August 30, 2013. We don’t want to leave Cambodia. The first-year partnership with Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) has exceeded our own lofty expectations. From the trustees through the staff and into their two schools and football program their positive attitude and enjoyment is evident and infectious. This partnership came about because ISF reached out to CAC to see about capacity-building for their coaches who help to train nearly 3,500 youths through their soccer program and city-wide league.
Already doing a great job with their two schools for the most disadvantaged children in Phnom Penh, ISF want to bring an education element to their football program. The CAC curriculum and philosophy matches that of ISF. During our two weeks we taught over 40 of our games focusing on Health & Wellness (including HIV), gender equity, and conflict resolution while also addressing general coaching improvement tips. We also watched as these ISF coaches immediately implement what they learned in their afternoon training sessions with various youth teams including one group with intellectual disability. It is great to see coaches implement the CAC curriculum so quickly and proficiently to their players.
Another great point to mention with ISF is their focus on the most disadvantaged youth in Cambodia. Their schools accept children from two of the poorest areas in Phnom Penh with the goal of educating them to advance into the state school system and then into university. This week we learned that their first student has just been accepted to university. The coaches also come from these same backgrounds, many of whom attended the ISF schools. Instead of a life collecting recyclables from garbage dumps or working in the sex industry as some of their neighbors must do to survive, many coaches now have employment through ISF teaching the next generation of Cambodia’s youth. They take this role extremely serious in preparation for each training while keeping the trainings themselves enjoyable for the students with the right mix of laughter, teaching, and smiles – just like CAC!
During the final week ISF opened our free training to outside coaches from all over Cambodia. We received NGOs from Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battanbang, and other cities over a half day away. A fun group were the six coaches from the Deaf Development Program who learned the games alongside their hearing counterparts and also taught the rules of the games to each other and CAC coaches through signing. The final member of our training participants was Leo, who is on the ISF Board of Trustees. Although he grew up a rugby player in Australia, his enthusiasm for soccer shone through as he watched his coaches and football program take large steps forward in their coaching abilities and in the social impact messages that they now incorporate with the CAC games. Indochina Starfish Foundation will continue to impact the lives of the children throughout Phnom Penh through their schools and football program, working hand in hand.