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The Tidal Wave of #SocialCircusday

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, something magical happened. Fifty-nine organizations and individuals from 32 countries across ALL continents on Earth worked together to create a tidal wave of joy and happiness. They celebrated the joy of social circus in local communities across the world through various ways.

The day would forever be remembered as the first ever #SocialCircusDay.

The celebration took place everywhere, from the east to the west, from the north to the south. Saturday morning came first in Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun. Our friends from Spin Matsuri held a fun circus workshop for the rural kids in Chiba prefecture. “I had a good ‪#‎SocialCircusDay‬. So many happy faces, so much movement, so much awesome support from friends and neighbors”, said Kristen “Tick” McQuillin, the Ringmaster of Spin Matsuri. As you can see in the photo below, they had a lot of fun and laughter.

In mere hours, the fun spread to Australia. In Albury, New South Wales, Flying Fruit Fly Circus invited local kids to meet the cast of their performance shows. In nearby Fairy Meadow in Wollongong, Social Circus had a morning tea session where people can come, watch circus performance, and discuss on how circus can help youth at risk, special needs group, homeless and hungry people, refugees, and anyone with no access to arts. Meanwhile, in St. Kilda, Victoria, TrainStation Dance and Fitness opened their studio for the public – especially newcomers interested in circus – free of charge, so everyone can feel the positive value of circus.

Moving northwest to Southeast Asia, where social circus has seen rapid growth in recent years. In Indonesia, Red Nose Foundation did a performance at an elementary school, giving motivation to the local students to dream big. Not far away in Krabi, Thailand, Balloon Circus gave an open workshop in a public park. Serious Fun Yangon of Myanmar also ran shows, workshops, and a photo exhibition to celebrate the day. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, Phare Ponleu Selpak reinvested in local culture by teaching circus and performing arts to the kids in slum areas. The celebration in PPS was joined by young circus artists from Indonesia and Afghanistan, who were in Cambodia for several weeks for a joint circus workshop to prepare for the Tini Tinou circus festival on April 28 – May 8.

These photos may have you believe that circus is all about silliness and laughter. While this is true, circus is also believed to have deep positive impacts in psychological trauma healing. Our buddies at the Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC) in Afghanistan celebrated the day with local kids in refugee camps, injecting the atmosphere with much-needed laughter and levity.

Afghan MMCC’s celebration gained support from Europe. In Denmark, the Dansk MMCC held a street performance in Copenhagen city centre to support their Afghan colleagues. While in Luxembourg, 9-year-old Sophia opened a garden concert especially dedicated for the kids in Afghanistan. “I saw so many happy faces and smiling children. It also made me happy and smile and I wanted to collect money for this circus. I was thinking how can I do that,” Sophia said on her motivation to contribute for a good cause at such a young age.

Other European-based groups were also celebrating for good cause. In Helsinki, Finland, Sirkus Magenta held a show in a retirement home, while  Open Tsirkus Stage in Tallinn, Estonia, provided circus training for long-term unemployed adults. Circus celebrations with disadvantaged people were seen in Spain and Italy. Escola de Circ Saltimbanqui in Barcelona and Fondazione Uniti Per Crescere Insieme Onlus of Turin held circus performances and workshops for people with disabilities.

Celebrations also spread like fireworks in Africa. Circus Zambia in Lusaka celebrated the day with marginalized children in Chibolya Compound, bringing smiles to them. “Social circus is about using circus as a tool to bring social change. And that is exactly what we do in Chibolya…Building a place where you can run, jump, fly and land safely!!!” Circus Zambia posted on their Facebook page. In South Africa, ActionArte Foundation did a street parade, while Zip Zap circus made a visit to a farmland for a family day. Fekat Circus in Ethiopia also performed in a public space, while SENCIRK in Dakar, Senegal, gave a workshop at a street kids shelter. Across the sea from the continent, Aléa des Possibles visited public elementary school in Antananarivo, Madagascar, for free performances and workshops.

In North America, circus has been a mainstay in popular culture for decades and many groups in the United States and Canada joined the celebrations, big time!  Holistic Circus Therapy and Trapeze Texas, for example, provided circus class for their local communities free of charge. Circus Harmony performed in a museum and promoting a book “Watch Out for Flying Kids” that tells stories about how downtown high class and sub-urban slums can build a great team in Circus Harmony, as well as Jewish and Arabic do in Circus Galilee. Wise Fool in New Mexico held a street parade as a campaign against children abuse, while Seattle’s SANCA made a circus flash mob!

