October 8, 2013. Picture a tropical island that tourists forgot about. The blue clear water laps the shore, where palm trees provide shade. The sandy soil quickly turns into lush green forests that creep onto the narrow roadways. Biak island is part paradise, but also a developing community in the eastern reaches of Indonesia. There is a strong European and American influence from past missionaries and General MacArthur who fought and liberated this island from the Japanese in WWII. But for various reasons the direct international flights to Biak stopped over ten years ago, tourists stopped coming, and the lone five-star resort in all of Papua also deteriorated back into the jungle.
Coaches Across Continents is here because of Uni Papua Biak, the local branch of EMSYK Uni Papua who we worked with last week in Jayapura. Although a small island with just 140,000 people, we had 45 coaches attend every training sessions. Together they mentor over 2,500 youth on the island. Having an international group like Coaches Across Continents come to Biak was important to the people here, who are sometimes overlooked by outside groups and even their own government. We were welcomed warmly, and even citizens of Biak city were happy to see us as we wandered around. After our week concluded we were told we were the first international coaches to visit Biak, ever.
Soccer is important here, with the local team Persipura winning the Indonesian league last year. The youth coaches are keen to pick up whatever knowledge they can, and very quickly saw the power of football to teach other life lessons. This was helped by our translator Wesly and other members of the Uni Papua team who understand the social impact of this fun game. Although the scenery is idyllic, problems exist here in Biak. HIV rates are high, there is a lack of economic development and markets for goods from Biak, and other issues. Uni Papua Biak realizes this, and knows of the work CAC has done to help local communities around the world tackle their own problems.
After training for one week with our coaches, we are already excited to see what progress they can make in the next twelve months before we return. Armed with a curriculum that teaches social impact as well as football, we know that this group of coaches can effect a large segment of the youth on this small island. The tourists might be temporarily gone, but Uni Papua and CAC are here together with our Hat Trick Initiative.