Posts Tagged ‘street kids’

Photo: Guy Peterson.
A circus troupe offers hope to Senegal’s street children.

Poor children in Senegal often have a heartbreaking life, but one who rose above years of deprivation figured out a way to help others by sharing something that helped him. Today I’m drawing from three sources about what that was.

The BBC writes, “Every year, thousands of young Senegalese children are sent to the cities to study the Quran, only to find themselves forced into begging for money and food on the streets.”

DW.com reports about help coming from a man who was once one of their number. “In Senegal, circus skills were not really seen as a ‘proper’ or ‘respectable’ job. But that didn’t stop a former street beggar from founding Senegal’s first circus company in 2010. Today, Sencirk teaches circus acts to underprivileged kids. [The kids have even] represented Senegal with their juggling and acrobatic skills on the acclaimed TV show Africa’s Got Talent.”

Guy Peterson expands on the initiative at the Christian Science Monitor. “Under the shade of a dusty canvas tent in the sweltering heat, five men rehearse for a circus tour of France the following week.

“They make up Senegal’s only circus troupe, and each of them took long roads to get here, overcoming difficult childhoods, facing rejection by their families after they escaped abusive religious schools, and living on the street. …

“According to human rights groups, the talibés, as the boys are known, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from teachers. Talibés are forced to beg for money each day, and if their quota is not filled, they can be beaten and starved.

“Senegal has seen increasing youth unemployment, which leads many young adults to consider emigration if they can’t find opportunities at home. Sencirk helps them see those opportunities. 

“Modou Touré escaped [and] after taking up circus training in Europe, he returned to Dakar and founded Sencirk in 2006, providing free training to teens who escaped from their schools. The program allows them to work through traumatic experiences and to see paths toward a better future, whether that means working in the circus or reintegrating into society.

“An older performer and teacher at Sencirk, Sammi, explains, ‘We can teach them how to work together, how to grow, to believe in themselves.’ ”

According to the BBC, Sencirk’s founder “trained in Sweden for three months and toured with professional circus troupes around the world, before setting up the Sencirk tent in Dakar.

” ‘Circus is my therapy,’ says Mr Touré, now 31.

“The practice also assists him control his emotions and has the capacity to help others like him, he says.

” ‘It gives them confidence and helps them battle their demons.’ “

One 14-year-old trainee told the BBC, that “he loves everything about the circus: ‘It helps me learn and it makes me aware.’ …

“He hopes to join Sencirk as a full-time performer one day.

“Mr Touré’s troupe conducts regular free workshops at rescue homes for street children and women’s shelters to provide entertainment and identify talent.

” ‘It shows them they can go from the streets to making a living in the circus,’ Mr Touré says.

“Out of both necessity and the desire to preserve what they call the ‘Africanness’ of their shows, Sencirk uses locally found materials to make its equipment, such as trapezes, safety mats and juggling balls.

“Sencirk’s unique approach to circus is to share personal stories that other West Africans can relate to.

“One performance portrays the draws and dangers of clandestine migration to Europe. Another shares the experience of living as a talibé runaway.

“It’s a community built on resilience – a group of people working through shared trauma who are strengthened by their ability to overcome it together.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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