Cirque du Monde in Khayelitsha

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Cirque du Soleil is an internationally famous circus act known for its astounding physical feats and original compositions. Less is know about its community programmes, which target at risk youths from around the world and enable them to reach their full potential by teaching them ground-based circus skills. South Africa is one of the countries to benefit from the Cirque du Monde programme, with a project in Ibhongolwethu, Khayelitsha for HIV positive children. Each year, on World Aids Day, the group performs at the Oliver Tambo Community Centre.

The South African chapter of Cirque du Monde is run by Zip Zap Circus, whose aim is much the same as that of the international circus, i.e., to enable youth at risk to develop the skills required to reach their full potential through circus acts. Médecins Sans Frontières is also a project sponsor.

This year, the 24 performers at the Oliver Tambo Community Centre ranged between four and 15 years old and wowed audiences with two shows conducted simultaneously. Routines included juggling, tumbling, trampoline work and gumboot dancing. The Treatment Action Campaign also performed at the function.

As with many other World Aids Day celebrations, the Cirque du Monde Ibhongolwethu Project shows the world (as well as the performers) that it’s possible to live healthy, constructive lives while being HIV positive. The disease doesn’t have to be a death sentence and those who suffer from it still have a lot to offer the world, sometimes they just need to be encouraged to find that out for themselves.

Zip Zap Circus makes the twice weekly trip to Khayelitsha to teach the kids circus skills, but also to give them a sense of belonging (for many of the children, the people in the project are the only family they know) and to teach them the value of trust, honesty, teamwork, and discipline and provide some much needed self-confidence.

The project may culminate on 1 December at the Oliver Tambo Community Centre, but the real effects are shown throughout the year in the increased health, strength and happiness of the kids who take part.

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