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Preparing For Circus Class, on the Other Side of the World

Wawan Kuriawan, 18, is from Cilincing, an impoverished fishing village in North Jakarta, Indonesia, and is in the last few weeks of preparation before he heads off on an adventure to the United States and Canada for four months of intensive circus training.

Wawan at a community circus performance

Poverty meant that Wawan had to drop out of school at a young age. But in 2009, he joined the Red Nose Foundation’s Arts and Education Outreach Program at Cilincing and has proven himself as a keen student of circus arts and other skills such as English.

Wawan, who works at a small warung (restaurant) to help support his family, is talented, and has the makings of a successful social circus instructor and circus performer. Travelling to the U.S. to further his knowledge and skills, and experience a world outside of Cilincing, will change his life.

Cilincing is a subdistrict on the shoreline of Tanjung Priok harbor. It is a large and densely packed and populated kampung (village), and those who live here in their makeshift shacks are considered to be squatters with no legal ownership of the land. Children, women and men work hard for little reward: they catch and dry fish or they harvest, boil and remove the meat from mussels, usually working their way through a steaming pile of boiled muscles on the concrete ground outside their own home. The smell is overwhelming. The flies are relentless.

Cilincing, North Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Google maps

Cilincing is located in North Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Google Maps

Many people here fall below the country’s national poverty line – living on less than US$2 a day and access to formal education is not a guarantee for children who are born and raised here. The challenging circumstances and lack of access to education is a key reason why the Red Nose Foundation was established here.

Wawan, a shy and sensible boy, is setting out on an experience that most from Cilincing would not have thought not possible. It will be a life changing experience for Wawan, and it very well may change some perceptions that he, his family, friends, and fellow RNF students back home might have about life and possibilities.

While in the U.S., Wawan will train with Paul Miller at Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Kentucky, and with Wolfgang Bientzle of CirquesExperience, Actors Gymnasium, and Nourbol Meirmanov of MSA & Circus Arts, in Chicago, IL.

In late June, Wawan will travel to Vancouver to train with Travis Johnson at the Vancouver Circus School team.

In July, Wawan will compete in the 10th Wheel Gymnastics World Championships in Chicago. Wheel2013 is presented by the USA Wheel Gymnastics Federation, American Sokol, and the International Wheel Gymnastics Federation and attracts approximately 150 athletes from more than 25 different countries. Wawan will be the first Indonesian ever to join the competition.

Wawan will be trained by professional wheel acrobat and coach Wolfgang Bientzle, an 8-time world champion in wheel acrobats.

Wawan’s visa has been approved and the RNF team continue to work with Wawan on his English language skills, and are having fun familiarizing him with some of the differences between Eastern and Western culture, differences that for someone like Wawan, coming from Cilincing, might find a little intimidating at first.

Red Nose Foundation is raising money to help cover Wawan’s expenses during his four-month circus training trip through the U.S. and Canada. Every little bit counts. Donations can be made to our GoFundMe page. The Red Nose Foundation would like thank all of those who have already donated money, time, and resources to help Wawan make this circus training trip a reality.

Video production by Gijs Daemon | Text by Jacqueline Wales

Dan Roberts, Executive Director of the Red Nose Foundation, is a founding member of ASCA.

This article originally appeared on the Red Nose Foundation’s blog.

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