Teaching circus skills to the disabled has had outstanding results internationally and is now being developed in Yangon. A specialist in adaptive circus, Thomas Hinz, is leading a training of trainers programme in Yangon from 18-22 May for participants from several disabled organizations including Eden Centre for Disabled Children, Myanmar Independent Living Initiative and Shwe Minn Tha Foundation.
Thomas came across circus by accident several years ago when he evaluated dozens of activity programmes for disabled people in his native Germany.
“The impact of the circus programme was by far the most effective in terms of the development of skills and confidence-building but the real magic was in its power to change people’s attitudes.” he said
Thomas is creative director at Circability in Auckland, New Zealand, where he runs regular classes that bring together disabled people, children from local schools and the general public. He has found circus breaks down awkwardness and prejudice.
“A show can have a big impact on public perceptions as audiences see what disabled people can achieve,” said Thomas. “However, while performance may be the outcome, the process of bringing people together is just as important. Circus becomes a tool for social change for the people involved. Through art and circus, they can play a more active part of their local community, creating a more inclusive and diverse society.”
Thomas’s visit follows successful circus skills workshops at Eden Centre run by the Serious Fun Committee in January and February, as part of the International Juggling Festival.
Eden Centre physiotherapist, Zami Saung said the workshops were fun for the children while also developing useful life skills. “It helps them to value themselves and to feel the same as other children,” she said.