Friday, August 15, 2008

Life is a carnival

The visual and performing arts are arguably the greatest common denominator among people around the world that we have. Artists have the ability to transcend culture and overcome language barriers. More than that, they are capable of creating common bonds where the most powerful politicians and diplomats fail.

I've heard it said that the future of a country is reflected in the eyes of its children and that the odds of a bright future are increased if the children know how to express themselves through laughter.

I was introduced to the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Chilren on my favorite video blog "Rocketboom". (GW)

Mobile Mini Circus for Children

“It is about meeting children’s needs where the need is greatest. It is music. It is laughter. It is
community. It is making social change using circus arts as a medium for health education, peace."

MMCC, Mobile Mini Circus for Children, is an international non profit NGO that has been working in Afghanistan since June 2002. The main objective of MMCC is providing educational and informative entertainment for children. This aim is achieved by identifying, training, and applying the Afghan talents and potentials.

Since 2003 MMCC’s educational entertaining performances, workshops and teacher trainings have successfully reached more than half a million children and teachers in 16 provinces. Combining entertainment with essential educational messages such as health and peace, delivered by professional Afghan artists in a local context, has proved effective in helping other cultural activities to take root. Circus workshops have been successful even in parts of the country where music, singing and other forms of artistic expression have been suppressed or forgotten for decades. New creative educational teaching methods are constantly being developed in MMCC’s Children Culture House that is also the base for 80-100 well trained MMCC-junior artists performing in Kabul and abroad.

In spring 2006 a new Afghan-MMCC organization was established. The local NGO is gradually taking over the responsibility for continuing the activities as a pure Afghan project under the umbrella and supervision of MMCC International that is at the same time expanding to more countries.

MMCC’s overall aim consists of two parts:

1) To secure a sustainable Afghan organization that can continue to run and develop creative educational activities for children all over Afghanistan
2) To spread the ideas and methodology of MMCC to other countries by utilizing MMCC in Afghanistan and its networks as a capacity and practical resource center

In Afghanistan, where all kinds of cultural expression have been suppressed and forgotten for decades, developing a children-circus includes enormous considerations and strategies for every single new step taken. To put it briefly: ‘If it can be done in Afghanistan, it can be done anywhere’.

Along with sustaining MMCC in Afghanistan, the goal is to gradually spread the ‘concept’ by utilizing MMCC’s activities and experiences in Afghanistan as a model and source of inspiration for similar creative educational activities in other countries. So far, research and networking in Tajikistan, Pakistan and Nepal are expected to start within the next year.

MMCC provides tools for children to express themselves and thereby develop lifelong creative skills, self-respect, and a sense of identity. What distinguishes MMCC from other educational organizations is that its primary objective is to educate children through active participation in a learning process that makes them laugh and have fun while at the same time teaching
them new knowledge and skills.

Both the junior and adult circuses conduct workshops for communities interested in learning how to develop their own performances and arts. Every performance communicates an educational message – education for peace among different ethnic groups by using a horse, a frog and a bear
who have a conflict; malaria prevention, using a giant mosquito; or hand washing (diarrhea is the top killer of children in Afghanistan). Most recently, MMCC developed a new theatrical piece on landmine awareness. In addition, as part of this new program, workshops will be conducted to teach how to utilize creative methods for creating awareness in local communities.

As the construction of schools in Afghanistan gradually paves the way for new initiatives, MMCC faces an increasing demand for teacher training in order to improve the quality of teaching and education. MMCC’s workshops for children have revealed that MMCC’s creative teaching methods are useful tools, not only on stage but also in the classroom. In January 2005, MMCC launched training programs designed for school consultants and teachers to enable them to integrate the MMCC creative “concept” and methods in their daily work.


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