Why Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapists are change agents. They work to improve the capacities and environmental conditions of individuals and communities.
Throughout history circus has been an effective means to empower marginalized communities; giving them a platform to creatively express dissatisfaction with oppressive socio-political infrastructures. Circus brings people together with different strengths, limitations, preferences, body types and abilities all working together towards a common goal which makes it an optimal model for community empowerment. Dating back to the 1950's Community Circus (also called Social Circus) has functioned as a type of circus that focuses on the process as opposed to the product. Community Circus uses circus activities to teach life skills like problem solving, reciprocity, teamwork, empathy and perseverance. These skills are essential for building individual resilience and community connection which assists the migration process. Although music and sports also promote the development of these same life skills, circus as an art form having a wider range of diverse activities including; acrobatics, clowning, juggling, aerial, adagio, music, rigger, production, etc... makes it more accessible for people with different preferences for engagement to come together, work together, play together and learn from each other.
What are the benefits of CircusAid?
The benefits of the CircusAid projects can be summed up as joyful engagement and participation. What we see in our sessions is laughter, silliness, surprise at being able to do a trick, creativity and collaboration. People of all ages become children again and remember how to play and how good play feels. CircusAid is not going to solve all of their life problems, but for the few hours or minutes they are engaged in the CircusAid activities they are not ruminating about their past or worrying about their future, they are not Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, Eritrean, Ethiopean; they are just people trying to keep balls in the air or a hoop around their waist. When participating in CircusAid sessions refugees experience a bit of respite from the everyday stressors of being displaced and tied to a certain identity.
Learning to juggle is fun and challenging. Juggling promotes gross and fine motor abilities, perseverance, mindfulness and cognitive processes. Participants improve coordination, sense of timing and rhythm as well as attention and focusing abilities. Manipulation, grasping and reaching objects being juggled address gross and fine motor control through repitition of specific motor patterns. Perseverance and problem solving are encouraged with the inherent difficulty and challenge of the task. Juggling itself involves breaking down a task into smaller components to be progressively recombined. Juggling tasks are presented multiple ways and graded to enable a balance of challenge and success for the participants.
Involves playing fun games that explore attitudes and physical states. CircusAid clown activities require sharing, laughter and vulnerability. Positive risk taking, creativity and collaboration are all important parts of our clown exercises. The building of trust and confidence is encouraged as we are brought closer to understanding our true nature and our impulses.
Aerial acrobatics are possible now that we can safely hang from the dome. This activity allows for strength building, play and creative expression for all participants. It builds confidence by challenging fear of heights and gaining self reliance - we know we wont fall because we can hold ourselves up. It also promotes spatial reasoning and requires students to focus on the teacher.
CircusAid Acrobalance activities draw on body alignment principles of Anusuara Yoga combined with social creativity and problem solving. Acrobalance normalizes reactions to touch and encourages body awareness and trust as participants combine body parts to make a shape. These shapes can involve as little as two people to an infinite amount of people; promoting teamwork, trust and communication.
Performance enables participants to see achievable results from their work while appreciating the achievements of others. Performance promotes motivation, positive risk taking, creativity, collaboration and exploration of theatrical themes and states of being. Performance encourages the creation of space where participants can share their work with others and inspire laughter and community connection.