Tag Archives: Social Circus

George’s Story: Germany 2016

13995422_10154344765608758_5699558515062311355_o

George is a freshman at Thomas B. Doherty High School in Colorado Springs and a fifteen-year-old acrobat whose dynamic  flips wowed the crowds in Germany. He traveled with us as a guest artist from Salida Circus. Billed as “Colorado’s most unique circus troupe,” Salida Circus has a professional troupe along with social circus outreach development, which makes them a perfect partner for both Circus Mojo and Circus Pimparello.

13937856_10154317874213758_2019326456857216040_o

 

When my boss, Jennifer, from Salida Circus got the text from Paul about Germany, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I was hesitant to join a Kentucky circus that was a three-hour flight from my home and then take another flight to Europe. Getting the chance to go to Germany was amazing, though, even if I was nervous.

george-photo5

It was a pain in the butt getting to Germany, yet it all paid off in the end. I improved my ball juggling and tumbling and matured quite a bit. A few of my funniest stories have come from this trip, ranging from getting a bad haircut to slipping in the mud and accidentally eating some. The point is that not only does the trip here benefit my skills, my trade,and my maturity but it also has taught me important values and life lessons, all while having fun.

george-photo2

What I’ve noticed about Circus Mojo and Circus Pimparello members is that all of them are young people who are getting the opportunities they need to work and learn in an expressive outlet–CIRCUS! This is a rarity in today’s world. I’m glad to be a part of such an important project and hope to participate again.    

george 

Leave a comment

Filed under Backstage Stories, Germany, Mojo News, Uncategorized

All the way from Germany

Hey my name is Rosa, I am one of the new volunteers from Germany and I have been working at Circus Mojo now for almost 5 months. The reason why I decided to come as a volunteer to Circus Mojoprofil picture was because circus has been my passion since I was eleven. I got the opportunity doing Circus from my high school in Germany which offers a social circus program called Circus Calibastra for their students from the 6th grade to the 13th grade. During this years I got involved in the circus world a lot. Because I am in a Show Group now called Variatistic and loved it so much I decided to want to do a volunteer year abroad in a circus. Through IJGD, a company which offers volunteer programs, I found Circus Mojo and here I am.

 

Even though the work here can be very exhausting, I really enjoy it most of the time. Especially the work in the hospital and the teaching is what I love to do. My favorite thing is, when I can teach the skills which became my own. Trapeze, hand balancing and acrobatic are the skills I have been focusing on the last years the most. For me it is a pleasure to give my experience in this skills further to the Kids.

IMG-20151021-WA0002

Enjoying Lake Michigan in Chicago

 

In Germany it is a very common thing to do a volunteer year abroad after finishing the high school. It is a great opportunity to see other cultures, countries, working places and people from all around the world. You learn how to deal with a lot of different challenges. For example living on your own, being without your family, how to deal with money and of cause also how to handle with all types of people and personalities. For me this volunteer year is a good possibility to get the ground skills you need to live your own life. What I am talking about is for example independence, creativity, flexibility and the willingness to compromise. I do not expect to become perfect in all this things, but it can be at least a goal to grow in all this things.

1909519_10153750232348758_8404245494215269421_o(1)

2015 Circus Mojo’s Christmas Show at Saints Boniface & James

“Physical education” is the name of the program of the Dohn Community High School where Circus Mojo has been part of since the end of September 2015. Every Monday and Wednesday morning a part of the Circus Mojo Team sets up to the Dohn School down in Cincinnati to teach for one hour a Circus Class. The kids are between 14 and 16 years old and have not done or seen any circus before. We teach them basic skills include juggling, acrobatics, plate spinning, globe walking, rhythm and tight wire, which helps them developing their coordination ability, their patience and their will to achieve success.

But in this class not only our students have to learn to be patient also we as the Circus Mojo stuff have to learn how to teach with patience. The class reason for this is that the kids are very chaotic and have not the best behavior. This difficulties are making it hard for us to get their attention and to have a focused class. Even though we still have our “bad days” with these kids we are getting them more and more involved in doing circus and their skills have improved the last months a lot.

