• Storms in São Paulo

    July 18, 2014.  Melanie Baskind writes this blog from Brazil.  Besides her volunteer work this year with CAC in Brazil, you may remember Mel from her great work with CAC in 2012 in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Tanzania.

    Unlike the week of rainy weather we suffered in Sao Paulo, the storm of the German national team came and went quickly. It took just over ten minutes to get going, and once passed had left Brazil in a state of shock, unable to do much other than replay, over and over again, the um, dois, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, SETE goals scored upon them. The Argentineans advancing through on penalties only worsened the country’s mood, as the locals could do little to stop their rivals, clad in blue and white stripes, from singing boisterously in the streets that Maradona was better than Pelé. For the first time since I arrived in Brazil three weeks ago, both common sense and the director of ACER advised me NOT to wear my Argentina jersey in public.

    I have to say I was feeling equally low as the Brazilians, having missed Prince Harry’s visit to ACER by mere days. But inspired by the coaches we worked with for the week, who showed no hint of the depression lingering on the other side of the gated field, I too learned that life must go on. Harry will wait for me…

    Despite these minor glitches, our first week in Sao Paulo was a huge success. In addition to the ACER coaches participating in their second year of CAC training, we welcomed a group of physical education teachers and administrators from Fundação CASA, the national youth offenders institute (juvenile prison system). These new coaches brought a lot of enthusiasm to the sessions, and they were able to quickly grasp what CAC is all about, diving right into the games and their social messages. We hosted the head of the entire system on Thursday, and look forward to seeing where this potential partnership goes in the future. (editors note: Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz visited an institution on July 16th, seeing first-hand their work and playing several CAC games with some of the youth who call the facility their temporary home).

    It was also a special week as we met back up with Ellen and Orlando, who had accompanied us in Brasilia and Rio, respectively, in the two weeks prior as Community Impact Coaches (CIC). It was fun to join forces once again, and see how those weeks had impacted them as individual coaches. One of the highlights of the week took place while I happened to be in the bathroom (harharhar). Tiffany and I had to run back to ACER as the bathroom by the field was locked, and without Tiffany’s translating skills, apparently things were not going so smoothly back at the field. By the time we got back, we found that Orlando had taken complete control over the next game. As preached in our problem solving games, he had identified a problem (the game had been lost in translation), and without coaxing from anyone, stepped in to fix it. I spent a few months volunteering with CAC in 2012 before the CIC program was implemented, and returning to see the program in full force was really cool. Aside from them gaining invaluable experience and additional leadership training, the program really enhanced my experience as a volunteer, as I was able to live and learn from hanging out and working alongside both Orlando and Ellen.

    Like any CAC program, the week was filled with lots of laughs, and a group of kids and coaches with a ton of personality. For every highlight on the field, there was one off the field as well. I think Tim, Jamie and Alex would agree that nothing off the field topped the Afro-Brasilian dance class we participated in on Friday afternoon. We hopped in to a class being taught by one of our coaches, and to the beat of a drum, learned a host of dance moves that I have stored away in my memory to be pulled out at a later time. I arrived back in the US on Monday night, and my first Google search was Afro-Brasilian dance classes in Boston. Nothing came up… but I’m looking into Zumba…

    Thias and Ellen enjoy the week with Coaches Across Continents

    Thias and Ellen enjoy the week with Coaches Across Continents

    What are you looking at Melanie?

    What are you looking at Melanie?



  • Sedikwe Sa Bagwera (Circle of Friends) in Mokopane

    July 17, 2014.  Traveling from Zimbabwe overnight on Friday night, we were suppose to get to Polokwane, South Africa Saturday morning at 7:20am. TIA – This is Africa (as one of the locals taught us) was very clear during that bus ride. As we were entering our 4th hour at the Beit Bridge border, I could do nothing but laugh at the fact that we had been in and out of the bus 3 times, they went through our bag twice, and at the time we were suppose to arrive in the Limpopo province of South Africa, we were still in line at the border. Finally, after hitting the road again around 9am, I started to realize why patience is a virtue. The 17 hours traveling made me appreciate what was to come next way more. A Red Cross representative (our partner in Mokopane) picked us up from Polokwane and drove us the 50km to Mokopane. Right away, we knew it was going to be something special. We were staying at the hotel with all the participants, a shuttle was driving us to and from the facility (so “Africa time” was not a factor), we were getting fed three times a day, the sessions were on a turf field at the FIFA For Hope Center Mogalakwena, and we had more than 40 participants. What else could you ask for?

    Once we got to the hotel, I opened the door and saw three double beds, a TV, air conditioning, a big bath, a shower (with hot water) a tea/coffee machine (which is comfort food for me) and there even was wi-fi available! It is crazy the difference that two weeks can make (see Connection Not Found: Please Try Again blog). We, as Coaches Across Continents, welcome all circumstances and enjoy both also! After meeting with George Mamabolo, the South Africa Red Cross manager of the Limpopo Province, it was clear why the program was so well organized. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture was sponsoring the whole program. That way, it was possible for coaches from all over the Limpopo province to come and be a part of the program.

    Finally, Monday morning came, and it was time to start with the program. Over the next two weeks, we played over 50 games from our curriculum, had two sessions of coach backs (where the coaches coach either our games or new games), had two tournaments with the community, our compulsory child’s rights discussion, a discussion on characteristics of a good coach, but most importantly, had tons of fun and smiles. During the first week, we focused on identity building and HIV/AIDS, as requested by the coaches. The coaches were all really eager to learn, and it made the sessions very interesting and very impactful. During the second week, we focused on child’s rights, drug and alcohol abuse and on environmental education. During all the games, it was awesome to see them recognize what needed to be done and how they could work together as a community to improve. With all the games we played, I think my personal favorite was 95% football (invisible soccer).The teams came up with different strategies that made the game really interesting. One of the teams even called their players by different names so the other team would not know who they are passing the ball to. The game was filled with smiles, conflicts, solutions and laughs; making it a really successful game.

    The two weeks in South Africa were awesome, as we had a good program, but so much more. It helped me learn a lot about the impact we coaches can have in coaching for social impact and it helped me learn about myself a lot, as I was sometimes push to surpass my limits. Not to forget about the different words I learned, my favorites being Yebo (yes) and Laduma (goal). My dance move repertoire was also expanded, and my coordination improved greatly, thanks to Circle of Friends (Sedikwe Sa Bagwera) dancing exercises. After having a nice celebration last night with the participants, it is now time for me to head home. My adventure with CAC has been really enriching and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer – beside maybe being in Brazil to see Germany in the Final. One thing for sure, no where would I have learned as much! Now, time for 40 hours of traveling!