[The circuses
[Ethiopian Press]
[Activity Report]

Partners For Life

Looking for partners

"We are rich...
...in joy, energy, ethical consciousness, helpfulness..."

Circus in Ethiopia, the association, includes children from all social levels from kids living on the street to the more well off younger of teachers. This makes it, fascinating. Those already performing on tour teach those living in the street. The older youths instruct the children who have recently joined. There is no difference, it doesn't matter where you come from or which religion you believe in.
In the European media, the Circus was often reduced to a mere street-children‘s project. Circus in Ethiopia doesn't want their country to be linked with pictures of hunger and poverty but with joy and creativity.
The dream of Circus in Ethiopia is now to build up an institution in which they can live and learn. All the benefits of 1998 tour will go to finance this homebase in four cities.
Today more than ever, The Circus needs money and partners.

Circus in Ethiopia is actively looking for funding agencies interested in assisting the development and establishment of the organisation. We are requesting assistance to fund programs for a limited period to allow the establishment of the final structures of the organisation in view of financial independence by the year 2003.

Circus Ethiopia in Addis Ababa's main square, Meskal Square, January 1998


Here are the main objectives of Circus in Ethiopia:

Our present partners

Netherlands UNICEF National committee
Radda Barnen (Save the Children) 
Cirque du soleil 
Children and Youth Affairs Organisation 
Red Cross: the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society


«Cirque du soleil» has influenced the spiritual development of the Ethiopian circuses since their first involvement in 1991. Through videos of its performances and music recordings this Canadian circus has set a standard of excellence against which the Ethiopians children and the trainers have developed their dreams of circus with an identity of its own. 
Since 1993 the «Cirque du Soleil» team in Montreal has donated shipments of costumes and sound equipment to support their effort. Last year a performance by «Cirque du soleil» was held in Washington to raise funds for Circus in Ethiopia. A large sound system was purchased with the revenue of the performance to reach the 3000 and more crowds which become common in Addis Ababa. Others fund raising performances are due to be held in 1998. The funds raised will be used to purchase gymnastics equipment. Costumes and acrobatics equipment will also be included in the consignment by «Cirque du Soleil».




Circus in Ethiopia and The Red Cross have been partners since 1995. The international committee of The red Cross, The Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been developing dissemination programs through the free performances of the circuses. 
Red Cross principles such as the Principle of Humanity are relayed to the large audiences of the circuses through small plays in between musical programs or directly through Circus theatre performances. Many or the circuses' performances are organised in local stadiums with the co-operation of Ethiopian Red Cross branches across Ethiopia. Theses events are a powerful means for the Red Cross to make its work and services known to the population.

The ICRC: strengthening National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

A joint venture with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society: a circus with a message

(Taken from the ICRC web site: Stemming the tide of violence)

Circus Ethiopia is a non-profit organization registered in Ethiopia since 1993. What is unusual about it
is that all the performers (currently some 200) are street children or children from very poor families,
aged between six and 20. It has four project sites (Addis Ababa, Jimma, Mekele, Nazareth),
each featuring a circus school and a performing troupe. Through interactive entertainment, the Circus
shows problems facing many youngsters in post-civil war Ethiopia: poverty, parental violence, life on
the street and AIDS. The aim is to promote communication between parents and children, as well as
among the country's various ethnic groups. In view of Ethiopia's staggering linguistic and cultural
diversity, combined with a sizeable illiteracy rate, the Circus is an ideal medium of communication. It
has won the support of organizations such as UNICEF and the ICRC, who see it as an innovative and
effective way of spreading their message. 

How the ICRC came into it: the ICRC delegation in Addis Ababa established cooperation with the
Circus in 1995 to highlight specific activities carried out by the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross
Society (ERCS) for people separated or otherwise affected by war, such as the Red Cross family
message service, education about the danger of landmines and an anti-tuberculosis campaign; and to
spread general knowledge about the Red Cross. 