12074730_10153583113733758_7211895078890368157_n

My students at Dohn Community High School

A lot of times we meet people from Cincinnati and tell them we are from Germany the reaction is always friendly and surprisingly nice. The reason for this is not only because Germans are just nice peopleJ it is especially because Cincinnati is well known as the German American city. So a lot people start to talk with us about their German back round, how much they love Germany, our beer, our food and that their dream is to visit Germany sometime or again.

IMG-20151121-WA0020

Christkindelmarkt in Cincinnati with fellow Volunteer Kira Haid

Because we feel so welcome here we thought we shouldn’t miss the “real” German Christkindlmarket and the Oktoberfest. So of cause we went to both of them and each of it was a funny experience and an interesting discovery what Americans think what is real German food or real traditional clothes. We tried for example the Bratwurst but I have to say unfortunately it was not the same like in Germany. There was also some stuff they sold which I have never seen before. But all in all we still liked it and it was fun to see and to watch what Americans think it is German culture.

12042669_10153648749393758_755739130211260645_n

Cirque De-Stress at University of Minnesota

I have been working here with a lot of kids, teching different things, but I hope in 2016 to get more kids I can teach trapeze and I look forward to training new skills.

A note from Paul Miller: Tate and 12-15 other young people from Ludlow will be participating in Circus Mojo’s immersive culture and circus exchange program to Germany’s CircArtive Pimparello this summer!
This program takes circus beyond a performance- or amusement-based activity to become a vehicle for instilling in young people the cultural competency and awareness necessary to be accomplished global citizens, in much the same way that the Kentucky Department of Education is approaching students’ international literacy*.
Circus traditionally relies on the bizarre and exotic to attract audiences, and it is in that same spirit that Circus Mojo draws audiences and participants.  I am extremely grateful for the IJGD organization which has connected us with various valuable circus artists who bring to Ludlow not only their talents as performers, but also their foreign accents and unique perspectives- they bring the world to Ludlow.
If you are interested in this opportunity please email info@circusmojo.com for more information.
*To that end, Circus Mojo is beginning the inaugural term of the Institute for Social Circus Vocational Training Center, a program for adults to learn how to use circus arts to build relationships in various cultural and medical settings.

Leave a comment

Filed under college, European Volunteers, Uncategorized

A Year of Service, Wire Walking as Community Development

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.
11885786_10153484935468758_8425806540382483903_oHer 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!

At one private school we were working at, I sat a child out to watch because she was crying and being difficult. Johanna said I would never get her to participate again.  I separated Johanna from the crying 9 year old; our philosophy is to disengage with people who are crying in struggling to master a circus trick. I offered the idea that I have never seen a child cry from frustration while learning  to walk. Maybe if they’re hurt physically a tear may be shed, but learning circus skills is like learning how to walk. Johanna  worried that the young girl would not want to participate.  I assured her if we let her watch the rest of class and join us when she was ready, we’d hook her. I often say, “Every circus needs an audience.”   The next week for class, I chose not to attend, but asked for the staff to watch for the same girl’s participation and to support it. Sure enough, she joined in. Johanna shared this shift in expectation that afternoon. This is the work of circus engagement and why I need committed volunteers to spend time with Circus Mojo.
Youth from Children's Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating  via integrated circus therapy

Youth from Children’s Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating via integrated circus therapy

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.

Cincinnati Children's Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Cincinnati Children’s Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Johanna applied to Witten, a private school in Germany.  About 2500 people apply each year and 120 are interviewed  for a total of 35 spots at the university. She wants to study Psychology and we have had many discussions (or debates) on how circus works in the minds of kids, especially those experiencing difficulties. With this year of service I knew that Johanna’s University interview would be very strong. A year at a circus in Ludlow, Kentucky based on community and individual development would differentiate her from the thousands applying for this school. Not surprisingly, she was accepted to the university Witten/Herdecke and will be attending in the fall of 2015.  Most of all Johanna has served as a roll model and coach to future courageous performers.

