help. We wish that she gets better soon and we hope to welcome Phelix again as a Community Impact Coach when the opportunity arises.
K is for Kampala
CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Turner Humphries (Hooch) writes about returning to his colleagues at Soccer Without Borders Uganda in Kampala.
April 14th 2015. When I first arrived in Uganda in July of 2013 it was apparent that my name was going to cause many people trouble. For whatever reason my name just did not roll of the tongue well. After introducing myself I would undoubtedly be met with something along the lines of, ‘Nice to meet you Tony.’ Any attempt to correct the error was futile. In fact, even some of my colleagues at Soccer Without Borders (SWB) believed my name to be Tony months after my arrival. Eventually my real name began to take hold and at last ‘Tony’ was a thing of the past, at least I thought. When I started with Coaches Across Continents in 2015 in Haiti ‘Tony’ was resurrected as many of the participants also had trouble saying my name. I have no problem with ‘Tony,’ I’m sure many great people sport the name; I simply prefer not to be one of them. The name Turner came from my parents love for the Tom Hanks classic, ‘Turner & Hooch,’ a film that was somehow snubbed at the Academy Awards. With this knowledge my CAC colleagues declared me Hooch, a nickname that has yet to find a person incapable of its pronunciation. When I returned to Uganda and Soccer Without Borders my nickname was one of many things that had changed. A fresh coat of purple paint covered the classrooms, a new reading room had been built and two female coaches were added to the staff. Most notably that around forty participants received scholarships to private schools.
Soccer Without Borders primarily serves the large urban refugee population in Kampala; providing English instruction, life skills and soccer coaching to around 300 youth. Many of the participants come from the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DR Congo is extremely wealthy – and extremely big. Similar in size to Western Europe, it is rich in diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and zinc. Unfortunately for the people of DR Congo, its resource wealth has rarely been harnessed for their benefit. The amount of wealth has attracted many competing factions including government interests and warlords, and has been the root of many violent clashes and ethnic wars across the countries in the region.
This instability has caused many families to flee into Uganda in pursuit of a better life. Most arrive lacking the English skills necessary to attend school or find work in Uganda. SWB attempts to prepare them by offering three different levels of English classes. Last year I taught the level one English course comprised of around fifty 5-10 year olds, most of whom are learning English for the first time. Walking back into my old classroom I could picture the faces of my students as they puzzled over a difficult vocabulary word or cheered after a board game victory. Undeterred by the numerous hardships they have faced, these children continue to strive to further their education and have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. It was these students that made my time in Uganda so memorable and made my job as a teacher and coach enjoyable.
A special moment for me was seeing my former colleagues demonstrate games they had learned that week to the rest of the coaches. Jules Mayele, the youngest SWB staff member at eighteen years old, confidently stepped up to lead ‘Lines Game.’ This game requires players to think quickly while still working together in groups, awarding teams that develop creative solutions to a problem. With his Crest commercial smile, Jules delivered clear and concise directions that were crucial to the success of the game. Jules began with SWB as a student in English level one. As he developed his English language skills he demonstrated a natural ability to lead. Jules has become an excellent teacher capable of teaching both youth and adults. Before long I have no doubt he will be able to add top flight football coach to his resume.
I enjoyed every second being back in Kampala. Soccer Without Borders and the other Kampala area coaches showed a great desire to continue their education in soccer for social impact. I look forward to seeing more positive changes being made in Kampala next time I find myself in the Pearl of Africa.
Community Impact Coaches Collide in Mbarara
April 6th 2015. Our bus stops frequently on our 4-hour journey west to Mbarara, and every time it does, local vendors holding baskets of sodas and snacks above their head, flock towards us and sprint to keep up before jumping aboard the slowing vehicle, in hopes of finding some hungry travelers. On a bus full of Ugandans and clucking chickens, I’m an obvious target for the vendors. I’ll take a water please. I’ll pass on the fried fish…
We are off to our second training site in Uganda with a program called Mbarara Sports Academy run by Salim Blanden. Salim is paving the way for future coaches and future leaders through his academy and it wont be long before more leaders in Mbarara emerge in the football for social impact world. Salim founded Mbarara Sports Academy in 2010 and ever since he was introduced to CAC two years ago at our training in Kampala with an NGO called, Soccer Without Borders, he has been using our curriculum. He has become a special part of our Coaches Across Continents family as one of our Community Impact Coaches. Last year he travelled to South Africa with Coaches Across Continents for 2 weeks, and later this year he will travel with CAC to another country. But the work Salim does with CAC in other countries doesn’t tell enough of his story.
Upon arrival we are welcomed into Salim’s home with open arms by “Momma Salim” who takes extra good care of us in her humble abode all week; cooking us hearty meals to start and end our days. Salim’s office is in his garage at the end of his home. The cement walls are plastered with pictures of the 200 youth he coaches in his community among the line of CAC certificates that he proudly displays. You can tell by the hanging “Football for Social Impact” Posters that fill the white spaces on the walls, where Salim’s vision lies. Children lounge around in his office daily; sometimes just hanging around while Salim does his work, other times working away on a pair of sandals or string bracelets. Most of the revenue for Mbarara Sports Academy comes out of Salim’s pocket, the other percentage comes from donations to the academy and the shoes and bracelets the kids make and sell to locals. Salim works as a University coach on the side to make some extra money to run his youth development academy. He coaches 200 boys and girls through his academy, boasting some of the top talent in the area, but that is not what Salim is most proud of. Through football young boys and girls have received scholarships to primary and secondary schools, which Salim values above everything else. All 200 of Salim’s players attend school, and he fully funds roughly 67 kids who aren’t able to pay school fees on their own. His passion for helping the children of Mbarara is unusual to see in a 29-year-old male footballer in Uganda. Salim was one of the greatest players Mbarara has ever seen in his playing days as a goalkeeper. Unlike many of the top players in Uganda however, Salim recognizes that using football as a tool to send social messages to his players goes much further than coaching just football alone. There is life after football and Salim makes sure his players are prepared for that.
