• Armenia Joins The CAC Family

    September 9th 2016. Andrea Montalbano writes about the start of our partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS). Andrea is a member of the CAC Business Advisory Team and the ASK For Choice Advisory Team.  She is also the author of the Soccer Sisters book series.

    The feel of fall is in the in New York air, but all we can talk about at our dinner table is our family’s recent trip to Armenia with Coaches Across Continents. We worked with CAC staff and Board Members Judith and Bill Gates in several different locations throughout the former Soviet Republic.

    In the capital Yerevan, we trained with fantastic coaches and learned how powerful and fun sport for social change and education can be.  We were based at the Football Federation of Armenia, the country’s governing body, and thrilled to work with their girl players and see the future leaders come alive on the field covering topics such as health and wellness, life skills, gender equality, problem-solving, and team building. Boys and girls were playing together, which was amazing because we learned that it doesn’t happen very often.

    In the small village of Tumanyan, we worked with a variety of educators and community leaders in partnership with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF).  One of the most moving moments for me was to see men and women of all ages, debating and collaborating on policy toward the equitable role of women in society. The conversations were held in COAF “Smart Rooms” and using CAC technology – evidence to my eyes that conversations started on the field have impact off the field.

    Our family’s last stop (CAC would continue on to Gyumri) was at the beautiful UWC School in Dilijan, where the student body is from over 70 different nations! Talk about a worldview. It was truly inspiring to see so many young leaders from all over the world working together and getting excited to bring CAC into their community.

    One of the most impactful things I learned on the trip was to listen to the ideas of others, particularly the ideas of children.  So I thought it only appropriate to do a brief Q&A with the rest of my family and start with the kids.

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    William Jebejian, 9

    Q: Did you have a favorite game, William?

    A: My favorite game was when you had to make the animal sounds (an adaptation of Mingle Mingle) and you had to switch. I liked how you kind of made a fool out of yourself, but it was really hard, because you were like, I think that was a lion, no it’s a cat! It’s really confusing. Meow! And it was so loud. And you don’t understand anything.  You were just running around. It was so fun.

    Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned through Coaches Across Continents?

    A: That you should not rely on people to solve your problems and you should try and solve your own problems without asking someone to do them for you.

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    Lily Jebejian, 12

    Q: Did you meet anyone who inspired you?

    A: Sofik was an awesome leader and role model for all girls and even though I didn’t speak Armenian, I could understand by the way she coached.  One night, we got to go to her house and it was cool to see where she was from and the rest of her family.  They were welcoming and very sweet.

    Q: You play a lot of sports here in New York.  Were you surprised to see the differences in opportunities there?

    A: Seeing all the girls show up to the field in dresses and sandals and fancy shoes, I thought, they have never played soccer before and it seemed kind of bizarre to me because basically everyone I know has played soccer before and would never have shown up to a soccer practice like that.  It made me appreciate my town and the opportunities that I have more because I got to see how girls are not encouraged to play.

    Diron Jebejian, who is of Armenian descent.

    A: What surprised you the most about the curriculum?

    Q: That it actually has very little to do with soccer.  It was better than my expectations, because I learned a lot. They have a very unique way of getting people to come together to find a common way to communicate to ultimately work out some of their problems, collaborate, and have much better opportunity to solve problems, so it was much different than I thought.

    Q: Do you think that sport for social change can help Armenia?

    A: I do. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I spent time with CAC. But, I think the common interest of sport is a very good way to bring people together.

    Q: We introduced the ASK For Choice curriculum to Armenia. What do you think the biggest challenge is facing the women of the country?

    A: The biggest challenge for the country is economic opportunity.  Without more opportunity the country will continue to have people leave to find better jobs and better ways to support themselves.  So that’s clearly the challenge, and so the investment in education and investment in girls is one of the principle ways to change that equation so I think it’s all tied together.

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  • Worldwide Women’s Day Celebrations

    1495116_638780162837889_1730077393_oMarch 19, 2014. Have we told you how fantastic, passionate, and committed our partners are to making a difference? Well if we haven’t told you lately, let us tell you now! Women’s Day was March 8th, and our remarkable partners took it on full force.  Working in over 20 countries at the moment, we had pictures and stories coming in from South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, and Haiti – and that is just the beginning.

    Our partners are not only top notch in the sport for social impact world, but they also host unique events when it comes to special dates like International Women’s Day. We have a partner in Dodoma, Tanzania who hosted an event with over 180 young girls participating, and played female empowerment games including Jackie’s Circle and Tegla identity from the CAC curriculum. Our partners in Uganda hosted events attended by numerous women’s charities where they touched on subjects ranging from gender equality to environmental conservation while celebrating women of all ages, and the importance of having female role models.IMG-20140308-00259

    One of our South African partners, WhizzKids United, celebrated Women’s Day focusing on specific issues for women in their community and having Gugu Mofokeng inspire the young women to stand up against violence. GOALS Haiti celebrated the day by hosting their second girls clinic educating young women about health, and making it a safe and comfortable place to communicate and ask questions.

