When you think of a circus, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Lions jumping through flaming hoops? Costumed clowns riding elaborately decorated elephants? Can you imagine circus professionals striving to make the world a better place for refugee communities? Well, now you can.
Here is a story of a truly spectacular performance, a real extravaganza showcasing the compassion of the human spirit.
BarakaBits had the awesome opportunity to speak with Salam LADC, an NGO in Lebanon that provides assistance to the refugee community in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, as well as Cirquenciel, which is a social circus part of the NGO Arcenciel who is on a mission of spreading peace through circus arts.
Salam LADC provides a platform for international volunteers, grassroots initiatives, and private and institutional donors to coordinate their efforts towards assisting and empowering refugee and other vulnerable populations across Lebanon. Salam aims to offer flexible and effective assistance, which fills the gaps where refugees and local communities do not receive sufficient support.
We spoke to Beat Branson, a long-term volunteer with Salam LADC, who told Barakabits: “Our goal is to assist the most vulnerable – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation.” He shared with us some of Salam LADC’s ongoing projects, which include Play with Purpose (educational games and activities), Clean to Green (raising environmental awareness in the refugee camps), aid distribution (food, hygienic packages and livestock) and medical support, where the Salam LADC team fundraises for specific medical cases and works with UNHCR and local hospitals to cover the medical expenses of refugees in the camps.
“Together with the UNDP, we are also in the process of launching a project called Integration through Sport. The idea is to create integrated soccer teams with Lebanese and Syrian children in order to foster friendships and support the integration process”, Beat says.
With all of these projects in full swing, sounds like the volunteers at Salam LADC have a lot on their plate…what more could a small, volunteer-run NGO possibly do? Bring the circus to the refugee camps, of course!
“When strangers meet, creative energy is set free and new possibilities enter the world.” This is what Beat told us when asked about Salam’s recent collaboration with Cirquenciel.
Cirquenciel works on three different programs: it runs a circus school, a professional troupe, and a psycho-social support team formed by educators from different urban arts backgrounds.
We also spoke with Johnny Girges, a member of the Cirquenciel team, who tells BarakaBits “Through our visits to the camps, we aim at reaching the most vulnerable population – those who are not served by agencies or NGOs. Our little model allows us to convey simple messages related to hygiene, sanitation, water, health and other crucial resilience topics”.
Not only does Cirquenciel bring awareness to refugee camps through performances, songs and games, they also work with 12 public schools throughout Lebanon and collaborate with the Ministry of Education on ways to serve and impact the Lebanese educational system.
“A little fun, laughter and singing do release happy hormones and that’s our gift to the camps.” Johnny told BarakaBits.
Beat met a Cirquenciel member in a Beirut event, and discussed the importance of physical stimulation for the cognitive and social development of children and teenagers and the lack thereof in refugee settlements. A few weeks later, a collaboration of epic proportions materialized and Salam LADC joined forces with Cirquenciel to visit two informal settlements together in the Bekaa Valley.
Cirquenciel put on brilliant juggling and music performances, and had everyone participate in hands-on workshops learning diabolo, playing trust games, and dancing. So many benefits came from Cirquenciel’s visit – not only did the children have a marvelous time, the activities they participated in enhanced so many of their skills and added to their personal development and self-confidence. Cognitive and analytical skills are enhanced, physical skills such as balance and acrobatics are developed, and social skills such as public communication and teamwork are honed.
These creative collaborations is what the world needs more of!
Stay tuned with Cirquenciel’s latest whimsical happenings here. Want to volunteer to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon? Follow Salam LADC’s page here to get all the information you need! They are currently hosting 25 passionate volunteers from all over the world in its volunteer house in the Bekaa Valley.
Leave a smile 🙂 ! And just like Cirquenciel, find your gift and share it with the world. Now that’s Baraka!