Tate Wire Art

Tate West ~ Art project Ludlow High School

In 2005 I began an international circus exchange with Sven Alb, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello and I have taken over 100 youth from the USA to Germany; for many of them, this was their first time on a plane. These youth have earned over $1M in college scholarships. Tate’s first trip on a plane was to train and perform with Circus Mojo in Germany. Tate has been invited to spend her junior year as an exchange student in Germany.  

11541949_10153398355918758_3878835318491114013_n

Johanna of Hannover ~ Tate West of Ludlow

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.

ABOUT IJGD

“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. ”

Young people between the ages of 18 and 26 can take part in an international voluntary service. They can work abroad in a social or cultural establishment for a year. Volunteers there will get involved in common welfare and thereby make intercultural, sociopolitical and personal experiences. The formation of a supporting initiative is necessary for the participation of the IJFD.

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.

Social learning

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.”

http://www.ijgd.de/en/services-abroad/6-months-or-longer-abroad/international-youth-voluntary-service-ijfd.html

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.

We will miss Johanna very much, as she continues her journey back in Germany, but the show must go on!
Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your time,  efforts, and expertise with our community.
May your efforts bear fruit!

1 Comment

Filed under college, Mojo News, Our Common Humanity

Spreading Joy Through Circus Mojo’s Community Programs | Manuel Garcia

Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo

Manuel, hosed down after a summer camp pie fight.

by Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo teacher, performer & mentor

My journey with Circus Mojo all began when I attended the 2nd International College Circus Festival as part of Kalamazoo College’s Cirque Du K (CDK).

Throughout the festival, I got to know the Mojo team and understand their vision, specifically their work in hospitals, nursing homes, and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, and all they do for all the community. I applied for a summer internship, was accepted, and later asked to be more than just an intern. Now I work as a roustabout, mentor, teacher, and performer.

I started out working in the summer camp with three other members from CDK: Will, Austin, and Jonathan. We arrived Sunday afternoon and were thrown into the mix on Monday morning. It was definitely an unexpected, throw-you-into-the-deep-end, way to start with an organization. But we didn’t sink, and anytime we needed a lifeline, there were other staff and mentors to help us.

circus scholastic, after school circus program in Ludlow, Kentucky

Homework help during Mojo’s Circus Scholastic Program

I’m so glad that I got to start with a few people that I knew, as it made the transition into Mojo smoother. We were learning new games to play with kids, ways to teach skills, and spotting techniques to keep kids safe while balancing on objects such as the walking globe and low tight wire. Relearning skills such as juggling, partner acrobatics, and diabolo in their simplest forms (to teach to kids) and breaking habits of spotting young adults was difficult, but we had to learn the ‘Mojo’ way and adapt to our new environment. By the end of the internship we all had over 200 contact hours with kids just from summer camp. We also had gained experience through workshops, performances, and strolling gigs (walk-around performances and crowd-interaction at functions to provide atmosphere and/or entertainment).

Circus entertainment at Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati, Ohio

Manuel, Jonathan, Sharon, Paul, and Will strolling at Horseshoe Casino

After a few weeks, I started working at nursing homes and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati (an outreach program for at-risk youth). Working in nursing homes was tricky at first because some people would be in wheelchairs or disabled and I hadn’t worked with anyone but kids. I learned that Mojo focuses on what each person can do–whatever his/her skill level or ability we would be sure to teach each person a skill they could accomplish. Next, I started working with Andrew at the Children’s Home; he had been there on behalf of Mojo many times and had a lot to offer in way of my development. Kids at the Children’s Home can sometimes be difficult or not want to join in, but we engage them on equal footing and give them back the power in the ability to say they don’t want to participate at that moment. After they see everyone having fun and realizing they could be doing the same, they often join in. Working with such different ages, backgrounds, and abilities was definitely a challenge, but I developed some essential skills: being perceptive, patient, and adaptable, as well as being able to do/teach the skills we bring in a variety of ways. Doing so made it possible to deal with various situations and be successful in making most everyone happy and participate.