    Our partner NAZ Goal from India took a different approach on Women’s Day inviting parents of youth from their foundation to come to their celebration, and have young girls teach female empowerment games. The girls taught their parents one of CAC’s favorite games, “Seles Attack”, and helped spread awareness on safe spaces in the community.

    IndoChina Starfish in Cambodia celebrated Women’s Day by highlighting their two incredible female coaches, and telling their inspirational stories. Working first hand with these coaches, and reading their personal stories that got them to where they are now is astonishing.

    Coaches Across Continents wants to thank our partners for the incredible difference they make every day in the lives of the people in their communities. Women’s Day was a huge success thanks to the passionate, hard-working local organizations we are lucky to work with around the world.

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  • “Rezoud Konfli”

    IMG_4510January 30, 2014. The first thing I realized when I landed in Haiti was that for some reason Haitian kids always wanted to fight me. At first I thought a Japanese man like me was probably not welcome in Haiti, but then soon I realized that they thought I was Jackie Chan and always thus expected a display of martial arts skill. For that reason, I was kind of popular in Haiti and it was easy to be friendly with Haitian people.

    And like that, my life in Haiti started. After the amazing first week we had with GOALS Haiti in Léogâne, we moved to Port-au-Prince, where we worked with Tony Sanneh of The Sanneh Foundation and their Haitian Initiative for a full week. Tony is a former professional soccer player who played for the US in the 2002 World Cup and had an assist against Portugal. He founded The Sanneh Foundation when he was still playing as a pro in order to help the urban kids learn life skills through playing soccer, and decided to extend the program to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

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    The week with the Haitian Initiative was very overwhelming but also fun. In the mornings from 9:00 to 12:00, we taught our drills to about sixty of the local coaches, and in the afternoon from 2:00 to 5:30 we observed the coaches using our drills to train the kids. The sessions were really long and because I was under the sun for a long time every day, I got the coolest T-shirt tan lines ever, which people actually have been telling me are the worst. However, it was totally worth working with the local coaches for that long period of time because I was able to learn three big lessons about life.

    One lesson is the importance of conflict resolution. From the first day of the week, we let them play games that were designed to simulate conflict. At first, I always wanted to get in the middle of the argument and re-explain the rules and offer a solution. However, Nora always pulled me aside and told me “let them solve their own problems” and just yelled out, “rezoud konfli!” which means to solve conflicts in Créole. By the end of the week I started to observe more leadership within the group and efforts to solve problems independently. It was a huge step forward for them, especially because the ability to think critically and solve problems is crucial for developing countries like Haiti, and until that point I never knew there was such an educating method as stepping back and observing without interfering, which had a pretty impressive effect.IMG_9488

    The second lesson I learned was that, yes, soccer is a language of the world and you can easily make tons of friends by just playing soccer, but knowing some of their language and culture gets you much closer to them. For example, I literally knew only four sentences in Créole, which were “bon travay” (good job), “san balon” (without the ball), “bay non” (give me your name) and “ou pare? on ale” (you ready? Let’s go). However, with only these four sentences, I was able to make them laugh, smile, and happy. In addition, we learned one of the Haitian traditional dance moves in the first week, and we showed it to the coaches in Port-au-Prince, and they absolutely loved that we did it. Looking back at my own life, I was always happy when random people talked to me saying “konnichiwa,” or even when they were big fans of Pokémon. I thought that when I got a chance to go abroad next, I should learn some fun sentences and dances from the country before visiting, and now I know that will definitely help me make friends.

    IMG_9867Finally, working with the Haitian Initiative made me realize that I could influence so many other lives. After working with the coaches for a week, it was obvious to my eyes that they not only had become better coaches, but also had become better educators. In the afternoon sessions where we got to observe the coaches training the kids, I could tell the way they interacted with the kids had started to change. They were encouraging kids to be more vocal, have respect for others, treat everyone equally regardless of gender, and have more fun. The funny thing is when they would shout out “rezoud konfli!” to kids when they were arguing. It was amazing to see that what we teach is directly reflected in what they teach. Because each coach had about twenty kids, that’s more than a thousand kids we had impacted. To think that we had influenced more than a thousand kids in just a week, and that we had potentially helped create a positive outlet for Haiti’s next generation of leaders is simply mind-blowing.

    Going to Haiti and working with CAC and Haitian Initiative has definitely become a life changing experience to me. This trip gave me a chance to reassess my values in life along with my future goals. These past two weeks I was always asking myself questions, but did not know answers to most of them. This trip made me really want to go back to school, and study to become a better critical thinker so that I can be better at rezoud konfli. So now I am happy that I am back at Harvard to start a new semester, but man, it is freaking cold here. I already miss Haiti and mangos.

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