In Ethiopia's capital, Fekat Circus trains disadvantaged children to perform tricks and, in so doing, helps develop their self-esteem. As our local correspondents found out, this troupe is certainly living up to its name, meaning ‘blossoming circus’ in Amharic.
By Borja Santos and Israel Seoane, Addis Ababa
It all began in 2004 when Dereje Dagne, a youngster who grew up in the streets of Addis Ababa, started a circus together with other street kids. Realizing how the circus changed their lives in a positive way, they wanted other deprived children to feel the same.
Since then, they never stopped in their quest of becoming role models. They have been performing and training youth living in disadvantaged areas of Addis Ababa, trying their best to keep them away from the risks of dangerous lifestyles and urban poverty.
Through the Italian Centre for Aid to Children (CIAI) and international NGO Fondation Alta Mane, Dagne and his circus colleagues began working with CIAI staff member Giorgia Giunta in 2008. “Their talent and creativity fascinated me, but what really convinced me was their commitment towards each other and the community,” she says.
The young artists like to mix circus and theatre in their presentations. In so doing, they can raise awareness campaigns that address social and health issues, both in Addis Ababa and in the countryside.
But besides giving public performances, Fekat Circus also works six days a week at the Black Lion Hospital. They are part of a team of ‘doctor-clowns’ who entertain hospitalized children.
The Fekat Circus Artists Association currently employs around 20 young artists, who are training 75 children. As Giunta explains: “Many of the children in the circus have problems fitting into the formal educational path, and to them the circus is an opportunity that brings hope, self-esteem, friendship, fun, inclusion and new role models. It opens their minds and stretches their creativity.”
If it weren’t for the circus, the only option for many of the children would be life on the streets. Each performance provides a sense of accomplishment. “These children lack role models and experiences of success," says Giunta. "Even the artists didn’t believe they could achieve anything in the beginning. What children learn at the circus is that with hard work you can.”
This month Fekat Circus is on a European tour. Read more on their website.