The ICRC, the Circus and the ERCS: a three-way partnership. As part of its long-standing cooperation
with the ERCS, the ICRC provides support for the Circus, such as transport. For example, in July 1997
the ICRC supported a joint ERCS-Circus dissemination programme in Harar (eastern Ethiopia),
organized by the local ERCS, which attracted 18,000 spectators. At the same time, the ICRC
continues to work with the various Circus groups in organizing joint events in its specific fields of
activity. In 1997 for example, a half-day session on humanitarian law, organized for some 500 officers
and soldiers in the barracks of the 1st Corps of the Ethiopian Defence Forces, was combined with a
special Circus show in the afternoon. 

The Circus and the ERCS signed a cooperation agreement in 1997, actively supported by the ICRC.
While the Circus is committed to promoting the principles of the Red Cross and its work across
Ethiopia, the ERCS branches provide a crucial nationwide network facilitating mutual understanding
and the exchange of ideas among the various regions and across cultural and linguistic boundaries.



Circus of hope

Taken from:
The Red Cross Red Crescent Federation  web site
An unusual group of performers is delighting European audiences in six countries with a message of hope for humanity. Circus Ethiopia was founded in 1991 by a Canadian teacher to help street children in Addis Ababa. Its 50 European performances are aimed at raising funds and thanking those who have supported the project. 

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the International Federation and the ICRC have been helping the circus since 1995. Recent shows include messages about the Red Cross emblem, landmines and humanitarian assistance. The circus has also been used by UNICEF and Save the Children to convey messages about AIDS, tuberculosis prevention and children's rights. The circus developed from a small-scale project into four groups giving free performances throughout Ethiopia. Crowds of up to 3,000 people flock to see it. 

The shows combine traditional circus acts with sketches reflecting the harsh life of the growing numbers of street children in Ethiopia. The young performers have become a symbol of hope for them, as well as advocates for a better understanding of their plight. 



The United Nations Children's fund is well known for its life saving work for children around the world. 
Unicef has been Circus in Ethiopia main partner since 1995, with significant funding from the Neerderlands Committee for Unicef, for an initial period for three years. According to Unicef Circus in Ethiopia provides a unique platform for raising public awareness in children's right while helping to develop the potential of some of Ethiopian's most disadvantaged children. 
In collaboration with the Unicef Office in Ethiopia and the Children and Youth Affairs Organisation of the Ethiopia government a strategy was designed to increase the potential of the four circuses to disseminate vital health information to the population at large immunisation, control of diarrhoea diseases and AIDS prevention where chosen as the focus of the advocacy work of the circuses.



Swedish save the children

Radda Barnen had been active in providing services and advocating for children's rights in Ethiopia for the last twenty years. Radda barnen was the organisation to understand the objective of circus for Ethiopians children. Since 1992 its funding and advice have allowed the circus to grow in an substantial way. For the first three years its funding covered all training and performing expenses. The Radda Barnen team provided precious advice on laying down the basic structures of the organisations.
Radda Barnen is part of the Save the Children movement. Their work in Ethiopia deals with projects which promote the lives of children across the country. From emergency support to Sudanese children, who have escaped from war and sheltered in refugee camps on The border of Ethiopia, to shelters for street children as well as to promoting theatre resources as advocacy methods, the organisations works in Partnership with local initatives, people helping themselves.




Oxfam started its work in Ethiopia in 1974. The 1984-85 famine dramatically increased Oxfam's work in the country. Since then it has replaced its emergency relief operations by sustainable development projects. 
Its involvement with Circus in Ethiopia is recent and focuses on the impact the performances and the circus training has on the community, as an agent of social change. The advocacy messages are of great importance, but the grass roots, community based aspect of Circus Ethiopia, is also of prime interest for Oxfam. 
The circus is seen as powerful motor and means of expression for participating children but also for the entire community. 
Oxfam works in Ethiopia both as a funding and operational NGO. Oxfam's strategic aims are: 
  • In areas where there is little organised indigenous capacity, Oxfam works with communities on time specific programmes which enable them to minimise vulnerability in a sustainable way.
  • To respond quickly and appropriately to human suffering caused by disasters, with particular emphasis on long term preventive measures from such disasters and strengthening of preparedness vis a vis vulnerable communities.
  • Encourage locally based initiatives that seek to alleviate the causes of poverty by strengthening capacity.



Based in the Netherlands, Novib is a member of the Oxfam Family. ...