The Fantazztico Circus initiated as a program of Vida Nueva, a social organization founded in 1996 in San Isidro del General, in southern Costa Rica. Vida Nueva was founded by Roland Spendlingwimmer, an Austrian who came to Costa Rica around 1978 to develop social programs in the area. He and others started to notice more and more kids in the streets of San Isidro that where in social danger, exposed to drugs, with bad nutrition and not attending school. The socio-economic degradation and the growth of very poor neighborhoods around San Isidro led Spendlingwimmer to create a center where kids could go for lunch and spend the afternoon doing art, sports and even homework in a safe environment. This program has always been supported by donations mainly from Europeans that know Spendlingwimmer, programs and volunteers who came to work at the center for long periods of time.
In 2001, one of the volunteers offered the kids circus education: dance, acrobat, clowning, juggling and other artistic circus expressions. These activities where very successful with these groups of kids as they offer them a lot of challenge and social recognition of their abilities and success.
In the last few years, around 300 kids have attended this program. At the moment there are 50 active kids, 20 former participants achieved professional levels and around16 kids make up the current main group of artists.
Last October my family had the great opportunity to join the circus for its fifth European tour thanks to my oldest daughter, who was invited to dance in the performance. Living so close to these kids is the only way to understand what an amazing effect a program like this can have in their lives.
Being part of the circus is such a priority for them that they agree to follow behavior rules that in other conditions they might not have accepted. All participants must be regular school students, be regular at the circus practices, learn to work in group, being respectful and tolerant of others, showing good manners, etc. They are happy. The circus becomes their family and a safe environment at the age when their lives and personalities are vulnerable. It keeps their minds focused on positive and healthy activities. The circus gives them the chance to see a world that is otherwise limited for them; it opens their minds to dream and work to reach their dreams.
Their level is good. It is really a pleasure to see the performance and admire their talent. Kids and adults laugh and enjoy it. The circus just got invited to give three performances in FIA 2014 (International Art Festival of Costa Rica).
With donations, the Vida Nueva program gives the kids scholarships to help them stay in school. Two of the participants of the 2013 European tour were selected by Berlin University to receive a one-year scholarship to study the language and Performing Arts at their campus in Germany.
The Fantazztico Circus demonstrates how the performing arts are a great way to help kids and teenagers succeed within the most difficult socio-economic situations.
This program operates only with donations and volunteer work. If you are interested in donatin money or volunteering, please contact Roland Spendlingwimmer ([email protected]). Presentations and workshops of the Fantantazztico Circus can also be organized.