We have partnered with SOS Children’s Villages Canada and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa in an exciting new project designed to complement their existing Family Strengthening programme (FSP). This 24-month social circus project will benefit 30 at-risk children per year living in Philippi.
The Philippi area is a low-income settlement that faces serious development challenges, such as escalating gangsterism, food insecurity and substance abuse. Children growing up in the area face neglect, physical and psychological abuse as well as domestic and community violence. The Phillipi community thus provides limited opportunities for children to reach their full potential, and few get the chance to leave the township.
The Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) was launched in Philippi in 2012 to provide support to vulnerable children and their families – empowering them with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
The Siyazama programme will complement the existing FSP and aims to provide these 30 children with opportunities to overcome trauma and develop the skills to thrive. Participants will be divided into two gender-balanced groups of up to 15. The first one for children 8 – 12 years old and the second one for children aged 13-17.
Each group will attend circus workshops twice a month, on alternating weeks, at the Zip Zap Academy. In total four social circus semesters will take place over two years. At the end of each semester and each year, participants will produce a ‘Show and Tell’, that allows them to work towards a common goal, showcase their achievements and celebrates their successes.
Zip Zap has successfully partnered with SOS Children’s Villages in Thornton, Cape Town, since 2015 in our Jumpstreet programme. Social Circus projects are facilitated by trained social circus instructors who guide participants through workshops and group discussions and are tailored specifically to vulnerable children. Previous Social Circus workshops held have yielded measurable improvements in resilience, decreased social isolation, and supported the development of healthy relationships for marginalized children.
Former beneficiaries have developed life-skills such as self-confidence, trust, interpersonal skills and teamwork. Skills that are all vital for academic success, healthy relationships and future employability.
This project incorporates Cirque du Soleil’s Cirque du Monde methodology and is funded by the Varico Foundation and Cirque du Soleil.
The Siyazama programme started later than scheduled, on 7 September 2021, 2 months after the July 2021 start date initially planned, as a direct result of COVID-19 restrictions. With the move to risk-adjusted Level 2 effective 13 September 2021, all partners were comfortable for the programme to commence, with strict COVID-19 protocols observed. Very few interruptions were experienced following this, but the delayed start of the programme impacted on the number of training sessions envisioned. Despite the demands of school, extra-mural activities and family responsibilities the programme boasted an attendance rate of 77% within the 2 months it has been in operation. It is not possible to measure the retention rate after just 2 months of the programme having been implemented, as participants are still adjusting and planning their activities around participating in the programme. However, the regularity with which participants attend, specifically the younger group with ages 9 to 12 years, reinforced the therapeutic value of circus to help the participants cope with the restrictions and feelings of isolation experienced during the pandemic and the excitement created by being able to participate in novel activities in a state-of-the-art facility.
“For the past 29 years we have seen stars in the eyes of all children entering Zip Zap. That ‘spark’ is what we work for, to ensure it continues shining until they become independent, caring, responsible adults. It is worth cultivating because only once each child knows their worth will (s)he be on the path to growth. We have seen many times that participation in our programmes overcomes low self-esteem, anger, frustration, despair, and rejection. More than 15,000 young people have gone through that process with us over 29 years.”
– Zip Zap Co-founders
A Shining Star
Siposethu Thomas is 13 years old and is a member of Zip Zap’s newest programme, which means “we are trying our best”. He joined the programme in 2021 as part of the SOS Children’s Village Family Strengthening Programme. Although he initially felt shy, he quickly settled in among his peers and the Zip Zap instructors. He is being raised by his grandmother following the death of his parents, and he surrounds himself with friends with similar goals as his own. Since starting training at Zip Zap, he favors the mini-tramp, and admits that the trapeze is a difficult discipline. He already identifies the instructors as positive influences and role models, and aspires to learn as much as he can so that he can hopefully perform in shows. He hopes to be a positive role model for other young boys to encourage them.
“Focus on working hard to become a success in life.”