Moving south to the Latin world, festive celebrations took place all around. In Puerto Rico, Educare’s Circus School invited the parents of their circus students to enjoy the laughter of circus. Circo Social Cuenca that uses circus to teach soft skills also celebrated with their kids. Bigote de Gato in Peru held a public show and workshop. In El Salvador, Sombrila Arte y Circo Social held a massive performing art celebration in the city hall, brought smiles and laughter to thousands eyewitnesses, and flooding the #SocialCircusDay hashtag in social media!

In total, social media websites were flooded by over 550 postings marked with “#SocialCircusDay” from 35 countries. There were also countless other unmarked postings showing Social Circus Day celebrations across the globe. For the first celebration, this is great! All participants have successfully brought joy and laughter to thousands of communities around the world. Through #SocialCircusDay, circus artists and enthusiasts everywhere celebrated the positive impacts of social circus in empowering local communities. In the end, this is what #SocialCircusDay is all about.

Next year, the celebration will come again, in bigger, louder, and more colorful ways. See you next year!

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Social Circus Organizations Across Asia Wants You!

ASCA seeks qualified circus performers to join three of its members as volunteer for 12 months!

One of the needs most often voiced by ASCA member organizations are qualified volunteers – individuals highly trained in the techniques and arts of circus and is willing to take a plunge into the world of deprived communities in the Third World to help them build dreams.

If you think you can answer this need, apply to our volunteer program and have a 12-month volunteering trip across three social circus organizations in Asia: Red Nose Foundation (Indonesia), Phare Ponleu Selpak (Cambodia), and Mobile Mini Circus for Children (Afghanistan)!

In order to be able to participate in this program, applicants must:

  1. Be 18 years or older.
  2. Be a professional circus artist / teacher.
  3. Have five-year experience of working in circus-based organizations.
  4. Have five-year experience of working with children.
  5. Have strong passion, energy (mental and physical), and willingness to work in social circus causes.
  6. Have strong interpersonal skills and ability to establish and maintain effective working relations in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment with and respect for diversity.
  7. Be enthusiastic and willing to learn about the role of social circus in peace and development.
  8. Be willing to take a plunge into the environment of Third World underprivileged communities, which can be a little harsh.
  9. Have internet proficiency as well as proficiency in MS Word or other word processor software (volunteers are required to write about their experiences periodically for the ASCA Blog).
  10. Experience in volunteering a strong asset.
  11. Experience in non – formal education an asset.

 

Expenses:

During the volunteer program, ASCA will cover the following expenses:

  • Room & board (with a minimum standard of comfort)
  • Local transportation
  • 3 (three) meals per day or an equivalent stipend
  • Monthly stipend based on each country’s standard minimum wage

Volunteers will be responsible for:

  • International travel expenses, approx. $2,200 – $2,600 (depends on the volunteers’ domicile) for 1 year worth of travelling
  • Required vaccinations
  • Visa expenses

 

REGISTER NOW! Download this form, complete it, and send it to asca@rednosefoundation.org!

ASCA Volunteer Application Form – Fill In Text

ASCA Volunteer Program – Terms of Reference

Volunteers who pass the selection process will be subject to rigorous background check.

Program will begin in first half of 2015!

ASCA Volunteer Program is Open! Apply Now!

Ever wish to have a one-year trek across Asia while contributing your passion and energy to three worthy causes along the journey?

Apply to ASCA’s VOLUNTEER PROGRAM now and work with underprivileged communities in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Afghanistan!

Volunteers in this program will be able to work with these three social circus organizations:

  • Red Nose Foundation, in Jakarta – Indonesia (website)
  • Phare Ponleu Selpak, in Battambang – Cambodia (website)
  • Mobile Mini Circus for Children, in Kabul – Afghanistan (website)

Through social circus techniques, these organizations work with underprivileged and/or at-risk local communities to help them develop resilience, self-reliance, confidence, trust, and ultimately happiness and hope for a better future.

One of the needs most often voiced by ASCA member organizations are qualified volunteers – individuals highly trained in the techniques and arts of circus and is willing to take a plunge into the world of deprived communities in the Third World to help the inhabitants build dreams.

On the other hand, ASCA has often received e-mails from willing volunteers from across the globe who are facing difficulties in finding the right circus organizations in Asia where they can participate in worthy causes while also sharing their circus knowledge to spread joy to others.

Through this volunteer program, ASCA plans to connect the dot between these two groups (member organizations and willing volunteers) in the hope of building a stable network between people in the West and the East, the North and the South, so that together we are able to build a better world – using circus arts!

