Tag Archives: do-goodery

Soccer and social innovation

I recently became aware of a social innovation* organization called Changemakers, “a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions.” The site hosts, among other things,  contests designed to feature and fund worthy programs, and the one that’s caught my eye is the “Changing Lives Through Football” competition.

Finally, the event is in the voting phase which goes until August 18, 2010. Finalists are eligible to win prize money totaling $90,000 USD to foster real change in the world. I voted for Soccer 4 Hope (and you can, too, here) because they’re operating out of Cape Town and focus specifically on the empowerment of girls and women through soccer.

And in soccer-changes-the-world news from much closer to home (like, Lamport Stadium), I’m only three days away from participating in the Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament. That’s only three more days of fund raising, the proceeds of which will go to Athletes for Africa’s partner organizations in northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Sudan. If you think this is a worthwhile and effective example of social innovation, sponsor me at www.myathletesforafrica.com/ksenett. EVERY donation get a tax receipt.

*Interested in learning more about social innovation? Check out these organizations currently on my radar: the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and Open IDEO, an online crowd sourcing platform.


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Getting ready to Rock the Pitch

Do-gooding organization alert: Athletes for Africa “is a nonprofit organization that uses the power and profile of sport to promote global citizenship and empower the next generation of youth in Africa.”*

A4A is the organization behind Rock the Pitch, a charity soccer tournament taking place at Lamport Stadium on August 14. Participants include commoners like me and local celebrities, and everybody raises money to send to A4A’s partner organizations in Africa.

I’d like to direct all readers to my team’s fund raising page:

Click, give a little, and then come out to Lamport on the 14th to watch us compete. The first celebrity signings were confirmed yesterday and include former Toronto FC captain and Canadian national team member Jimmy Brennan. (This is going to be so embarrassing.)

*A4A organizes charity sporting events to raise money that goes towards assisting their partner organizations:

– Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (Uganda)
– War Child Canada (Democratic Republic of Congo)
– African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Canada (Southern Sudan)

More details available on the A4A Programs page.

P.S. Safe travels and good luck to all my friends currently converging on Cologne for the Gay Games 2010.

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Soccer really can make the world a better place

This blog got some press recently in “The Great Game,” an article published in the July 2010 issue of INToronto Magazine. I was interviewed by writer Scott Dagostino during a World Cup viewing party at Downtown Soccer Toronto sponsor bar Gladaman’s Den.

Not to get all misty about it but soccer really can make the world a better place.
– Me, being emo.

I’d blame the histrionics on the beer (or goalie Green’s epic fumble), but you all know I really feel that way. And to prove that I’m right, my name – and Downtown Soccer Toronto’s – also appeared in a press release this week announcing that the membership of Downtown Soccer Toronto has chosen The Justin Campaign as the charity recipient of partial proceeds of our 2010/2011 calendar (for sale at the DST booth on Church just north of Isabella this Pride Toronto weekend). Named after out gay footballer Justin Fashanu, The Justin Campaign seeks to challenge homophobia in football (soccer) through education and programs including the Football v Homophobia Initiative. See? Better place.

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Great news from the Eastern Cape: “Let Us Protect Our Future!” a go!

All over the world, the bureaucratic machine moves slowly. Organizations lumber towards results, interrupted by fiscal years and approval processes. Sometimes brilliant ideas wither and expire before before they’ve had a chance at the table.

In Africa, action sometimes masquerades as idleness. Initiative must take an indirect path. It’s anti-intuitive to the western visitor, and can test our patience. This is no place for frenzied activity, for make-work. Results come more easily to those who understand that the companionable conversation is part of negotiation, not a distraction.

So imagine my surprise to hear that in the meager five months since I left the Eastern Cape, Craig has succeeded where many have given up in frustration. This story picks up where my visit to the Duncan Village Day Hospital left off, way back in October ’09. Here’s what I remember most: Nomalizo’s confident, friendly, energetic face. She was the peer educator who handled the PMTCT workshop in the hospital’s crowded corridor, giving her presentation in both isiXhosa and English. Word was that project funding was set to expire in December ’09 so Craig was there to see if he could employ the peer presenters through his department.

