CAPTION: For many children from disadvantaged areas in Cape Town, a trip to the circus is a pipe dream. Zip Zap is changing that, one child at a time, with the Second Chance Project which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. [Photo credit: Anne Barbotteau]

Earlier this month, 67 Grade 3 learners from Elnor Primary School in Elsie’s River travelled in a sponsored Golden Arrow bus to the Zip Zap dome in Cape Town for a fun and educational outing where they learnt basic circus skills. At the end of the workshop they were given a short performance by the instructors where they could see what hard work and years of circus training can bring.

More than 1000 youngsters from 27 primary schools and children’s homes in underprivileged areas of Cape Town will participate in Zip Zap’s Second Chance Project this year.

“The circus is an excellent intervention tool for youth-at-risk because it provides a safe and fun platform for children to learn important life skills like discipline and team work,” says Brent van Rensburg, co-founder of Zip Zap. “This programme is about inspiring youngsters from the roughest parts of Cape Town, where gangsterism and drug abuse are the norm. The project enables them to consider totally different and wonderful ways in which they can develop skills that can lead to professional careers in the future,” explains van Rensburg.

Zip Zap, a registered Non-Profit Organisation founded 24 years ago, has helped many of Cape Town’s brightest young circus stars to obtain professional circus contracts on internationally acclaimed circus stages around the world.

Even before the children, aged eight and nine years old, arrived at the Zip Zap dome they were buzzing from the simple adventure of a bus trip. Varity Witbooi, their Grade 3 English teacher explains, “Some of these learners have never been to town before and just showing them well-known landmarks on our way to Zip Zap was really exciting for them.”

At Zip Zap the learners split into groups and tried their hand at various circus activities under the watchful eye of Zip Zap’s instructors, many who come from similar backgrounds to the learners. The morning, full of activities, included: performing tricks on a trampoline, walking the wire on a tightrope, hanging upside down on a trapeze, juggling, and doing cartwheels and handstands with acrobats. Children smiled broadly and laughed with delight as they lined up to take their turn on each apparatus.

“I have never been to the circus and have only ever seen performers on TV,” says Geneva Goliath, a Grade 3 learner. “These tricks aren’t as hard as they look, you just have to try, it is so much fun,” she explains.

For another learner, Vincent Chaima, his favourite activity was learning how to jump on the trampoline, flip and land safely on the big, soft mat. The young boy was impressed with the show put on by Zip Zap’s performers at the end of the workshop which left all the learners wide eyed and amazed. “One day I want to be the one who does those balancing tricks on a bicycle,” he says, adding that he laughed so much when the one juggling ball landed on someone’s head.

The Second Chance Project started in 2009 and last year, with support from the HCI Foundation, 733 children travelled to Zip Zap on Golden Arrow Busses for a total of 18 workshops. With support from generous donors, more children can be reached through the Second Chance Project and lives can be transformed.

Check out the Zip Zap YouTube channel here to find out more.

To make tax deductible donations to Zip Zap, visit the website or contact 021 421 8622 or donate via Thundafund here.

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