• Embracing Change

    Laura Kane blogs from Jamaica as the team continue their work in Montego Bay with the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.

    December 21st 2015. The second leg of our journey in Jamaica brought us to Montego Bay.  “Mobay” is the second largest city in Jamaica and a huge tourist attraction.  Crime is a major problem as pickpocketing and petty theft are common among tourist destinations.  However, our efforts this week were focused on child rights and HIV/AIDS.

    A rain storm on our third day forced the group to stay inside for a child rights talk.  I was slightly nervous given the resistance we faced in Kingston a few days earlier.  But I must say, the coaches of Mobay and the surrounding parishes were engaged, respectful, and open to change!  We discussed the topic of homosexuality, different forms of abuse, and the important role that coaches play in the life of a child.  In Kingston, most discussions began and ended with someone stating, “but this is just our culture.”  Implying that change simply isn’t possible.  While we talked about respecting different cultures and the ideals that are unique to Jamaica, we also found common ground in honoring some basic human rights.  The coaches did their best to help us understand the issues they face and the cultural norms that make change difficult.  But I also felt like we had a group that was actively looking for new ways to help educate those around them.  They were engaged and taking notes the entire time.  Our discussions were productive and I left the day feeling encouraged.

    On the fourth day, we addressed the topic of HIV/AIDS on the field.   It was very clear that this topic is not commonly talked about in Jamaica.  However, our coaches were open and honest about the taboo nature of this disease.  It would be difficult to pinpoint how severe this problem is because men do not often get tested for fear of a positive result.  A positive result would mean public shaming within the community. Imagine not being invited to play pick-up on Saturdays because people are fearful that you would pass the virus on to them.  Most shocking in our conversation was the fact that most boys become sexually active around the age of 9.  The group spoke freely about their culture of men having multiple girlfriends at one time.  While the women are more willing to be tested, it is hard to be sure that your partner is being faithful.  Our group of coaches identified several ways in which we can help educate others in the community about HIV/AIDS.  It was great to see them step up, use their voice, and speak passionately about helping to change the culture.

    I’ll be leaving Jamaica with a sunburn, some new friends, and a lot of hope for the future.  I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country someday!


  • Yeah Mon, Part 2

    IMG_8454December 27, 2013. The second leg of our Jamaica trip took us to beautiful Montego Bay, a coastal city upcountry from Kingston. We were greeted by Robbie, a local restaurant owner with ties to the Real Madrid Foundation, our local organizing partner here in Mo Bay. The Real Madrid Foundation is a new and growing organization in Mo Bay that is affiliated with the now-familiar Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and Ballaz International. The leader of the Real Madrid Foundation is Aaron Lawrence, a former national-team goalkeeper who represented Jamaica in the 1998 world cup. Aaron participated in the coaching sessions and also doubled as our gracious chauffeur throughout our stay in Mo Bay.

    IMG_8576When we arrived to the training pitch the first day, we were blown away. The field was located right on the water, and luckily we had time to explore a little while awaiting the arrival of the local coaches. After we dipped our toes in the water, it was time to get down to work. We had sixteen coaches throughout the three-day training, which made for a very intimate but intensive course. The majority of coaches had never been introduced to the concept of football for social impact, so it was inspiring to see them buy into the CAC curriculum over such a short period of time. We were encouraged by the effort given by all the coaches, and were happy to see them teach back several of the games with their own Jamaican flavor.

    IMG_8504Some of the most interesting learning in Mo Bay (for the CAC coaches and the local coaches) came off the field, during discussions held over water breaks. Major issues in Mo Bay, and all of Jamaica, include gender equity and HIV/sexual health. We had a frank discussion with the coaches about why girls should play sports and were intrigued by the nuances of gender relations in Jamaica as described by the coaches. They ultimately gave many thoughtful responses to the question we posed and overwhelmingly supported the inclusion of girls in sports. We also had an interesting discussion about HIV and sexual health during our day teaching Adebayor games for HIV education. We were delighted to hear the perspective of not only the coaches, but also of Juliet, a Real Madrid Foundation staff member and parent of two boys who participate in the organization. Juliet and the coaches animatedly discussed the unique roles of parents, coaches, and teachers in HIV education. We left the conversation with the understanding that HIV education can be taught in a variety of different venues and that great strides are being made to accommodate such multifaceted education in Jamaica.

    IMG_8600Overall, our time in Jamaica has been extremely rewarding. Though we have completed our first  year here, we are excited to see what the future holds for our partner organizations. Everyone involved in the program is committed to incorporating football for social impact into their coaching curricula, and we expect the number of participating coaches will multiply over the next two years. With the support of Ballaz International, the Real Madrid Foundation, and the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, we truly believe that football can have a significant social impact in Jamaica.


  • Yeah Mon, Part 1

    IMG_8147December 17, 2013.  Upon our arrival in Kingston, our coaching team was greeted by Ballaz International and fantastic weather. The CAC-Jamaica 2013 team consists of four fabulous coaches: Staci Wilson, Marc-Anthony William, Anna Rodenbough, and Brian Suskiewicz. Staci, originally from New Jersey, won three national titles at UNC and was a gold-medalist for the USA in 1996. She currently coaches in South Florida and volunteers with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Marc-Anthony, originally from Trinidad, played collegiately at Denver University and Huntington University, and is a full-time coach in the New York Metro Area. He also coaches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Anna, from North Carolina, won two national titles at UNC and currently studies medicine and public health as a UNC graduate student. She previously volunteered with CAC in 2010 in Uganda and Kenya. Brian, as many of you know, is a seasoned CAC vet, having worked in over fifteen countries in the last four years. He is originally from Virginia and played at Boston College before coaching at the collegiate level. Interestingly enough, Staci and Brian were high school classmates at TJHSS&T in Alexandria, VA.

    IMG_8056Soccer clearly permeates Jamaican culture, as evidenced by the presence of the honorable Edward Seaga (former Prime Minister) and the honorable Celsa Nuño, the Spanish ambassador to Jamaica who welcomed us and others to her home during the week.  In addition to that star-studded evening, all four of us had an absolute blast in Kingston. The community coaches were enthusiastic from the beginning and continually gave well-thought-out answers to every question posed.  Our daily contact during the week was the affable Coach Sherrick, who went by the nickname “Shrek.” Many of the coaches were from the Ballaz International organization, but several clubs, schools, and organizations in Kingston were represented. All of the coaches offered valuable social commentary on life in Jamaica so that we could tailor our curriculum to the unique problems facing their communities. Although we have a fairly experienced bunch of coaches on this trip, we were not only teaching, but also constantly learning from the Jamaican coaches.

    IMG_8116The highlight of the week was definitely the discussions held by the coaches during our water breaks.  Their insight into Jamaican cultural norms towards gender equity, violence, and other issues were well-taken, and you can see that there is a passion in the coaches when they discuss progress in their society.  The next generation also got into the act, as two coaches brought their sons to training on the last afternoon.  The messages from our games were immediately picked up by the youngsters, sometimes even faster than their senior counterparts grasped them!

    IMG_8100The connection between Ballaz International and Coaches Across Continents was made possible by the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation and our trip was the support of many sponsors including Scotiabank, Wata, Island Grill, Hi-Lyte, the Spanish Court Hotel, and Riu Hotels. Our coaching team has been treated very kindly by all of these sponsors, who have provided us with delicious meals and wonderful accommodations throughout our program here.  We can’t wait for our second week in Montego Bay!