We Belong To each Other

Support online

Koinonia Youtube Videos

Literary Competition

Latest from Koinonia


The Circus Comes to the Slums

Stefano and Lapo Teach Juggling and Other Circus Arts

The Koinonia Community invited these two Italian acrobats to teach circus arts to the street children of Nairobi: juggling clubs and balls, acrobatics, and balancing acts.
“They have a real passion for it, even more so because juggling requires continuous contact with others, debate, challenges, reciprocal trust…a school for life.” –Stefano Bertelli

By Mauro Sarti___________________________Translated by Lorraine Buckley

As soon as they set foot in Nairobi, Stefano Bertelli and Lapo Botteri got sunstroke. The sun was too hot, and it was much work spending ten hours a day teaching street children from Kibera, which is one of the largest slums in sub-equatorial Africa, to juggle clubs and balls, and try out spectacular balancing acts and numbers requiring great acrobatic strength.

The two acrobats from Tuscany, Italy, came to teach their art to the street children of Nairobi. Stefano and Lapo, who are both 31 years old, were invited by Father Renato ‘Kizito’ Sesana and the Koinonia Community to undertake the unusual project of teaching juggling and circus arts to a small group of street children from Kibera and other slums in Nairobi.
Stefano and Lapo in performance with the street children
The juggling experts came on loan for a few months’ programme designed for people who are already “acrobats in their daily lives”, and feel a passion for the circus in their blood – people who want to be acrobats and take part in group shows.

These arts are not foreign to African culture. Young people here love talent shows, which they often improvise as a welcome gesture to visitors who come calling in the slums. However, the art of juggling is not so simple. It takes quite some time and dedication to master, thus the coming of the two ‘maestros’ to Nairobi, combining the juggling school with courses for expert acrobats.

“It has been a wonderful experience for us to come into contact with people who are enormously gifted physically, but really need to refine their juggling techniques,” says Stefano, who works with Antitesi Teatro Circo in Vicopisano, near Pisa. “Although many of them already know the basics of juggling, they need to learn a lot more, which is why we have taken it upon ourselves to give them a hand.”

One, two, three, the clubs fly through the air, fast and straight like torpedoes. The boys smile as they spin them around, and you can see that they love it.
At the party celebrating the opening of a new centre for disabled children in Kibera, the audience applauds as the performers jump and twist in their home-made costumes.

“It’s a great way to bring them together and get them to have fun,” Stefano adds. He and Lapo are living in Kibuli, another slum where Koinonia runs a centre.

“They learn a lot faster than Italian children, who are too distracted by their consumer lifestyles to put in the energy required to learn circus arts properly,” Stephano continues. “These children have a real passion for it, especially since juggling requires continuous contacts with others — debate, challenges, reciprocal trust.”

With circus being a school for life, as acrobats in their daily lives and while approaching acrobatics as a game, Kibera’s street children are also learning to be actors who can perform before an audience, play with their audience and get a laugh out of it.

“It isn’t easy, but we’re doing our best,” the two acrobats say. “These children learn fast, and it is a very enriching experience for us to live through this period beside them. It is the first time that we have taken part in this kind of project, but we are sure it won’t be the last.”

Contact the webmaster by clicking here Webmaster