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2019 Projects

Lombok Project January - March 2019

CircusAid has been invited to Lombok to provide psychosocial support through circus activities to the August earthquake victims. We will be there from January - March to run a pilot circus project and attempt to create longer term partnerships with Harapan Baru Lombok and Pituq Foundation who provide training and vocational opportunities to people impacted difficult situations. By the end of February we are hoping to have a better idea about the need and interest for a more substantial project including infrastructure building when the raining season has ended. If we are able to go ahead with the dome building (post rainy season and contingent on funding support) we will partner with local labor for that part of the project. We have made contact with Dr. Andry Widyowijatnoko of Institut Teknologi Bandung and Pak Purwito who are the owners and builders of the dome in the photo on the last page of the proposal (linked above). This is the exact design we built in Greece made out of bamboo instead of metal. This structure is located in Medana Bay where we will be based running the CircusAid pilot project. Our local contact Gabe, from the Agung Siaga Community is helping set up the project as well as connecting us with local circus human and material resources from the Bali circus school. Stay tuned for more developments on our presence in Lombok.

Athens Residency June - August 2019

CircusAid will use the same successful practice model from last year to carry out another residency from June to August 2019 in Athens. To enable this to happen we are sorting out bureaucratic challenges in respect to visas and vehicle registration. In 2019 CircusAid is hoping to be incorporated as a Greek based Non for Profit to enable us to continue our work in Greece in closer collaboration with the European Union. We are currently working with Atlas Consulting to make this happen. Please stay tuned for more developments on CircusAid's next project in Athens.


The Problem

Three million refugees are expected to arrive in Europe by 2017. The refugee experience is a juxtaposed breeding ground for mental illness as people arrive full of hope and relief while simultaneously dehumanized with the loss of occupational roles and an uncertain future plan. Experiencing mental anguish is further impacted by a lack of occupational engagement. What happens when life is unstable and we have nothing to occupy our minds? We worry. We ruminate about the past and project into the future things we may not be able to control. This activity deteriorates our mental health and motivation. Occupational deprivation is an immense problem in refugee camps. Research in occupational science literature supports the claim that occupational deprivation breaks down the spirit. Occupational deprivation is not boredom, boredom is a choice. The refugee crisis has resulted in people being deprived of the activities and roles that give their life meaning.

“The journey to resettlement is overshadowed by political barriers that are not conducive to meeting occupational needs...for professionals working in this area or designing such support programs, it is imperative that opportunities are capitalized upon despite the delimiting factors within the political context.” - Suleman and Whiteford, 2013

Research supports that occupational deprivation results in mental health issues while social circus results in increased resilience and community connection. We all know children need to play for healthy development. We forget adults need to play too, especially during this time of vulnerable redevelopment.



The Solution

CircusAid’s programing is grounded in evidence based practices developed through occupational therapy and social circus research. CircusAid projects aim to ameliorate the negative impacts of occupational deprivation on the micro level, providing immediate opportunities for relief from mental anguish. On the macro level, CircusAid’s projects help refugees attain transferable life skills such as social connectedness, perseverance and problem solving that promote mental health and resilience during migration; and greater success in new socio-political environments.  CircusAid uses circus skills as a tool to promote joy and the acquisition of life skills in a playful environment.

CircusAid provides up to three workshops per day in multiple circus disciplines at refugee camps. The workshops include clowning, juggling, hula hooping, acro-balance, aerial, acrobatics and games to provide an immediate alternative from the adverse mental health effects of occupational deprivation. Workshops are designed to provide a mix of individual, pair and group experiences to balance individual and collective creativity and growth. The activities are carefully pitched to promote intrinsic motivation through creating a ‘flow’ experience by grading tasks to be challenging yet achievable. The variety of activities are intended to challenge and increase physical, social, emotional and cognitive capacities. The main goal is that when we leave the participants will feel empowered with the confidence and community strength to carry on learning new skills and working together in different leisure and occupational roles.  The interactions the refugees have within the circus experience promote trust, empathy, communication, reciprocity, and teamwork. These social and emotional qualities, once embodied, are transferred to the burgeoning relationships and occupational roles of migrants within their new communities, ultimately enabling more diverse and integrated cross cultural communities to thrive.

Research illustrates that lack of life skills and poor mental health negatively impact adaptability and quality of life in the refugee experience. Research also supports that social circus programs build resilience and the acquisition of life skills among marginalized populations. In the long term, the practical communication and cultural skills taught through the workshops assist in the assimilation process. CircusAid is a technology informed by social circus literature in terms of resilience building and occupational science research in terms of addressing occupational deprivation.


What do CircusAid participants think? Participants and collaborators feedback was overwhelming positive.

We were fortunate to collaborate with Vicky Kishere an occupational therapist from the UK currently residing in Athens. She interviewed 7 participants from Thiva Camp diverse in age, ethnicity and gender. All of the participants expressed positive feelings in their bodies and/or brains after participating in CircusAid workshops. 

Here are some of the responses shared:
*”Circus makes me happy.” 
*”It is beautiful.”
*”The people that come here they love the children they take care of the children there is love here.”
*”Fun. All the things (activities) are good and funny”
*”At first I was scared. Now it (circus) makes me feel strong and happy”
*”(In circus) I learn to play. I thought i cant play but i can play something. (I feel) happy, relaxed and tonight sleep very good”
*”(I) feel relaxed after circus. I want to come back every time.”