I kept up with the status of the proposal by monitoring Craig’s uniformly exhausted-sounding status updates. Then, recently, this: “Craig Carty just got the email stating that the contract with the hospital network has been signed!!! Prevention education for South Africa’s most at-risk kids a go!!!” In this case (and only in this case), I can excuse the flagrant abuse of exclamation points. This is really big news.

In Craig’s own words (detailed, and very much worth the read):

Adolescent-centered health care is missing from provincial, government-run hospitals. Kids between 10-19 are lumped in with adults, thus many of them become “lost to follow-up” or return to clinics with “adult” problems.  We know that the highest rate of HIV in this country is diagnosed in 20-25 year olds, therefore it is assumed that most contract the illness in their teens. Often they present at hospitals with advanced stages of AIDS as indicated by opportunistic infections which only arise in patients with seriously-damaged immune systems.  If you couple the problems of overburdened ARV clinics with consistent issues of funding, kids presenting with AIDS are kids without a fighting chance at survival.  That’s the reality.  Plus, South Africa just stepped up their treatment standards to match those of the rest of the world in December of 2009.

We created an adolescent-centered education program based upon years of research and data collection from area amaXhosa communities. It is called “Let Us Protect Our Future!” and is co-authored by Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott and Ms. Lynette Gueits.  Initially, it was designed for dissemination within the Department of Educaton as a tool to augment the existing life skills programs.  For logistical reasons, this fell through.  Working with the provincial government, particularly with certain departments, can be daunting (think meetings to discuss meetings to discuss meetings to discuss funding to discuss “how much we’ll get out of this,” etc.).

Shortly after my arrival in South Africa, I was approached by a very passionate physician working within the hospitals of the Eastern Cape. She proposed looking at the manner by which we could disseminate our prevention education program within hospitals, drawing from the patient populations in abortion clinics, maternity wards, HIV care clinics, casualty care (abused kids), pediatrics and chronic care (diabetics, etc.). So we did.

We sent the curriculum to the adolescent division of the CDC for analysis. The feedback was great.  We met with the CEO of local hospitals (Frere and Cecilia Makiwane) as well as the Chief of Clinical Governance.  We developed a 20-page Memorandum of Understanding (ugh) so that we could ultimately “gift” our work unto the health department over the course of about 12 months.  They agreed to integrate the campaign into their 5-year fiscal program which, conveniently, started in April of this year.  But the contract-signing part dragged on and on.  It was a nail-biting experience since our training team was waiting in the wings with airline tickets reserved and I was working long nights perfecting the art of panic.

On March 31, 2010, they signed the contract. For all intents and purposes, it was a go and I was able to sleep through the night (only to wake up on April Fool’s Day wondering if it was a joke—it wasn’t).

This new program will provide a foundation that will demonstrate to the Provincial Dept of Health that the construction of new adolescent wings within our two major launch hospitals is an imperative. I was once told by a high-ranking government official that “first, you must prove that you can work in the conditions provided.”  Then, she added, “ If you can make it work, they will build you space.”  So we’re cramming ourselves into unused waiting areas adjacent to abortion clinics for the first round of pilots. And we’ll make it work.

One pediatric physician was concerned that her HIV + kids would be left out. Not so.  Those already living with HIV will be educated in terms of prevention of transmission (commonly referred to as “prevention for positives”) alongside those without HIV.  Since all the sessions are run in groups of 10-20, this will build a sense of fellowship and reduce stigma.

