EYOB is currently living in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The agricultural sector accounts for 80% of employment and remains the major source and focus of the country’s growth but other sectors, such as service and industry, are increasingly gaining importance. Despite that, inequalities are rising and poverty rate remains high (29.6 %) both in urban and rural areas (25.7 % and 33.6 % respectively), which together with the relatively low life expectancy, make
children and youth even more vulnerable when facing their realities.
EYOB was born in Dire Dawa, a city located on the eastern region of Ethiopia. When his father died, he and his sister moved in with their uncles, but he did not stay long with them “when I was about 10 years old, I run away from home. After staying a while on the streets of Dire Dawa, I hitched a ride with some strangers to get to Addis. Once I got there I moved from one orphanage to another until I finally landed on Ciai, an Italian NGO”
Ciai’s general mission is to promote the recognition of a child as an individual person and defend its fundamental rights. In Ethiopia, they support the growth and education of children and teens, and one of the projects in which they have participated is Fekat Circus, an initiative gathering underserved kids and street boys to help them develop self-esteem and sense of belonging.
Fekat Circus was established in 2004 by a group of young Ethiopians that wanted to create a space where kids could be exposed to the art of circus. Since its foundation, it hasn’t stop growing and today it is both a social and a professional project, which entertains and stimulates thousands of children living in challenging situations and at the same time, builds the skills of aspiring Ethiopian circus artists and provides them with promising work opportunities.
“I was around 11 years old when I first started training at the circus. At the beginning, it wasn’t something I did seriously, so after a few years, I stopped. Later on, when Dereje (Fekat Circus president) called me, I got excited to join. I was even present when Fekat Circus was named “Fekat”. In English, Fekat means “blossoming”, and it refers to the development of the inner potentialities that practicing circus implies.
Today, EYOB is one of the Fekat Circus professional artists and one of its most active members. Besides performing as part of the Fekat Circus troupe, he is also a trainer and administrator at Fekat Circus Private School. In addition, “I am a clown doctor for Fekat’s Smile’s Medicine project at the Black Lion Hospital. Once or twice a week, I also work with physically and mentally challenged children and orphans. And I also take part in the workshops given within the Fekat compound”.
EYOB started to work as a tutor for young kids when he was 15 years old but he was not as committed as he is now “At my previous job I never felt comfortable, Fekat gave me something I can call my own, a place where I belong”. In a way, he wants to give back to this project as much as he has received from it “Looking forward, I would just like to keep working with Fekat and grow alongside it. I believe Fekat is great but I would like to contribute making it even greater. For instance, I would love to be more involved in the administrative parts of the circus”
EYOB is aware of the powerful impact circus can have on the ones who practice it “I know we all have something great within us, we just need to work to develop it. I would like to break through the obstacles, such as language, which prevents us from making this circus blossom even more. I would also like to design circus projects that would benefit more communities”
EYOB believes in spreading circus benefits through partnering with different non-profits and associations “I was being supported by NGOs for at least 3 to 4 years of my life. I think it is our collective responsibility to support each other to be better. Bringing circus to places like Mother Teresa Orphanage, where I entertain the physically and mentally challenged residents, makes me feel more human. It was through understanding their resilience that emanated the strength that changed everything for me. There is where I discover my human-self”