Kids come full circus

SOS Children's Village Social Circus: ‘Juggling now, empowerment later."

The evening begins with a game of “museum.”

In the basketball court in the backyard of the SOS Children’s Village BC site in Surrey, a dozen kids of all ages gather.

Ryan Mellors, one of three instructors from the Vancouver Circus School, tells them to become statues as he, a “security” guard, walks the “museum” after hours.

Whipping his head around on occasion, he’ll spot those who don’t stay still, sending them to the sideline.

The game, repeated with other “guards,” is a fun warm-up for what will be two hours of playing, juggling, balancing and jumping – part of the new Social Circus program at the two-and-a-half acre site in Surrey.

A number of the children are orphans, some with traumatic history or fetal alcohol syndrome-based behavioural issues.

In this village, where they’ll be taken care of into early adulthood, they’re considered family.

This village has five homes, which are among SOS Children’s Village BC’s seven other independent SOS Children’s Village homes in the community.

New this summer is the seven-week, 14-session Social Circus program, in partnership with Cirque du Soleil (using the framework of its at-risk youth program, Cirque du Monde) and the New Westminster-based Vancouver Circus School.

At left, Vancouver Circus School trainer Shantel Grant steers Niam, 6, on stilts.

“Social Circus offers training and education on how to be more successful in a social situation,” says SOS Children’s Villages BC Executive Director Douglas Dunn. “(It) develops the individual through circus skills.”

Using circus arts as a method of intervention, the SOS Social Circus program helps vulnerable children socialize and gain confidence.

Benefits also include patience, improved communication and teamwork.

Village Director Kistie Singh describes the Social Circus program as “juggling now, empowerment later.”

SOS Children’s Village is a worldwide independent, non-governmental, non-denominational organization that works to meet the needs of at-risk children and families.

Their focus is on orphaned and abandoned children.

“SOS goes to great length to make sure these kids are protected,” Singh says. “We always want kids to feel at home.”

For more information, visit sosbc.org

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