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Learning how to take a tumble

Children at SOS Children's Village Huehuetoca, Mexico are learning all the tricks of the circus trade thanks to an exciting partnership with Cirque du Soleil
Children at SOS Children's Village Huehuetoca, Mexico are learning all the tricks of the circus trade thanks to an exciting partnership with Cirque du Soleil

Something exciting is happening at our Children’s Village Huehuetoca, Mexico – the houses are empty and the children are outside twirling brightly coloured batons, balancing plates on sticks and tossing bean-bags into the bright blue sky. Can you guess what’s going on?! That’s right, the circus is in town!

A special partnership between SOS Children and Cirque du Soleil has opened up a new and exciting world of performing, juggling, tight-rope walking and other dare-devil acts to the children at the Village in Mexico. Twice a week the children learn the tricks of the circus trade, from juggling to Chinse yo-yo, from stilts to hula-hooping.

"All about smiles" 

“The workshop has the goal of promoting confidence in the children and equips them with tools they can use throughout life. It’s not about developing professional acrobats, but about making the children happy: we’re all about smiles!” explains Alfonso Zavala, one of the instructors running the social circus programme.

With fierce concentration, 16-year-old David carefully places one foot in front of the other as he attempts to cross the wire stretched tight between two trees. For the tight-rope focus is everything! Across the grass, his sister Melissa is busy securing her feet into some stilts.

David and Melissa have been living at SOS Children’s Village Huehuetocha for nine years now, after being totally abandoned by their parents. For them the social circus has played an important role in helping them overcome the trauma of their past. The circus has helped them learn how to deal with frustration, how to persevere when the going gets tough and how to take a tumble and get right back up again.

Melissa takes part in social circus activities, CV Huehuetoca, Mexico
Melissa's SOS mother has noticed a real change in her since she began participating in the social circus

Juggling frustration

Melissa is a fun-loving, bubbly teenager who loves being active. She can also be a handful and often causes disruption at school. But, since participating in the social circus, her SOS mother Beatriz has noticed a real change. “She has become a real team-player, is much less impulsive and frustrated and much more rational,” she says. “Because she really has to pay attention to what she’s doing when she’s doing the activities, she is much better at concentrating.”

Standing up on the stilts, Melissa beams as she makes slow, careful progress across the playground. Her steps may be clumsy and wobbly, but she doesn’t care – she’s having fun! “Sometimes I’m afraid of falling off the stilts,” she says. “But I just think slow, calm thoughts and walk. I love them, because they make me feel huge.”

Boosting confidence

“The programme is great for building self-esteem,” says Elias Cabrera Chapina, the Village Director. “One of the highlights is when the children perform in front of an audience – when they hear us cheering, the smiles on their faces are huge and when something goes wrong, they pick themselves up straight away and carry on until they succeed!”

David has always been a worry to Beatriz because of his tendency to shut himself away in his room and spend entire days in front of the computer. “Usually David was inside all the time, avoiding parties and meetings. Now when it’s time for the social circus, he’s the first one out there! He won’t miss it for anything!”

The programme has brought David out of his shell and he’s discovered a love for all things adventurous! “I like doing the more extreme activities because I like to feel the adrenaline,” laughs David after successfully making it across the tight-rope.

A hugely positive impact

Boys taking part in the social circus, CV Huehuetoca
Chinese yo-yos like these provide hours of entertainment
The programme is having a positive physical, psychological and social impact on all the children who participate. Now in its second year, the programme is developing communication skills and building cohesion between the children in the Village.

“The older children have much more patience with the little ones than before,” says Blacno Morena, who works with the young adults at the Village. “It’s so nice to see them willing to teach the younger children the skills they learnt last year.”

Beatriz and the other SOS mothers in the Village are hopeful that the social circus project will continue for many years to come!

As part of our partnership with Cirque du Soleil, we've been given access to great tickets to Cirque Du Soleil’s AmaLuna performance on Weds 2nd March 2016 at the Royal Albert Hall. This promises to be an amazing night for anyone of any age! Buy your ticket today.