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Wednesday
Jul092014

Coaches Across Continents

I recently wrote a piece discussing the challenges of adding critical pedagogy to Sport for Development programs due to the obstacles these programs face. Simply garnering community support for girl’s athletics, attaining and shipping equipment, and then developing program infrastructure are giant hurdles. When looking at the day-to-day issues, coach training and pedagogy too often become lower priorities on the list. However, it is the coaches with their incredible cultural insight and local knowledge who make the program possible. Inherent to their role is the task of supporting participants in challenging times.

 

The coaches are in the trenches improving their communities and as such, shouldn’t we be whole-heartedly investing in them? The first week of June, we did just this when we partnered with Coaches Across Continents, a non-profit organization that trains coaches in the SDP field. Forty-five coaches and potential coaches from BGF and other sporting programs within the region attended the workshop hosted by Breaking Ground. The curriculum covered various methods coaches can use to address topics such as health, conflict resolution, and social inclusion through football. CAC will continue to work with these dedicated coaches for three years.

 

The coaches responded positively to the program. BGF Coach Mamboula Nziengle Prisca stated, “Before I had the idea of associating social issues with sport, but I didn’t have strong arguments for approaching parents and other interested community members. Now I can explain that this is a life tool for our children. My role as the coach isn’t just about sport, but to raise social awareness.” Former professional footballer turned coach, Aoudo Serge Nico, agreed that the program was beneficial remarking, “This training helped bridge the gap between sport and social education. It’s a great tool for football programs in the region.”

 

Breaking Ground is based on community initiative. Thank you to CAC for giving BGF’s coaches new ideas and tools to apply to their community. This is an exciting time and we look forward to seeing the program develop! 

Tuesday
Jul082014

Thanks Chevrolet! 

Every few years Breaking Ground reaches out to donors, soccer clubs, and athletic companies for our girls’ soccer program—Breaking Ground Football. Writing letters and making calls on behalf of these brave girls is, however, just a small step in the process. Ngaoundere, where the program operates, is located in the Adamaoua region below northern Cameroon. It’s geographically and culturally the crossroads of this region in Africa. The main paved road from southern Cameroon to northern Cameroon passes by the city, and it’s only a few hundred miles south of Nigeria and west of Central African Republic.

 

With this location, one would think getting equipment here would be a breeze. But this isn’t so. Once equipment is donated, it must be shipped from North America across the Atlantic to arrive in Douala. Once in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, it must be inspected and cleared by customs; a process that too often includes an argument over attempted bribery—this time it took six months! Then, it must travel three hours by bus to Yaoundé to be put on the only viable transport option through this region, the train.

 

Our players anxiously waited for One World Futbol’s indestructible balls. These balls will last a lifetime on Cameroon’s rough football fields. Breaking Ground is fortunate that Chevrolet— the automtive company— not only donated the balls, but assisted in getting them through customs and on the field. Breaking Ground thanks Chevrolet and their Corporate Social Responsibility team for supporting our girls on the field!

 

 


 

Thursday
Feb202014

Kickin' it in Cameroon

Kickin' It In Cameroon - BG Football, an indestructible soccer ball, and a call for digital cameras! Have one you'd like to donate? Get in touch. Want to sponsor a BG Football season? Get in touch! 2014 will be a great year for our soccer players....in fact, it has been already. Read all about it in our latest newsletter

Far Post Soccer Club, Eurosport, and the US Soccer Foundation have donated equipment and uniforms to outfit 6 teams!! 

Thursday
Dec122013

Far Post Soccer Youth Donate to BG Footballers!

This holiday season Breaking Ground Football and Far Post Soccer Club are hosting an equipment drive!!

In order to run a safe and effective soccer program, one of our main needs is equipment. As part of our efforts to secure enough materials for our coaches and teams, we have organized a month-long equipment drive for young players and their families in the Burlington, VT vicinity to donate gently-used soccer equipment. What a great way for American youth to support their Cameroonian soccer-playing peers!!

