Pick up juggling and life skills

Pick up juggling and life skills
Social enterprise Circus in Motion founder Jay Che (seated in the centre) with circus members (from left) juggler Ernie Tan, unicyclist Ho Mei Qi, fire-twirling performers Ahmad Firdaus Ayoob Piperdy and Ethan Lee, as well as diabolo performer Edward Chua.

SINGAPORE - Fire twirling and juggling clubs on unicycles may seem to have little to do with social work.

The link, however, is stronger than most may think, as Mr Jay Che, 35, discovered when he chanced upon the concept of "social circus", which uses circus arts to help people such as at-risk youth learn life skills.

His first encounter with social circus was in 2001 while he was interning at the Tampines Family Service Centre as part of his social work course at the National University of Singapore.

The centre had a collaboration with Cirque du Monde - French for Circus of the World - the social action arm of renowned Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.

Intrigued by the concept, Mr Che went on training trips in the next few years to Australia, sponsored by Cirque du Monde.

In 2006, he quit his job as a social worker and set up social enterprise Circus in Motion, which conducts workshops for at-risk youth and teaches life skills such as perseverance and building one's self-esteem through circus arts.

"One of the beautiful things about a circus is that, for people who are afraid of performing on a stage, they can hide behind the circus prop and still do the act.

"It helps to break down many barriers for these youth-at-risk who generally do not have the opportunity to perform on stage," said Mr Che, who faced disciplinary issues and spent most of his time away from his one-room flat during his primary and secondary school days.

His group has so far worked with more than 5,000 children and youth in Singapore and abroad.

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