 

Expenses:

During the volunteer program, ASCA will cover the following expenses:

  • Room & board (with a minimum standard of comfort)
  • Local transportation
  • 3 (three) meals per day or an equivalent stipend
  • Monthly stipend based on each country’s standard minimum wage

Volunteers will be responsible for:

  • International travel expenses, approx. $2,200 – $2,600 (depends on the volunteers’ domicile) for 1 year worth of travelling
  • Required vaccinations
  • Visa expenses

 

Eligibility Requirement

In order to be able to participate in this program, applicants must:

  1. Be 18 years or older.
  2. Be a professional circus artist / teacher.
  3. Have five-year experience of working in circus-based organizations.
  4. Have five-year experience of working with children.
  5. Have strong passion, energy (mental and physical), and willingness to work in social circus causes.
  6. Have strong interpersonal skills and ability to establish and maintain effective working relations in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment with and respect for diversity.
  7. Be enthusiastic and willing to learn about the role of social circus in peace and development.
  8. Be willing to take a plunge into the environment of Third World underprivileged communities, which can be a little harsh.
  9. Have internet proficiency as well as proficiency in MS Word or other word processor software (volunteers are required to write about their experiences periodically for the ASCA Blog).
  10. Experience in volunteering a strong asset.
  11. Experience in non – formal education an asset.

 

APPLY NOW! Complete the Application Form and send it to asca@rednosefoundation.org!

ASCA Volunteer Application Form – Fill In Text

ASCA Volunteer Program – Terms of Reference

Volunteers who pass the selection process will be subject to rigorous background check.

Program will begin in first half of 2015!

Help Phare Get a Permanent Home in Siem Reap!

Cambodian circus group Phare Ponleu Selpak, a member of ASCA, is doing a crowd-funding campaign to purchase a plot of land for its permanent home in Siem Reap!

Visit their crowd-funding page here and join the campaign!

Since February 2013, Phare artists have come to Siem Reap and astonished audiences at nightly shows with their passion, emotion, enthusiasm, dedication and talent. They perform in an authentic, traditional red big top in the center of Siem Reap that seats over 300 people.

 

 

A permanent home means a secure, stable future

The big top in Siem Reap is on rented land, which means high cost and an uncertain future. Rent is increasing dramatically, terms are becoming difficult and rent contracts are easily broken. To provide a more secure, stable source of employment for the artists, Phare needs to purchase land for a permanent site. Owning our own land protects against cost increases, which means more income goes to the artists and to the children of the school.

Land prices in Siem Reap are astronomically high and increasing fast, as a result of booming tourism industry. As a modest social enterprise, we can’t compete with huge real-estate projects. In addition, we need well situated land in town, easily visible and accessible to tourists who only stay in town for a couple of days, but will cost a little bit more. With your help, a permanent site can be purchased and continued success and sustainability assured.

 

Phare Ponleu Selpak student

Photo: Quinn Ryan Mattingly

 

A permanent home means a secure, stable future

The big top in Siem Reap is on rented land, which means high cost and an uncertain future. Rent is increasing dramatically, terms are becoming difficult and rent contracts are easily broken. To provide a more secure, stable source of employment for the artists, Phare needs to purchase land for a permanent site. Owning our own land protects against cost increases, which means more income goes to the artists and to the children of the school.

 

You can help

Your gift means the difference between a more certain or uncertain future for these young Cambodian artists. A permanent site assures them stable, gainful employment through the viability of the social enterprise.  Any contribution large or small will bring them one step closer. Please donate today and share this page with your friends, family and co-workers. Please share the story on your blog, social media page and in personal emails to your network.

 

Tipping Point Goal: $50,000

Total Funding Goal: $200,000

 

Reaching our tipping point

US$ 50,000 will allow us to make the first payment on a permanent, secure home for the performance venue! The artists who pour so much of their passion, effort and emotion into their craft will have more certain job prospects and a brighter future. The money raised will be solely dedicated to buying the land. You can be sure that your donation will have maximum impact on artists and children throughout the organization.

 

Our total goal

The total cost of the land purchase and site construction will be slightly over US$500,000. The difference between donations received and total cost will be made up for by loans with interest. The less that has to be borrowed means more can go to those who need it the most; the artists, their families and the children educated by the organization.

Fruit Flies at Sydney Opera House

The Flying Fruit Fly Circus will be performing at the Sydney Opera House in January 2014. For more information click here.

MMCC Provides the Entertainment for a Picnic in Paghman

The Mobile Mini Circus for Children in Kabul, Afghanistan, were recently featured on Voice of America (VOA). VOA were there to cover MMCC’s first open air performance in Paghman, a popular picnic place. The video doesn’t include sub-titles, nonetheless it’s worth watching for the visuals and for a look at what Afghan MMCC are doing in their part of the world.

Circus: A Modern Education Tool

There was a time when the circus was a travelling show with performers, freak shows, and a herd of animals as good old family entertainment. In the early 20th century, though, television and cinema stole the audience and so the performers found other places of employment and the activists returned the monkeys, bears and lions back to their natural habitats. The circus had all but disappeared.