That same physician expressed worry about the work burden on her staff. No need to fret, I said.  The “Let Us Protect Our Future!” campaign is designed to be self-sustaining through the employment of people like Nomalizo Nonkwelo who was recruited from a de-funded prevention education project in Duncan Village. For a minimal financial output, the hospitals will maximize the reduction of repeat cases of abortion, STI treatments, etc. through empowering their most vulnerable patients.  In the long term, we’ll be reducing the burden.  In addition, we have integrated the National Campaign for HIV Counseling and Testing into the curriculum.  All participants will be referred for HIV-testing if they have not already been.

During my last conversation with the Chief of Clinical Governance (an amazingly calm and collected woman despite her incredibly-stressful post) stated, “I hope you are ready to be very busy.  Every hospital in the Eastern Cape will want this campaign once we’ve completed the integration in our two hospitals.” Her assertion is great news, indeed!  We’ll just have to muster up the energy (and funds!) to make it happen.

Once the pilots are completed and the campaign is successfully integrated, we anticipate drawing on even more of the de-funded agencies to hire more staff to hopefully enact this program in all hospitals throughout the province (but I’ve got my sights set on the entire country). It’s a lofty goal, but I have a capable, eager and determined team with a vested interest in stopping the epidemic in its tracks within this demographic.  I’ve also been told that I’m too idealistic and that burn-out is right around the corner.  Perhaps, but if South Africa foresees a future free of HIV, directing initiatives and funds toward the highest-risk populations in the highest-risk settings is key to making this happen and we’ll just have to buck up and deal.
– Craig Carty, “Let Us Protect Our Future!” campaign

Maybe this by-line should be “Craig Carty, Bureaucratic Machine-slayer”. Bravo to you for having the meetings about having meetings, and for getting your vision to the table. I could not be more impressed, my friend.

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Do-goodery on wheels (Call for sponsorship)

The Friends for Life Bike Rally is an annual week-long cycling trip (Toronto – Montreal) fund raiser with proceeds going to the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. If you live in Toronto, you might know somebody who’s done or is doing this amazing ride. I do, and I’ve offered to help him publicize his effort through the blog. Why? A couple of reasons: The FFL rally is a creative and interesting fund raiser for super-good cause, and Christopher is a fellow soccer player having his own adventure in do-goodery.

Also, after watching him dance around in various states of undress, a little PR was the least I could do. Let me explain: Christopher Hayden’s alias is Bruin Pounder, and he’s a performer in BoylesqueTO, Toronto’s all-male burlesque troupe. He’s also the founder of the ARTWHERK! Collective, and an all-around good guy. Though he’s not sharing all of his plans for the event just yet, he confides that Bruin will making an appearance somewhere along the 660km ride.

“This will be my first year participating in the ride,” says Christopher. “One of my main interests in this event is supporting the PWA. They have been leaders in providing support to people living with AIDS in Toronto since 1987. This isn’t something I’m doing necessarily as a gay guy, because HIV/AIDS affects people from so many different communities. I am doing the ride to support my city, promote HIV/AIDS prevention and to help provide services to people that are living with AIDS. Money is great but so is participation. We owe it to our communities to tell stories and advocate for things we believe in.”

What do you get for your donation, you ask?

“Any donations over $20 get a tax receipt … and my plan is to make a t-shirt with the names of all the people who sponsor me on it. I will wear it one day during the ride to show Canada who has got my back (literally and figuratively) for this challenge.”

Ready to make your tax-deductible donation and get your name on that shirt? Click here to reach Christopher’s donor page.

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“Proud of playing clean, quality soccer and proud of being out gay athletes.”

This blog was not yet a twinkle in my eye when I travelled to London, UK to participate in the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association’s annual World Cup tournament in 2007. That year I had the good fortune to play on a team comprised of players from Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Toronto, all under the banner of the Washington Federal Triangles team (they supplied the crisp white unis for which I am ever-grateful; I look as handsome as I ever have in that team picture). It was on this team that I met my partner in do-goodery Craig, aka Lady Kennaway. Thus the seeds for this blog and the adventures herein were sewn on the pitches at Regents Park.