Next came the birthday parties and performing gigs. Working at a Mojo birthday party is completely different than what I expected. I knew we would give a small show and then give workshops to the kids, but it’s faster paced than anything I had yet experienced. Kids are only at the party for a few hours, but still want to try as much as they can. We have to give them a chance to try lots of circus skills, but not necessarily teach them like we do in summer camp because of the limited time we have with them. A birthday party can feel like a week of summer camp crammed into a few hours. Sometimes kids aren’t even the difficult part. On rare occasions we also have to deal with parents that are less than ideal. When the birthday party is over, everyone has left, and we have cleaned everything, we can sit back, smile and reflect on how happy we made people on their special day.

You would think performing might be the easiest because all you’ve got to worry about is putting on a show. In reality it includes: set up, rehearsals, coordinating with other performers, musicians, and tech (checking mics, sound systems, lights, etc.). It is a production! It is also incredibly fun. I had the chance to meet some fantastic people from all over the world and developed friendships along the way. My favorite performance of the summer was Devou Deux, where we performed in Devou Park with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. It was amazing to perform to live music, and such a great experience meeting performers from New York, Antigua, Malaysia, and beyond. I even got to breathe fire with Austin during the finale as Sharon, an aerialist from Mexico city, did a dangerous-looking maneuver in the silks.

Fire breathing, fire breather | CircusMojo.com

Manuel breathing fire at Ludlow’s 150th Birthday Celebration

These experiences have helped me develop my skills with children, crowds, networking, and most importantly, awareness. When working with children, it’s most important to be aware of all surroundings (tables, chairs, people, etc.) and make sure everyone is being engaged and safe. These are the critical skills for working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is my favorite thing to do with Mojo. We go to the hospital to bring both joy and distraction to kids and their families at a place where no one expects to see the circus. I’ve been training under Sharon, Paul, Andrew, and Elliot. Each of them has a different style of ‘clowning’ at the hospital so it’s great to be able to work in all these different styles and still be able to teach kids. Teaching kids how to spin a plate or balance a feather is its own reward when you see the joy in that child’s face in such a strange environment. Getting to this point was not a smooth path: there were lots of obstacles, tests, and challenges along the way.

For example, during one of the earlier weeks in my training, we were working with a boy who was visually impaired. This was my first time working with someone who couldn’t see well, and I was a little nervous about what we were going to do. We still did tricks like spinning a plate on his finger and teaching him to balance a feather, but we had to do it with a completely different approach. We let him feel the shape of the plate and stick before spinning it on his finger. While it was spinning on one hand, he brought his other to feel the rotation and gradually brought it to a stop. Balancing a feather was especially tricky because one of the easiest ways to balance something is by looking at the top of it, but the boy was able to learn all the tricks we shared with him! It was incredibly gratifying to see him succeed and it was a great learning experience for me, in that I now had a new way to teach tricks when other ways might not work. All the challenges I faced were met head-on and helped to develop me into a performer/ caretaker who can thrive in various environments and situations. I am still learning and still stumble, but we have a great staff who are always willing to offer advice, and lend a helping hand.

hospital pic

Jonathan, Andrew, and Manuel training at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

We are currently preparing for a trip to Mexico City for the 3rd International College Circus Festival, and I could not be more excited. This festival is what started my journey with Circus Mojo and it’s amazing to realize a year has flown by since I first met the Mojo team. I will also be running Summer Camp this year! I’m looking forward to mentoring and teaching lots of great kids this summer, as well as meeting and working with the new Mojo personnel that will be joining us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Backstage Stories, Mojo News

Clowns Have to Eat: Jesse Dascola on Circus and Culinary

Jesse Dascola shares her once-in-a-lifetime experience of traveling to Germany to study circus. Every other year, Circus Mojo students participate in this unique opportunity. To learn more and help more local youth tour to Germany, click here.