But, for reasons too complicated to explain in the next 700-or-so words, circus has reinvented itself and has re-emerged as what people are now calling contemporary circus.

It’s a broad term that encapsulates everything from traditional circus skills such as clown, object manipulation (juggling, among many other things) and acrobatics (trampoline and trapeze), as well as a range of performance arts. In the 21st century, you’re more likely to see these types of performers on the street, at a festival or in a theatre than you are in a big top circus tent.

The elite in this new world of circus are groups such as Cirque du Soleil, an international entertainment company that is built upon all the elements of contemporary circus and recruits the best of the best to perform in their spectacular shows.

Slowly but surely, as circus reintroduces itself to the world, that element of elusiveness that circus has for so long possessed is evaporating. It is still far from being mainstream, but it is gaining popularity as a hobby and, in some cases, a good work-out. It seems that the simple fun of learning a few circus skills has drawn people of all sorts out to join (not runaway with) the circus.

According to Jay Che, principal instructor at Circus in Motion in Singapore, those who are new to circus would usually begin with developing their coordination skills by learning to juggle, spin plates and spin a spool on a piece of string (a prop commonly known as the diabolo or the Chinese yoyo).

For balance, or “your equilibristic skills,” as Jay refers to it, you could expect to begin with a bit of stilt walking and the rollabolla (a balance board) before maybe having a go at the walking globe (literally, walking on top of a big ball).

Intermediate circus students would begin working on more complicated juggling and diabolo tricks and learning how to juggle flower sticks (also known as devil sticks) and might even try their hand at twirling fire poi or fire staff.

Circus is physical and fun, but there are other benefits to circus that are much less obvious. Circus teaches self-esteem, self-discipline, creativity, teamwork and social skills, and it is multidisciplinary, meaning anyone can find something they can do within the freewheeling world of circus. There are no limits to who can benefit from circus arts and social circus. For all of these reasons, circus is widely used as a tool by community workers to help them engage with marginalised and at-risk youth and communities. Social circus, as it’s known, is a growing movement that is already being used across America, Australia, Europe, and here in Southeast Asia.

Jay Che uses circus to engage with youth in Singapore. Having studied social work at the National University of Singapore and after receiving training in social circus under Cirque du Monde, the international social circus network of Cirque du Soleil, Jay says he is convinced of the benefits associated with circus.

“I was inspired by the stories of fellow instructors from Asia-Pacific and was convinced that social circus was a better tool than conventional counselling.”

In 2012, six years after it was founded, Circus in Motion was recognised as a “social enterprise” and is now a member of the Singapore Social Enterprise Association.

“In the school settings, we are working with the lowest 15 percent of the academic cohort. They often do not turn up for school. With the circus programme in place, the school has reported a higher attendance rate on circus workshop day. Teachers have also viewed non-academically inclined students differently, more positively, for doing circus at school.”

Jay sees circus as a way of teaching perseverance, helping students gain self-esteem, discipline and teamwork.

Andrea Ousley, a circus trainer under Cirque du Soleil who has spent the past six months in Jakarta working with the staff and children at the Jakarta-based social circus the Red Nose Foundation, says a sense of community, too, is one of circus’ best attributes.

“It’s amazing how many cultures still possess that same idea about circus, that marginalized people or those who don’t fit in run away to join the circus. That still sits in the back of people’s minds.”

And that’s why it works, Andrea argues, regardless of someone’s experience, physical ability, age, culture, language, and socio-economic status.

“The circus is a place where people can fit in… People crave being a part of a community, and circus is wonderful because it gives you that sense of community.”

That fact is certainly not lost on Dan Roberts, the founder of the Red Nose Foundation. For six years Dan has been using social circus to engage with children living in two impoverished villages – Cilincing in North Jakarta and Bintaro Lama in South Jakarta. Five days a week, the foundation’s staff are working between the two villages, teaching circus to almost 200 children and running other arts and education classes.

Dan, who studied theatre and worked in a social circus in Chicago before jumping on a plane to Indonesia to set up the foundation, also teaches private circus classes at two of Jakarta’s private international schools.

“Circus transcends cultural boundaries. It’s fun and it’s hard. There are steps that you have to follow if you’re going to succeed, no matter your race, religion, or culture. No one learns to juggle three balls without juggling one ball first,” says Dan.

“Circus is an almighty equalizer. It brings everyone to the same level.”

The article originally appeared in the Jakarta Expat magazine.

Dan Roberts is the president of ASCA, and the founder and executive director of the Red Nose Foundation in Jakarta Indonesia.

Jay Che is the principal instructor at Circus in Motion in Singapore, a member of ASCA.