Deservedly, Craig has gotten a lot of press here but I met some other extraordinary people that week too. People like Dennis Fish, the vice-president of the Federal Triangles. I remember Dennis most for his energy, humour, and one of the finest hair-dos DC has to offer.

Dennis is also extremely organized. I found out about the Football v. Homophobia Initiative a little too late to organize any games here in Toronto but not so Dennis. Working with The Justin Campaign organizers, Dennis and his team the FTSC (Federal Triangles Soccer Club) Dixie Kicks arranged to play their regularly-scheduled Saturday game at the Fairfax Sportsplex in Springfield, VA wearing their pink and black Football v. Homophobia T-shirts.

The Dixie Kicks support the Football v. Homphobia Initiative, February 19, 2010

The Dixie Kicks support the Football v. Homophobia Initiative, February 19, 2010

Dennis was kind enough to talk to me about the experience of “coming out” for a cause at his local sports facility.

K.S.: Tell me about your team and what it was like to participate in this event.

D.F.: We’re the FTSC Dixie Kicks.  We play coed, indoor soccer during the winter at the Fairfax Sportsplex in Springfield, VA.  We’ve been playing for the last three years, roughly.  Most of our team is made up of gay and lesbian players, but we do have at least one straight player.

Before I committed us to anything, I emailed the team and asked if they were comfortable playing in “Football v. Homophobia” regalia.  I actually didn’t think the response would be as positive as it was.  Everyone was excited about it.

It felt really amazing playing in our [Initiative] shirts.  We’ve never really made an issue of our being a gay team at the Fairfax Sportsplex, so in a sense, it was our “coming out”! Everyone on the team was super-pumped and proud. Proud of playing clean, quality soccer, and proud of being out gay athletes. Even our one straight player was just thrilled and could not have been more proud of her teammates.

K.S.: What was the reaction at the SportsPlex?

D.F.: The Sportsplex was great.  I contacted the league director beforehand, and she was fine with it.  The referee at our game was very cool, and even complimented our shirts and said it was a good thing we were doing.

K.S.: Why is it important to “come out” in this way? Does it matter if the other teams in that league know that you are gay?

D. F.: FTSC teams have been playing at the Fairfax Sportsplex for years.  And I’m not sure if we’ve ever officially “come out” before.  At the same time, we’ve never denied who we are.  But, I thought the “Football v. Homophobia” event was the perfect opportunity to just be ourselves and play in support of this good cause.

I have no  problem with other teams knowing I’m gay. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m who I am.

The final word today goes to Amal Fashanu, Justin Fashanu’s niece, who participated in the Initiative and gave an interview to the BBC about the Justin Campaign (click to see video of the interview).

[The Justin Campaign] is the first sign [of] moving towards a better football, a better game where everyone can be more open and who they want to be.
– Amal Fashanu

Amen, sister.

To learn more or to contribute to the Justin Campaign, visit their site at www.thejustincampaign.com.

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Football v Homophobia: get involved with the Initiative from the Justin Campaign

It’s a World Cup year and football is on everyone’s lips. Despite the predictably dour pronouncement of six more weeks of winter, I’ve been cleaning out the kit bag and slapping the dirt off my cleats while the season unfolds outside my window. Green shoots will push their way from under the hard-packed dirt of Withrow park again, and when the time comes, I’ll be warmed up.

Turns out, I’m not the only one dreaming of the pitch. Some of you are preparing to take the long flight to South Africa to watch a Cup match in one of the many spanking new stadia that have been erected across the country. My South African friends gloat about the busy building and planning, the hum of industry that is taking place while the country explodes into the throes of summer. I grudgingly follow their status updates, icy fingers poking out from under the perimeter of my Snuggie, consoling myself with the thin comfort that at least I don’t have a sun burn.