Six years ago I joined the circus when I was in 8th grade.  At that point in life I was your typical kid who would get through school and then go home, play video games and watch TV. Little did I know that would change when I joined the circus.  Looking back upon my time in the circus and the y8th grade globe actears I took off from it, I really see the changes and impact it had on me. When I was 14  I can’t think of anything special or really creative that I did before joining circus. Once I joined the circus I learned how to be creative and how to express myself in different ways and take a risk on creative assignments. The first photo seen was taken at my first circus show, I still remember it like it was yesterday. We had worked for weeks to put an act together with a group of about 7 of us. Then the day of the show only three of us showed up. We had to work together with the help of our trainer to create a new act with very little time. I thought I was nervous when I first showed, I was even worse once we changed the act. Our trainer Dan Tafelski saw how all of us were worried and he came to us and told us, “Don’t worry just go out there and have fun.” And that’s what I did.germany 1

During my second summer with the circus I got an awesome chance to go to Germany to have an exchange with another circus, CircArtive Pimparello. I remember getting out of the car and getting to the top of the hill and looking down at, what I’ve called, the circus valley. I literally stopped in my tracks, and just took it all in, I was amazed at the beauty of it and was thinking about how I would get to spend the next three weeks there. The second photo is the group of us from America who got to visit Germany, on our hike through the woods.

During the time there, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello, Sven talked about how he would love for an American to come stay there for a year. I  really wanted to and thought I could the year after I graduated high school, but in that time I stopped doing circus and lost contact with a lot of those people.

When I was a junior in high school I decided that I was going to follow a career in culinary arts.  It took a lot of confidence on my part to really go down that path but having my background in circus I knew I was going to be able to do it.  I really started working on my cooking skills at home after that and started to get really creative with some of the decorations I put on cakes or how I would plate food.  I feel

dragon food

like I took creative chances that I wouldn’t have taken before because I learned that I could and that it’s OK for me to be creative through the skills I learned at circus.  The third photo is a dragon I made out of food. It was a project I had in one of my classes, we had to make some type of picture out of food. Most people were making simple designs. I wanted to do something that would be impressive, so I chose a dragon, my teacher thought I was crazy for picking that and said it would be hard, but I had made up my mind. It took me the whole five hours of class to get it together, it was made mostly from cucumber and green cantaloupe. It didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned but it turned out great and everyone was impressed.

choc cake

The photo above is a dessert I make at the restaurant I work at currently. Now I have come back to my circus roots, I got in touch with Paul Miller of Circus Mojo and he took me back to Germany the summer of 2012. I was so excited to get to go back, and see all my friends from Germany and get back into doing circus. This trip in a much different role than the last time, this time I was an adult chaperone and a teacher. I had more responsibilities. I was so happy to be back and doing circus again. During that time Sven brought up having an American come and stay again and I thought I could actually do it.

When we got back to the US I always had Germany in the back of my mind but I wasn’t at a place where I could go to Germany, instead I was able to move down to Ludlow, KY and work with Circus Mojo.

germany 2

The above photo was taken during my second trip to Germany, during a show we put on. After doing both circus and culinary work  for some time, I found myself being able to create new acts along with creating menus.  I was not only doing circus but teaching it to young kids.  I have a lot of pride watching them try to create acts and learn the skills I learned.  I find it very rewarding when a young student learns something and is filled with joy because I have been there and I know the feeling. After some time I decided to move back to Chicago, it’s fun knowing that I can have a career in both circus and culinary.  There are some great opportunities within the circus world for me.  I mean, clowns have to eat. This summer I’ll get to put both my talents to work again. I will be able to take Sven up on his offer of spending time in Germany and I will be spending 14 months there. I will get to do both cooking and circus while there. I know I would be in a very different place if I had never taken the chance to join the circus and acquire these skills that have lead me so far in life.  I know they are only going to get me further.  I’m only going to keep going from here and coming up with new creative ideas for both inside and outside the kitchen. ~Jesse Dascola

plate

You can help kids like Jesse! Click here to donate today to the Circus Mojo Kickstarter fund, which will support their 2014 German Tour!

Leave a comment

Filed under Backstage Stories, Mojo News

Welcome to the Circus Mojo Community Foundation Blog!

The Circus Mojo Community Foundation  (Formerly the Social Circus Foundation) INC is a nonprofit (501c3) which raises funds to support programs utilizing circus as a tool for social change.  Most of the recipients of these funds have limited resources and economic, physical or mental challenges. The funds serve as a clearinghouse for scholarships and to educate and study the application of circus in non-traditional settings. 

