SOS Social Circus Program

Around the world, SOS Children’s Villages works with extremely vulnerable children and youth – helping to ensure that they have the foundation for a bright future.

Faces of Social Circus
 
"I was always very shy but the social circus helped me overcome my fear of speaking with people." Read More
 
"My dream is to get a degree to become a schoolteacher. I know I can do it. I used to be really timid, but the social circus workshops have taught me to be confident" Read More
 
"It was Social Circus that allowed him to do something that was long overdue; to make a seamless transition back into the community". Read More
 
"Social Circus helped me open up, make some good friends. I feel I’m part of a team because others help me and I help them". Read More

An important part of this work is helping children and youth develop life skills that are vital for healthy relationships, academic success, future employability and successful integration into the community, such as:

  • self-awareness,
  • self-confidence,
  • emotional control,
  • stress management,
  • resilience and perseverance,
  • patience,
  • communications,
  • teamwork, and
  • interpersonal skills,
 

These “soft” skills can be difficult to define, teach and standardize, but they are critical. Young people need more than the “hard” skills of the traditional workplace. They also need confidence and the ability to deal with the challenges of everyday life.

SOS Children’s Villages and Cirque du Soleil have developed the SOS Social Circus program to help children and youth develop these important “soft” skills.

Since the program was first piloted in Mexico in 2014, the impact has been significant. Surveys from program beneficiaries and their caregivers show improvements in self-confidence, discipline, interpersonal skills and teamwork.

“I can see the transformation of the children through the social circus. They’re more confident in themselves. They know that nothing is impossible in life, that they will achieve anything they set their minds to. Now, they try harder in school and they think about having a career. They have dreams, which I know they will achieve.”

- Luisa Velázquez Romero, SOS Mother

Children playing with hoops with SOS Social Circus in Mexico

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SOS Social Circus in Mexico
SOS Social Circus in Vancouver, Canada

 

Boy spinning place as part of the SOS Social Circus partnership wtih Cirque du SoleilWho Benefits from the SOS Social Circus Programs

SOS Children’s Villages works with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and young people – those who have been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or abused and, as a result, may struggle with mental illness, low self-esteem, issues of trust, high anxiety and fear.

These children and young people often lack opportunities and struggle to develop the core “soft” skills they need to form healthy relationships, integrate into their communities and succeed in school and future employment.

The SOS Social Circus program is a vital tool that SOS Children’s Villages uses to provide a caring and supportive environment for vulnerable children and young people to develop their soft skills.

Children working together as part of the SOS Social Circus supported by Cirque du SoleilThe Science Behind the SOS Social Circus Program

Social exclusion and marginalization is both an economic problem and a personal tragedy. A study conducted in 2007 by the Government of Finland found that the annual cost to society of a socially excluded or marginalized individual is the equivalent of nearly $50,000 CAD in social services and lost revenue.

In the world’s least developed countries, where youth represent nearly 60% of the population and rates of social exclusion and marginalization are extremely high, the economic and social impact can be crippling.

When a young person drifts away from education, employment and social networks, social exclusion becomes a personal tragedy, and can lead to an increase in violent behaviour, substance abuse and crime. The problems of a marginalised young person tend to accumulate. The lack of social networks and lack of education increase social exclusion and economic vulnerability.

In 2013, the Centre for Practise as Research in Theatre at the University of Tampere published a study showing that “Social Circus programming is extremely effective at social rehabilitation and the prevention of social exclusion, because it meets several of the beneficiaries’ needs:

Boy on stilts and girl on balance board as part of the SOS Social Circus Program in Mexico

  1. Social circus gives positive experiences from working in a group, meeting other people and interacting in a positive atmosphere.
     
  2. Social circus creates an environment where it is possible to fail without losing face and feeling inferior to others, because it is the nature of circus that everyone fails occasionally. This creates the atmosphere of openness and enables the experience of being accepted.
     
  3. The open atmosphere in the group and the encouraging direction given by the professional circus instructors produce the will to try again. Repetitive practice increases the opportunities to learn, and learning generates the experiences of success. This is how social circus becomes a virtuous circle that keeps regenerating.
     
  4. Circus offers a varied selection of exercises and tricks on different levels of difficulty, so that everyone can find the ones that are best suited for themselves.
     
  5. The circus tricks are visually impressive and create aesthetic experiences. The participants’ motivation to practise is increased by the fact that they will receive positive attention and social approval from performing tricks that require courage and skill.”