Cir­cus gives kids a world of hope

Jb­jsat­ur­day

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPUZZLES - JBJ RE­PORTER

FOR many chil­dren, a trip to the cir­cus is some­thing they get to see in movies, an ex­pe­ri­ence they can only dream about.

The Zip Zap Cir­cus School is chang­ing this, one child at a time, with a project which this year aims to open up a whole new world of pos­si­bil­i­ties for more than 1 000 young­sters from 27 pri­mary schools and chil­dren’s homes in un­der­priv­i­leged ar­eas of Cape Town. Last year, with sup­port from the HCI Foun­da­tion, 733 chil­dren at­tended 18 Zip Zap work­shops.

The Sec­ond Chance Project has been run­ning since 2009 but Zip Zap, a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, has been around much longer. It was founded 24 years ago and has helped gen­er­a­tions of young­sters be­come pro­fes­sional cir­cus per­former. Some have gone on to wow au­di­ences in other parts of the world.

Ear­lier this month, 67 Grade 3 pupils trav­elled from El­nor Pri­mary school in Elsies River in a bus pro­vided by Golden Ar­row to the Zip Zap dance dome in cen­tral Cape Town for a spe­cial out­ing – a day at the cir­cus.

Even be­fore the chil­dren, aged 8 and 9 years old, ar­rived at the dome they were buzzing with ex­cite­ment be­cause some had never been to the city cen­tre. Dur­ing the bus ride, their teach­ers pointed out land­marks. When they ar­rived at the Zip Zap cen­tre, the kids split into groups and tried out some fun cir­cus ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore watch­ing a show.

Re­mem­ber, this is not the kind of cir­cus where an­i­mals are forced to per­form in a ring, but a cir­cus that shows off the skills of ac­ro­bats and other per­form­ers. The chil­dren en­joyed per­form­ing tricks on a tram­po­line, walk­ing on a tightrope, hang­ing up­side down on a trapeze, jug­gling and do­ing cart­wheels and hand­stands with ac­ro­bats. No won­der they smiled broadly and laughed with de­light as they lined up to take their turn on each ap­pa­ra­tus.

“I have never been to the cir­cus and have only ever seen per­form­ers on TV,” said Geneva Goliath.

“These tricks aren’t as hard as they look, you just have to try. It is so much fun,” she ex­plained.

Fel­low pupil Vin­cent Chaima’s favourite ac­tiv­ity was learn­ing how to jump on the tram­po­line, flip and land safely on the big, soft mat. He was im­pressed with the show put on at the end of the work­shop by Zip Zap’s per­form­ers, who left all the young­sters (and some teach­ers) wide-eyed and amazed.

“One day I want to be the one who does those bal­anc­ing tricks on a bi­cy­cle,” Vin­cent said, adding he’d laughed a great deal when a jug­gling ball landed on some­one’s head.

Brent van Rens­burg, co-founder of Zip Zap, said the cir­cus was a great way for chil­dren to learn im­por­tant life skills, dis­ci­pline and team spirit.

“This pro­gramme is about in­spir­ing young­sters from the rough­est parts of Cape Town, where gang­ster­ism and drug abuse are the norm. The project en­ables them to con­sider to­tally dif­fer­ent and won­der­ful ways in which they can de­velop ca­reers in the fu­ture,” Van Rens­burg ex­plained.

● Check out the Zip Zap YouTube chan­nel to find out more; visit www.face­book.com/zipza­p­cir­cus or www.zip-zap.co.za or con­tact 021 421 8622.

PIC­TURES: SUP­PLIED

For many chil­dren a trip to the cir­cus is a pipe dream. The Zip Zap Cir­cus is chang­ing this, one child at a time, with its Sec­ond Chance Project.

Lyle Lam­brechts has fun on the trapeze, as­sisted by Zip Zap in­struc­tor Masixole Mbam­batho.

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