We return from Germany in August 2014 (my 9th year of exchange with CircArtive Pimparello in Germany). When we arrive at the airport, there is a 21 year old in a long leather jacket and a giant knitted scarf smoking a cigarette… She’s never experienced the 98% humidity that the 275 loop can provide. Her name is Johanna ~ she’s a wire walker and “buffoon” from Hannover Germany about to embark on a voluntary year of service in Ludlow, KY.
Her English is superb as we drive down the hill to Route 8 along the river to Ludlow. I ask her what she’s expecting. “Does everyone have a gun here?” No, Ludlow is a very safe community but some do. This area still has many racial issues… I pointed out the Stars & Bars of the Confederate flag that flies on a few homes on Route 8. I explain the Mason Dixon and if the slaves could get across this river they work towards freedom. A year later and the Confederate Flag has come down in South Carolina, but it still flies on Route 8.
Before there were 2 coffee shoppes, three antique stores and a distillery in Ludlow, before the Winkle Bros opened their studio/gallery and before the Ludlow Theatre began its historic restoration and conversion to BIRCUS Brewing Co., Johanna joined us as a volunteer.
Johanna spent 12 years in a youth circus in Hannover and when she wanted to expand her horizons she chose Ludlow, Kentucky’s Circus Mojo. She spent 300+ days developing community with hundreds of performances showcasing the great skills developed via the German Youth Circus system. She has inspired many, from the Ludlow 150th performances to Cirque De Stress in Minneapolis to the Cov200 and All Star Game Celebrations; this talented performer has wowed audiences across the USA!
We have been working with the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky for 5 years. Johanna has done a wonderful job encouraging these kids to participate. Additionally, she has spent 100+ days working at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, from the Residential Psychiatric unit to the Orthopedic Waiting room. The number of kids, teens, parents, nurses, doctors, and staff to whom Johanna has brought joy would be difficult to capture.
Johanna’s importance to Circus Mojo has gone beyond simply her work as at schools and hospitals. She has also been a valuable asset in terms of cultural exchange. She has acted as a translator of both language and culture between Circus Mojo and Germany’s CircArtive Pimparello. She has also helped pave the way for future Germans to come to Ludlow to work with Circus Mojo.
Johanna is the third German volunteer to spend significant time in Ludlow with Circus Mojo, and in September we welcome Rosa Lisa and Kira from IJGD for a year of Service in Ludlow KY.
“After World War II pupils from Hanover organized the first work camps aiming to promote reconstruction, to reduce negative stereotypes through international encounters and to envisage new democratic forms of living together. ”
First, it affords participants an opportunity to reach out to other people and other societies. At the same time, the International Youth Volunteer Service helps the volunteers to enrich and cultivate their own personalities through the informal learning experiences that come with the chosen field of activity and the seminars offered as part of
the programme. The young volunteers learn to get along in a new and unfamiliar environment, acquiring social and intercultural skills as they go that will continue to benefit them long after their return to Germany.
Life in a group in all spheres of the IJGD is characterised by a social togetherness and a culture of understanding. It is important to us that various needs and opinions are considered and an inclusive togetherness is made possible. To enable this, prejudices should be questioned and overcome.
Interactions within a group as well as a change of perspective can help form one’s own personality as well as (re-) shape an entire society. It can also help in learning social and emotional skills such as the ability to deal with conflict or to cooperate. Social learning describes a lifelong, cross-generational process that is characterised by a self and joint responsibility, communality and civic participation.”
Both Germany and the United States have had their share of darkness, but programs like IJGD and Circus Mojo work to promote social cohesion and cooperation through increased cultural awareness. The city of Ludlow, Circus Mojo and the USA have grown thanks to the work of IJGD, and we are excited to continue working and learning with this valuable program.