Providing Joy, Mental Health and Resilience During the Resettlement Process

    CircusAid: Bringing Joy to the Resettlement Process

    CircusAid is an all inclusive refugee support service that provides relief from mental anguish while helping build resilience and community connection through engagement in circus arts

     Athens , Greece
    This is a Fiscally-Sponsored Project

    Fiscally Sponsored by Fractured Atlas

    Thank you to all of our fundraising volunteers and donors who have already
    helped us raise $7000 outside of this campaign! 

    Please make your donation to CircusAid via PayPal to

    Dear CircusAid supporters, thank you for your interest in bringing laughter and joy to refugees through circus arts. CircusAid is the social justice branch of Holistic Circus Therapy that provides workshops in multiple circus disciplines at refugee camps throughout Europe. Three million refugees are expected to arrive in Europe by 2017. Last year we delivered circus programming to over 600 refugees in Lesbos, Greece and Calais.

    This year we will be offering CircusAid workshops to refugees in Athens, Greece. CircusAid programing is backed by occupational science and social circus research and evidence based practices. 
    Why this work is important: The Resettlement Crisis

    The refugee experience is a juxtaposed breeding ground for mental illness as people arrive full of hope and relief and simultaneously dehumanized as their wet clothes are removed and they are given what ever people have donated and in many cases, improperly fitting in size and cultural representation of modesty.  Some of the people have had all of their belongings thrown off the boat so the smugglers can fit more people on or stop the rubber dinghy from sinking. Others who were unfortunate enough to be in a capsized boat yet fortunate enough to have been rescued and made it alive, arrive only in the wet clothes on their back which are promptly removed by the aid workers and doctors that try to stop hypothermia from setting in. After the refugees have been given dry clothes they are bussed to the registration camps where they wait for an unknown amount of hours or days for papers to be processed before being transferred to another site where they will wait again as their long and uncertain journey to safe settlement is still in a vulnerable stage of infancy.

    As people in the refugee (registration) camps wear other people’s clothes no longer able to pursue their previous productive and leisure occupational roles, their identity and dignity become fragmented. What they do have is time. They have time to think, to worry, and to wait for someone else’s actions to determine how the next stage of their journey will unfold. Anyone who has ever experienced a major life stress knows how maddening getting lost in one’s thoughts can be and how mental anguish is further impacted by of lack of occupational engagement. Occupational deprivation is a current problem as life in a refugee camp is characterized by regimented ways of doing, much like a prison environment in which personal occupational choice is limited.” (Suleman and Whiteford, 2013).  Overcrowding and constant transfers in and out of the camp undermine the structure provided by routine, resulting in a diminishing of opportunities for meaningful engagement. Occupational deprivation is a likely implication of this unstable environment and a violation of a person’s occupational rights (Hammell and Iwama 2011). The resettlement journey should uphold people’s right to engage in meaningful occupations (Hammell, 2008) and should acknowledge the negative impact such injustices have on daily life (Suleman and Whiteford, 2013).
    The Palestinian Circus School (2014), research findings highlight the necessity of leisure and play experiences for young people especially in environments where school institutions and political unrest inhibit creativity, exploration and freedom of expression (Biquet, 2014). We all know children need to play for healthy development. We forget adults need to play too especially during this time of vulnerable redevelopment.

    Project Activities

    The Circus Workshops:

    CircusAid workshops are designed to promote the acquisition of transferable life skills including, problem solving, reciprocity, teamwork and community cohesion. Program effectiveness will be evaluated based on attendance and informal interviews with the participants and partner organizations.

    7 day pilot project in Athens April 7th-15th 
    Aim: Create partnerships with 3+ already established refugee support organizations in Athens to host our CircusAid workshops.

    6 week long CircusAid residency in Athens July 3rd-August 13th 
    * Work in collaboration with 3-4 different already established refugee support organizations.
    * Provide 30+ days of joy and laughter through social circus workshops (3-6 hours/day)
    * Serve approximately 30 people per day.
    * Serve 3 different age populations (children, teenage male/teenage female, adult male/adult female groups) 
    * Serve mixed ethnic groups (Afghani, Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Eritrean, Ethiopian)
    * Facilitate experiences in: Juggling, clowning, acro-balance, hula hooping and performance building. 

    Project Documentation

    Art Exhibition:

    Paul Cooley, our resident fine artist will create paintings of the refugee experience based on his observations and interviews during the CircusAid project. The paintings will be shown in an exhibition at the Centre for Social Innovation in Autumn of 2017 to share the stories of the refugee experience with people in the US for the purpose of raising awareness and increasing tolerance and compassion for refugees among US residents. Documentation was a challenge in Calais last year for we chose to protect the anonymity of the refugees over sharing our work through pictures and video of people's faces. We are hoping we can keep protecting the refugees identity while sharing their experience through Pauly's portrayal of their emotional reactions.

    What will your support do?

    With your support, CircusAid will be able to address the current needs of refugee populations, empowering people with resiliency, adaptability and cross-cultural life skills. The interactions the refugees have within the circus experience will promote trust, empathy, communication, reciprocity and teamwork. These qualities can have a beneficial impact towards the relationships and occupational roles migrants will be making within their new communities, ultimately enabling new, more diverse and integrated cross cultural European communities to thrive.

    How Your Money Will Be Used:

    The money raised will be used to fund service provisions (car rental, accommodation for facilitators and volunteers), circus equipment and transportation costs including building of a mobile circus tent similar to this one designed by Jordy Sanchez to enable us to provide circus workshops within a variety of refugee camps in Europe link attached.  It is very difficult to construct a permanent structure in a refugee camp. The mobile tent will enable continuity of our services to more people within camps throughout Europe. Additional funds would allow us to make our project more long term and serve more refugees throughout Europe.  We are committed to providing as much support as possible to the refugees and so promise that 100% of your donations will go directly to enabling the project to happen. To alleviate unnecessary expenses we will not be providing gifts to donors, but instead provide regular updates of our work, progress of our project and yearly fiscal report so that you are able to witness the positive change that your valuable donations has enabled.

    Please be aware that the refugee crisis is changing daily. We have witnessed first hand the benefits of using circus activities to help with the occupational deprivation currently experienced by the refugees, and have research to support our vision; We have also learned that flexibility is a necessary component of effectiveness. We understand that if needs change, we must be flexible in our project to reflect these. Please, however, be rest assured that your donations will always be spent in helping with the refugee crisis in the best possible way, and we will update you with any unforeseen alterations to our project. Please follow our project, enabled through your generosity, on social media:

    What other people are saying about CircusAid's former projects

    A huge thank you again for your kindness and generosity in helping us reach our goal. Without you, our project would not be possible. Every penny really does count!

    Thank you to Sophie Thwaites, Kate Michalske, Dio Hatz, Krystle Gan, Kim Willis, Jason Picard, Jordy Sanchez, Cassidy Wilson and Jasmin Singh for supporting this project with advice, knowledge, content and a whole load of compassion and empathy towards displaced people.

    CircusAid is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of CircusAid will be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.