A life on the streets doesn’t offer much opportunity for play and recreation. Soeren, a Social Work practicum student at Stairway, took his circus talent and sack of props to the streets of Manila to the delight of children of all ages. The Stairway boys had helped Soeren make 150 juggling balls that were all left behind for the Manila kids to play on.
Soeren is a Danish social worker student doing a 6 months practicum at Stairway. He is also an active circus practitioner, which he has used in his work with the children here at Stairway. Soeren expresses how impressed he is with the Stairway children. “They are curious, unafraid to make mistakes, focused, and they have picked up the circus skills very fast,” he says.
Soeren has also given workshops to some of the Stairway scholars and children from the Youth for Change Camps. He says that the language barrier is easy to overcome in teaching an art as such, and he really enjoys how he can easily create positive relations to the children through his art. He explains that even though it is all about having fun, the exercises require lots of focus and motor skills.
In April, Soeren had his first exposure visit to Manila together with Kuya Johnnie, and he got to see first-hand children living under totally demeaning conditions. Aside from the street exposure, Kuya Johnnie also guided Soeren and other Stairway volunteers into one of the jails in Manila, while telling them about his own life on the streets and in detention.
Something that made a strong impression on everybody in the group. “One thing is to read about this issue and hear some stories, but to be there and see it, feel it and smell it by yourself is a totally different thing”, Soeren says.
Since April, Soeren has been to Manila twice to share his circus skills with children on the streets. “It has been an amazing experience to work with these children. They have been deprived of their childhood and live an extremely tough life. From a very young age they have been forced to work or take care of their younger siblings. Several of the kids attending the street workshops brought in their younger brothers or sisters, as they had been assigned baby sitters while their parents were working” Soeren explains.
Amongst a variety of circus equipment, Soeren brought with him 150 home-made juggling balls that he made with help from the Stairway boys. The balls were left with the kids in Manila, in order to allow them to continue practising this new form of expression.
Soeren explains how the children were super keen and full of energy, but obviously not used to listen and wait for their turn, so while teaching one thing to a child or a group, he would constantly have another 3 kids pulling at his shirt to grab his attention.
He continues:” We ended the days by offering the kids a meal, and the free food was for many the primary reason to show up. On the last day, we had a six year old girl with high fever showing up. She insisted on staying, as her mother had sent her just to have a free meal. One mouth less to feed!
The whole Manila “ArtReach” experience has been very touching and rewarding. To see the children play and just be children again was worth the whole thing,” Soren concludes.
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