Training in Mbarara this year attracted many of the same participants as last year. In seeing the impact that Salim has made on the community, it is apparent that many others have been positively affected and inspired by his presence. This year we chose games to address Female Empowerment, HIV education and Child Rights, which Salim felt were especially important to address. With Nico being with us this week, the participants were able to speak and learn from two of our most top level Community Impact Coaches. Nico comes from Kigoma, Tanzania; the first-ever training site in which Coaches Across Continents worked, in 2008. Nico is now the District of Sport Officer in Chamwino, Tanzania and has been using our games over the past 6 years to educate youth in his community. Nico’s energy is felt through every community he enters. It was a special week in Mbarara working with two leaders who have shown their passion and leadership through the work they have done for their communities, for their countries, and for the world through Coaches Across Continents. Our last day of training we were able to watch the players coach their peers the different games they learned last year, and throughout the week this year. It is always impressive to see the players transform from player to coach within a day. When they were put to the task, they certainly put on a show!
Our last day in Mbarara, Momma Salim invited us to her farmhouse, which was about a 20-minute drive from the city. She cooked us lunch and toured us around the farmland which was owned by her mother and father before they passed away. The farm is now home to her workers, and her livestock. Among the 400-acre plantation, she grows corn, potatoes, plantains, cassava, peanuts, beans, fruit and sunflowers. She sells some of the crops to town along with milk from her cows and honey from her beehives. On over 500 acres of land, Momma Salim’s home sit halfway up a mountain, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of rumbling “boda-boda”(motorbike) engines and screeching tires; an escape from our normal daily encounters in Mbarara. It was sitting in the calmness of nature; listening to the sounds of the birds and the thunder rolling over the mountains that made our week spent on the field in Mbarara feel so far away.
Kampala: Intercultural Understanding
April 15, 2014. In our 2nd week in Uganda Nora and I [Markus] faced totally different circumstances than in Mbarara, on-field and off-field. We arrived in Kampala on Sunday afternoon and got accommodated in a hotel right next to the US embassy, so we felt safe 🙂 The hotel was simple, but very nice. After one week without running water and a “western” toilet the shower we both took immediately after we arrived felt like a Christmas gift.
In Kampala we cooperate with “Soccer Without Borders” (SWB), an organization that is serving and educating the refugees who live in Kampala and come from all different countries surrounding Uganda. Uganda functions very much like a melting pot for all the people who try to start a new life far away from their war torn home countries. So we worked with coaches from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and faced a multicultural setting on the field. Due to these circumstances we needed to translate our games always into a French-Swahili mixture to make them understandable to everybody. But differences in ethnicity don’t cause social exclusion. We experienced a very inclusive atmosphere where people are practicing intercultural understanding day by day.
The coaches responded very well to the Skills for Life games and were excited to practice Ronaldo, Marta and Balotelli skills every day. These activities improve the football skills of the players as well as encourage them to concentrate, communicate and raise awareness for their surroundings. During our sessions we worked also on HIV/AIDS awareness and played “Condom tag”. It’s a simple tag game where the player with the cone represents the HIV-Virus and everybody he/she tags is “infected” with HIV. During the game the rules get adapted and some players represent condoms where the others can rescue themselves from the taggers by standing next to them. That is one of our games that help to start a conversation about good decisions that help us to stay healthy and protect ourselves from getting HIV. After we played some HIV/AIDS education games the participants mentioned the importance of this topic and we had a very fruitful conversation.
I coached this week for the first time 95% football. It went very well and the coaches understood my explanation very quickly. This game doesn’t need a ball. The ball is represented by the player who has his/her hand on their head. The ball can be passed on by shouting the name of a teammate and removing the hand off the head. The other player puts his hand on the head and can score by running through the goal. The ball can be taken away from the possessing team by tagging the player with the ball. The coaches enjoyed this game very much and I was impressed by the fairness of the two teams. Usually the rules have to be adapted, because one or both teams are either positioning their strikers or defenders rights in front of the goal line which makes scoring impossible. Not so much with these teams. 95% football is a brilliant tool to make the players understand that football is 95% smart thinking, quick decision making and constant readiness and only 5% skill on the ball.
On Thursday we had our Child Protection Policy session which caused some very good discussions about different forms of child abuse that are present in this community. For us this time of the week is very important, because children are suffering abuse from their coaches all over the world and children are the most vulnerable members of our society. The awareness of the coaches about the importance of protecting the children rights impressed us. We spoke about one case in particular where one coach asked if it is the girls fault when she got raped after she was dressed up in a mini skirt and sitting with opened legs. In the following discussions we pointed out in the group very clearly that it is never the girl’s fault and that it is the duty of us adults to educate our youth about potential risks and consequences of our behavior.
Friday is usually our coach back day. We didn’t have one last week in Mbarara, because we only had four days due to weather. So it was my first time experiencing how coaches that we worked with for a week adapt and teach CAC games. At the same time it gives us coaches the opportunity to slip into the role of a participant. We get the coaches together in groups of two or three and started with a very creative adaption of “Circle of friends”. We experienced some very advanced versions of Skills for Life games as well as a brilliant adaption of “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. We hope that all the coaches keep up their good work and be as creative in their daily work as they have been when they were adapting CAC games. We thank SWB for their wonderful hospitality and cooperation and wish them all the best for their future work that their devoted service may help many refugees in Nsambya to find hope and develop their future in a foreign country far away from home.