Circus Kathmandu gives trafficking victims new life
Published on February 1, 2014
Bijaya Limbu, from Nepal, was just eight when some “agents” tricked his parents into sending him to neighbouring India for a “life”. However, the next four years proved to be a nightmare. He was sold to a circus company in India by human traffickers and forced to train as an acrobat. “It was terrible. Sometimes we were beaten, sometimes abused. It was like a prison. I thought of running away on many occasions. Luckily, I was saved,” recalled Bijaya. His saviour — Kathmandu Circus — rescued him and brought him home to Nepal. Today, this initiative of Freedom Matters, which made Kathmandu Circus Nepal’s first contemporary circus, rescues children and young people in Nepal from trafficking and bonded labour. Their first international performance was held recently at Dubai British School, where in 13 performers — almost all former victims of human trafficking — enthralled the audience with mind-blowing tricks. Juggling, uni-cycling and stilt walking were among the many tricks the school performance included. The stylish show was inspired by mythical Nepali storytelling aimed at portraying the real-life happenings in Kathmandu, infusing circus acts, theatre, dance and plenty of colour and music. There were no animals, and none of the traditional circus acts now considered old fashioned. The aim was to raise funds for further rescues of victims of human trafficking in Nepal and give victims a fresh start by joining what has been called South Asia’s first social circus.
“A circus is extremely therapeutic, it builds a sense of team work, confidence, and gives the performers an outlet to express
themselves,” said Sky Neal, Codirector at Circus Kathmandu, who has more than 10 years of experience in the theatre and circuses.
“We were about five, six and seven years of age when we were taken from our home and forced to go do things we didn’t want to,” said Lolita, one of Circus Kathmandu performers and a survivor of child trafficking in Nepal. Lolita and her companions told The Community that after being sold off to traffickers, they lived a life full of fears. Initially, after being rescued, they had extreme inferiority complex. Their fear changed to happiness and excitement when Circus Kathmandu turned things around.
“They are more confident now than they were. As they reached their teens, they slowly got back their smiles,” said Neal, who, for Lolita, is her mentor.
Working hard over the years to bring out the best in each of the performers, Neal said from the first day she saw these children’s smile as an encouragement to train them for Circus Kathmandu. “They are amazing. They work hard on improving their acts and challenging themselves further,” she said. “They are proof that anyone can become an acrobat with enough dedication and determination.” Incredibly talented children who had gone through life’s hardship, today share laughter, joy and pride across the world. As Neal said, “Even the children themselves go out and volunteer to help refugees.” “I may have had a bad life as a child, but I’m glad I was given a chance to get on to the right path. I want to do something not just for myself but for others too. Someday, I hope my life will be an inspiration to others not to lose hope, and believe in what you can do,” Lolita said. Conor, a student of Dubai British School, said: “It’s very inspiring to see people who have been through so much to perform in front of such a big audience. It’s funny because we complain about little things and we can’t even imagine what they had to deal with.” The school raised around Dh31,000 for the charity.