It’s no secret that I have fallen in love with this game, that it has become a setting in which to base my personal plot. I have discovered my own effectiveness out in the world by doing what soccer players do: following the ball. I acknowledge that it’s easier to speak glowingly of the game I love than to be critical, but there is a damaging, divisive side that should not go unchallenged. In many parts of the world, girls are still not welcomed to play. And homophobia is still entrenched – a default position enforced through insensitive game chants and song in England and other parts of the world. Happily, I am discovering a movement, a revolution of like-minded soccer activists who are putting their backs into the task of keeping this game beautiful.

During this grey February, Darren Ollerton is also dreaming about the pitch. Darren is the Director of The Justin Campaign, the organization behind the Football v Homophobia Initiative which is designating February 19 as “one day out of each year where fans, players and clubs can express their dissaproval of homophobia in the beautfiul game.”

Recently I caught up with Darren to get the skinny. Excerpts from our interview are below:

KS: Who was Justin Fashanu and why have you chosen to name your campaign after him?

DO: Justin Fashanu was an English footballer who played for quite a variety of clubs between the years 1978 and 1997. His 1981 transfer to Nottingham Forest FC made him the UK’s first million pound black footballer and he was awarded the BBC Goal of the season award in 1980 for an absolutely incredible (incredibly impossible) goal against Liverpool FC. For all of his talent Justin Fashanu is unfortunately chiefly remembered for two things: one, being the first and only out gay professional footballer; and two, for committing suicide.

The Justin Campaign was launched ten years after Fashanu’s suicide. [Since then] his name [has only been] surfacing as a warning to other football players contemplating being more open about their sexuality. We use Justin Fashanu to spearhead our campaign because…he still remains the only out gay professional football player in history [and] we think that demonstrates a significant problem with homophobia in the game.

KS: What is the mission of the Justin Campaign?

DO: The Justin Campaign will continue to Challenge, Involve, Educate and Represent, until the visibility of gay and bisexual players in professional football is accepted and celebrated… Challenge homophobia, stereotypes and misconceptions; Involve all regardless of sexuality, gender, religion, race, disability, ability or background; Educate clubs, coaches, youth, players and fans; and Represent the under-represented in football, Represent the LGBT community.

KS: What is the Football v Homophobia Initiative?

DO: Football v Homophobia is an opportunity to raise awareness of homophobia in amateur and professional football; to unite clubs, players and fans internationally by using the game of football to bring communities together in opposing hate and intolerance in the world’s favourite sport.

It as much a celebration as it is a day of protest, it’s about showing the rest of the world that different communities can enjoy the sport together, It’s about different teams, from different faiths, cultures, backgrounds and creeds, of different gender, race and sexuality. Celebrating our diversity and our individuality but brought together by the common love of football.

KS: How can people – particularly those in North America – get involved in the Initiative?

DO: In so many ways!! Organise a football match or even a tournament with teams in your area! It doesn’t have to be a huge event! Use the Football v Homophobia logo to promote the Initiative! Speak to your local press, local community groups, other sports teams and organisations about Football v Homophobia. Organise a sports pub quiz, inform your local professional soccer clubs and ask them to host the initiatives logo on their website with a message of support. Make a donation to Football v Homophobia or buy one of our badges to ensure the growth of this initiative annually. Check out our website www.thejustincampaign.com and speak to the team who are more than happy to help you develop any ideas you may have about your involvement.

KS: What’s your favourite position?

DO: We are talking about football, aren’t we?

KS: Naturally.

DO: Defense!!

So there you have it – mark your calendars for February 19, and contact your locals leagues to see what they’re doing to support this event. In the meantime, follow the Initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE: Yesterday Darren Ollerton forwarded this blog post written by ex-NBA baller John Amaechi in which he discusses the circumstances surrounding the FA’s anti-homophobia video. An excerpt from the post: “The FA & the Premier league through Kick It Out are trying to address the symptoms and not the cause of the problem of prejudice and bigotry – and do it as cheaply as possible!  The importance of LGBT fans and players to the high echelons of football can be summed up by the £10,000 budget for the entire anti-homophobia project.” An interesting read.

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