• Passion Transformed Into Action: The Story of ASK for Choice in Perú

    May 17th 2016. CAC’s ASK for Choice leader in Lima, Daniela Gutiérrez, tells Peru’s ASK for Choice story as if it is 2026.

    Although in English words don’t seem to rhyme
    When a woman expresses ideas like this,
    People see it as a crime.
    We were born without apple,
    with snake,
    chained by the past,
    shorn of the present.
    In this world social classes are an illusion,
    only from our mind confusion.
    We are all unique and necessary,
    Universal Rights, Humanitarian Rights.
    Let’s make this life a “Choice party”
    Bring our nation to the heights,
    the indifference and inequality that women suffer,
    makes no man tougher.
    Over the years, we’ll tear down those fences.
    Crush the status quo.
    Nothing justifies the intolerance of our differences.

    It all started with a group of brave, enthusiastic women, they were not sportspeople, some of them did love sports, however they shared something: all of them were ready to come together and join forces to help change this world of inequality, violence and lack of practice of values.

    It all started on that Tuesday (May 3rd 2016), everyone full of energy and open to experiment, we started the training, and the fun started as well (that was all that mattered). With time questions emerged, deep and challenging about the issues they faced as women in their society, questions that found few or no answers. I could only encourage them to think about  what they could do as women with all the capacity to change their reality. Then some clarity sprouted from their hearts in form of proposals “workshops with girls in El Agustino (and their dad’s as well), raise our kids respecting all human beings as equals, work with the rest of the moms of the community so they know they have a chance to decide…”  And we left that encounter with the commitment to change our lifes.

    In 2017, with twice as many women compared to the year before, 45 magical women with a great vibe! All of them sharing their powerful testimony about how playing the ASK for Choice games and all the conversations and group dynamics helped them to make some choices that would change their lifes, some of them even ventured to play the games with their families… The pieces started coming into place and things started to make sense for us…We were so excited!

    8 years later, in 2024, Asked For Choice had grown so much in Perú, we no longer worked only with women from El Agustino, but with communities from all over the place, the Jungle, Los Andes and the coast. We decided to visit our awesome pioneers, what a great surprise we found: Outstanding leadership workshops for girls and women, women’s (and mixed) sports teams and leagues, art workshops and the best: women replicating the ASK for Choice experience with their community.

    We continued our work, with more and more diverse women every time, similar in their desire to heal the world and make it a better place. We kept in touch with all of them and when we left they sent photos and videos of how well they were doing, the joyful experiences they were having, and in every place, no matter how far apart from each other, the same magic spread.

    2026, 10 years from our origin, with this marvelous project that started with the pure intention of co-creating a fun space for women to play and share.

    Not everything was easy. In many communities, when we went with the intention of giving women choices, we were faced with ignorance (both from man and woman), when we asked the questions, sometimes we found the same answers that created all this inequality, we thought that they might not understand, or that we were doing it all wrong…

    However, at the end, even after all that struggle, we found a surprise that filled our hearts, in every community that benefited from the ASK for Choice movement (yes, now it had become a movement in Perú) we saw dads taking care of the household and taking kids to school, women directing massive building projects, boys dreaming to become chefs, girls playing with cars and soldiers. That was the best proof that all the effort from us, and especially from all the women in Perú had worked. Inequality and violence almost didn’t exist, it became a thing of a dark past. We felt so so happy and satisfied!

    We only have one question now, for our present work: Are there any places remaining in Perú that still need this work? We have a very hard job ahead of us, finding these places would be almost impossible…

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  • Self-Directed Learning Catches On In Peru

    CAC’s Rubén Alvarado writes from Peru and our work with UNICEF Peru.

    October 27th 2015. “No”. The word spoken with peaceful insistence, without the intention of pressuring or convincing. I take the risk, full of hope, and explain the meaning and the value of a “Yes” in the request that I’d just made. “No me gusta que me tomen fotos, me pongo brava” (I don’t like photos, I get angry). The answer followed by an implacable smile, implacable because of its honesty. And she walked away from me, and I walked away from her, joyfully resigned to my defeat, because she used her voice, did not impoverish herself in order to please someone, she let her freedom flourish.

    Esmeralda, 7 years old, lives with her family across the street from the pitch in “El Agustino”, in Lima, Perú, where we held our trainings during the first week there, with various diverse organizations that use sport as a tool for social development, with magnificent results. She would cross the street every day in order to beautify our learning space, but also to teach us powerful lessons.

    She surrendered to the game in the absence of answers, or when she did not not how to do what the game demanded, or even when she did not quite understand what happened at all. She rested, even if the group continued playing, if her body asked for rest. She played, even if the group rested, if her heart asked for play. Once, when the coaches discussed how to fix the world’s problems, she went ahead and made a colorful path made of cones, maybe to guide us in that venture. Another time she would pick up the cones that we would not use anymore, without us asking, and did it with such will that she even gathered the ones we would use in our next game! “Will we play more games today?” If she found a negative answer to this (daily) question, she would leave. Why would you stay in a place where all the fun has finished?

    Quick reminder, we in CAC do not coach children directly, we coach coaches who educate children, Esmeralda joined the training spontaneously, lucky for us. In our Messi for Conflict Resolution game, participants make 2 lines and everyone has a number. The coach calls out one or more numbers, and the people with the called numbers have to run around their lines and arrive to the same or a different place inside of them, depending on the instruction. During it, Esmeralda seemed alert, she observed her teammates, went over, both mentally and with her fingers, the mathematical movements needed to succeed. Nora called out her number and she ran around her line towards her new, but well studied, place in the line. She knew exactly what to do, I listened when she spoke to herself. Right before arriving, her teammates (adult coaches) started telling her what to do, where to stand and how to do it.
 You might ask “what is wrong with that?”. Nothing, at all. We practice Self Directed Learning, because we believe that it honors our capacity and freedom to decide, even in these seemingly irrelevant scenarios, like arriving to your new spot in the Messi for Conflict Resolution game. I told you this long story, not to make someone wrong, but so we could have a shared image from where I could offer you something that, in my perspective, functions as a core component in the creation of spaces for Self Directed Learning to emerge: Trust.