Board Members:

Board Chair
Louis (“Tres”) Kutcher PhD
Chair, Biology Department at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Secretary
Cherie Haas
Online Editor
ArtistNetwork.com

Treasurer
Jason Deller
Guardian Savings Bank
Mortgage Loan Advisor

Sara Warner
Recreation Therapist
St. Elizabeth Hospital

 

Past Board Members

Sean Sweeney
Assistant Vice President and Director – Information Technology at
Cincinnati Insurance Company

Dave Schroeder
Executive Director, Kenton County Public Library

Jene Galvin

Community Organizer

 

The Corporation intends to provide three main programs that will use the circus as a tool for social change and in medical settings:

1-   Approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on using circus to improve the lives of the mentally and physically disabled. The Foundation has already partnered with Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati, Ohio to provide programming for hospitalized children, and hopes to expand to other medical non-profits in the future.

2-   Another approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on vocational training. The Foundation will provide will provide job training and skill sets focused on the circus industry to the underprivileged in an effort to give them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.

3-   The remaining one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on education. Specifically, the foundation will study the impact of social circus in medical settings and as a tool for social change. The data collected will be used to study impact of circus on an individual’s mental and physical health, and to support social circus work in group homes, detention centers, and medical facilities.

1 Comment

Filed under Our Common Humanity

A Lost Boy from Sudan, a Gang and a Circus

Listen to the story here on Chicago Public Radio Archive

If you’d like to read more about Khalid, click here to purchase an essay written by best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz.

Or read more about Khalid’s Mother Afaf’s experience on PBS/Frontline Website.

Today, July 7, 2012, marks the six-year anniversary of Khalid Mohammed’s death. On July 6, 2009, Jorge Pena, a member of a gang called the Maniac Latin Disciples, was found guilty of the murder of Khalid. I spent July 1 and 2, 2009 with Afaf Ahmed, Khalid’s mother, at the courthouse in Chicago to lend support in her time of need. Her strength serves as an inspiration during these difficult times and reminds me of what truly matters in life.

Khalid’s story reminds all of us what is at stake for many of the kids I served in Chicago and try to here in Cincinnati. He joined the circus in 2004 after emigrating to the U.S. from Sudan. His mother wanted him to flee the violence and eventual military service of his country and seek education and opportunity in the U.S. Afaf had worked for Legal Aid at the American University in Cairo.

As a recent refugee, Khalid wanted to fit in and fell under the peer pressure of street gangs. While spending two months in juvenile detention, Khalid’s probation officer discovered from Khalid’s school principal that his behavior was exemplary on Mondays and Wednesdays. On those days he would come to the circus, where he learned to juggle, ride the unicycle, walk on the rolling globe and, with help from the lead tutor Felicity Hessed, improve his English comprehension and acquisition.

As part of Khalid’s probation, he attended circus twice a week. He continued to work on his skills and was assigned various tasks such as peddling through Uptown on his unicycle to hang posters announcing the upcoming Annual Spring Circus. I also offered him a job as a teen apprentice, teaching with me at the Francis W. Parker School in hopes that the opportunity would give him the direction he needed. Despite my efforts, Khalid was drifting. His last day at the circus was spent passing juggling rings with his friend Mason in early June. On July 7, 2006, Khalid was shot and killed in an alley in Logan Square, Chicago.

On August 8, 2007, at 7:07 pm, my son, Lucas Khalid, was born on Khalid’s birthday. Khalid’s story, memory and family have remained an important part of my life. Helping kids like Khalid overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities has been my mission and vision. The world needs fewer kids on the streets and more kids in great schools, clubs, circuses and other positive arenas that encourage them to dream on. This idea has motivated my work, and I truly hope the spirit behind that work continues to thrive.~Paul

Our family continues to connect with Afaf; last summer we celebrated Lucas and Khalid at a concert in Millennium Park (below).

3 Comments

Filed under Our Common Humanity