Just like Far Post players, Breaking Ground Football players learn to work as a team, develop respect for their peers, and strengthen their own sense of confidence and independence. The soccer teams create a second family for young women in Cameroon, where they can discuss life issues and build friendships in a safe and positive environment.  

We've asked the Far Post Soccer community to help support this project and outfit 60 players by donating gently-used cleats, and any other soccer shoes their children have outgrown, spare pairs of shin guards, or other soccer equipment that may be helpful. And, the best part - all equipment will be delivered to Cameroon in March!

Not near Far Post, but still want to help out? Donate directly to Breaking Ground Football or contact Micah Rose or Kierstyn Hunter for more information about getting involved!

Thursday
Nov212013

Indiga Writing

 

It’s early in the morning sometime in January, and although I haven’t had my coffee yet I’m still lucid enough to get the impression that everyone in this room is whispering about me. Who am I kidding- there are no whispers, they’re actually speaking pretty loudly, I just can’t understand them. I speak both French and English, meaning I should be ahead of the game here, so what’s the problem? Well, they’re speaking in Yemba, the patois of the greater Dschang area, including Baleveng where this women’s meeting is being held. But how do I know they’re talking about me? Live in any Cameroonian town long enough and you’re bound to pick up the word for ‘white person’ (in this case it’s something that sounds like ‘indiga,’ in case you were curious).

My social awkwardness aside, it’s probably a good thing they’re talking about me. I am here, after all, to talk to them. As a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Dschang, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Breaking Ground on some of its projects, most notably the Baleveng water project that wrapped up this summer. My first task was what landed me in that room full of older women, a smile plastered across my face and praying someone would switch into a language I understood: meet with the women of the village, communicate with them the project priorities and ensure their opinions, such as where to place the water spigots, were spoken for in the larger plan. Unfortunately hand signals only go so far in describing things like water towers. What does work? Hand-drawn maps (really putting that architecture degree to use!). Oh, and a translator. That helps too.

Cameroon is officially a bilingual country, the two national languages being French and English. And I speak those- gold star for me! A little trickier are the 200 or so local dialects that tend to be people’s first language and vary from village to village. This hasn’t really been a problem for me on a daily basis because in Dschang everyone, or at least everyone I interact with, speaks French. Meaning it’s easy enough for me to give myself a pat on the back for being able to greet people in Yemba when walking around town, because no one really expects me to actually speak it. After greeting me they automatically switch into French anyways, so no further effort on my part is needed.

But here in village it’s a whole different ball game. Most of the older women in the community never received enough of an education to learn French, as that wasn’t the priority when they were growing up. So Yemba it is. Luckily a younger woman, Mabelle, was able to help me translate throughout our meeting. I suspect a few things were still lost in translation- like when a woman would be speaking in Yemba for a good 20 seconds and the response from Mabelle would be, “Yes, she wants water.” But that’s one thing that you’ve just got to roll with when you’re working on the ground here in Cameroon; all the information you need isn’t going to come to you neatly packaged and ready to digest. You’re going to have to cobble together the story from multiple sources is seemingly imperfect pieces until you get a reasonable complete whole. Language is only one of the hurdles to overcome as an outsider working in a community like this- getting used to being called ‘indiga’ all the time takes some getting used to as well.

There are some things, however, that need no translation, and those are the parts that stick with you. After another such women’s meeting at the nearby Chefferie Minka, the whole group stood up and started singing and dancing in appreciation of me for bringing the village water. As if I, the girl who showed up with the notepad pointing to spots on a hand-drawn map, was responsible for all of the effort put forth by others culminating in that moment. That sense of gratitude sticks with you, so much so that it effaces other details of the memory. I don’t remember in what language I managed to squeak out a response, but I know it was this: Thank you.

 

Erin Kelly has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon for one year. She is based in Dschnag and has worked very closely with Breaking Ground and the Community Partnership Project in Baleveng. 

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