    We reflected on this issue with the group. Do we trust our kids enough to make their own choices? Do we think, maybe unconsciously, that we know better than them? How does this idea influence their learning? When does authority enhance growth and evolution? When does it not? How can we respect their freedom to decide at all times while coaching? 

And the reflection didn’t end, even when the trainings did. And we hope it doesn’t.

    People learn better when they make their own decisions, on how to best resolve their problems and also, how to best manifest their intentions. Creating safe, intentional, containers for this active and explicit decision making process to occur, achieves equal relevance to their learning as the content learned. “The medium is the message”. In this way, the structure enables participants to use their voice at all times, not only when playing games or when reflecting on something, but at all times and in different forms of expression.

    After our Child’s Rights session we ask the coaches to commit, through a promise, that they will always protect children from all the different types of violations that might affect them. This time we let the coaches write their own promise, so it felt closer to their hearts and minds. We gave them time and space for the magic to emerge. After some time we had 15 adults performing a short but potentially award winning play about violence and how to overcome it, that ended with them reading their promise out loud and our frenetic applause. 

We could have had told them what to do, but we didn’t, and that happened. Magnificent unexpected outcomes take place in safe, intentional Self Directed Learning environments, if we trust people and the process.

    The group concluded this deep and fruitful session with gratitude and eagerness to continue exploring these topics, methods and models of education, and of course, to start playing the games in their communities. It feels like this program also helped them come closer as a network of sports for social development. Esmeralda got an acknowledgment as an honorary participant of our program. She left to school that day with an even bigger smile and dirt on her face and knees, evidences of major success.

    I’d love to show you a picture of her but, well, you know that story…

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  • Work Hard, Play Hard – Week 2 in Lima, Peru

    November 4, 2014. Volunteer Coach Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family worked with us earlier this year in Colombia and Mexico. He returns to the field for two weeks in Lima, and writes about his experience during the second week of trainings in partnership with UNICEF Peru.

    On Monday October 13th I woke up at 9:15 am, excited to start my second week with Coaches Across Continents in Peru. The first week had gone very well, so I could not wait to see what this week had in store for us. I was excited to meet all the coaches and teachers that were about to take part in this tiring but amazing weeklong course. So I made myself some eggs, grabbed some coffee, and was ready to go alongside Nora, Billy, and Mauro (Community Impact Coach from Colombianitos) to see how this week would pan out.

    When we first arrived at the school we quickly set up and asked the Baseline questions, which help us evaluate how much the participants know about sport for social impact. Then we went to the field and started with Circle of Friends, which is a game that is designed to get participants talking and feeling a little more comfortable with each other. The group started off a little tense probably because they did not know what to expect, but once they saw how we connect the games to real life the group quickly started getting more involved in the conversations.

    One game that had particularly positive impact was the Lines Game. In this game the group is split into two teams and then each team is divided into four groups. Each group on each team is numbered one through four. The two teams line up facing each other standing in lines ordered one through four. When the person leading the game says any two of the four numbers those two lines switch as fast as possible but only with their own team. The first team that gets into its new position wins the round. This goes on multiple times and depending on how fast the group gets the game we start adding new rules like no talking. It was unbelievable how fast this group picked up the game, so we decided to test them: if the person leading the game put up only one number, the two groups with that number would switch across to the other team’s side and this would change the teams. This was one of the best games of the week because it was where the participants really started to understand the idea of this training. To finish the Lines Game we asked the group if they could identify the social message of the game and they said, among other things, communication, problem solving, and working as a team. These were great answers as one of the most important aspects of this game is allowing the players to come up with their own solutions instead of the coach interfering with the problem-solving process. We hope they carry this lesson and coaching style with them into their fields of work, as it is crucial in creating self-directed learners.

    After a great first day, we were invited to stay and practice with the Escuela de Futbol Feminino, a women’s semi-professional futbol team and one of our partner programs in Lima. The girls were awesome and they put us through some of the drills they do on a regular basis, leaving me panting and out of breath by the time I was done. Then we got a chance to play with them in small-sided games, which was a blast. We got to play with these girls three out of the 5 days after our sessions, which was inspiring because in many of these young ladies’ communities they are told that women cannot play futbol. The passion and love for the game that drives these girls to play is truly amazing, and I’m very happy I got a chance to coach and play with these incredible young women.

    During one of the afternoons later in the week we went to see one of the largest impoverished communities of Lima. We went to a school where there were only two teachers working with many children. The work they were doing was amazing, it was like they were the only two people in Lima that knew about this section of the city, or that everyone else had forgotten or didn’t care about this large Brazilian favela-like part of Lima. We shared some of the CAC games with the children, which was difficult for me because I had been left speechless thinking about how a city could just forget about such a large part of its population. We ended the visit at the school with a little futbol match with all the kids. This was a truly moving and humbling experience.

    The last day of the program came so fast, and it was evident that all the participants had really learned and taken to heart the new coaching style we had taught them over the past five days. It is a very good feeling having all these people coming up to us and thanking us for coming to their community and helping them learn how they can have a greater impact with the kids they work with. I couldn’t help but think that I had learned so much from these amazing coaches that really do what they do because of the love they have for their communities, and that passion is an amazing thing to be around. I feel so lucky that I got the opportunity to work with CAC and hope to be with them again in the future to do more of this incredible work.

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