IMPACT JOURNALISM DAY 2015: EDUCATION

Circus school takes in street kids

The Zip Zap Circus School in Cape Town takes in children from all walks of life, including the homeless. The school was set up in 1992 by South African Brent van Rensburg and his French partner Laurence Esteve.
The Zip Zap Circus School in Cape Town takes in children from all walks of life, including the homeless. The school was set up in 1992 by South African Brent van Rensburg and his French partner Laurence Esteve. PHOTO: CITY PRESS

This story was first published on June 20, 2015

EVER wanted to run away and join the circus? In Cape Town, you can.

The Zip Zap Circus School, which has been based in the South African city for the past 20 years, takes in children from all walks of life, including the homeless and those who are HIV-positive.

In 1992, South African Brent van Rensburg and his French partner Laurence Esteve left Paris for sunny Cape Town.

They borrowed a trapeze rig which they set up over the holiday season.

Soon, children from all walks of life, including the homeless, clamoured to have a go. And the couple's dream was born.

Keeping the circus school afloat, however, is a constant battle.

The couple have raised funds over the years performing circus stunts as well as working in films - Mr van Rensburg was the body double for Patrick Swayze in Steel Dawn and Ms Esteve for Jennifer Lopez in The Cell.

They have touched the lives of thousands of youngsters, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Remember Nkakro, 19, is one of them. He was born under a tree and grew up sleeping in the streets with his mother, brother and sister.

He moved into the Zip Zap house in 2010 and has since toured France and Wales with his fellow performers.

His mother still lives on the street. His siblings are in prison.

He said: "The circus has been my biggest gift and opportunity."

BIENNE HUISMAN/CITY PRESS (SOUTH AFRICA)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Circus school takes in street kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe