“The Palestinian Circus School is a unique and vital opportunity for children and young people”

The Palestinian Circus School (PCS), Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s partner in the occupied West Bank, uses circus art to empower Palestinian children with learning disabilities, and advance their confidence, rights and participation in public life. PCS organises circus activities for children, hosts shows for them to perform and develops the skills of circus trainers to improve their work.

In 2022, the PCS conducted research into the impact of their work on the mental health and wellbeing of children involved in the circus school. In this blog, Mohamad Rabah, the Executive Director of PCS, shares the main findings of the research, the achievements he is most proud of and his vision for PCS.

“Across the occupied Palestinian territory, art and culture have become powerful tools for young people to express themselves freely in a context of military occupation, discrimination, shrinking civic space and limits on their participation in public life.

The PCS provides a unique and vital opportunity for children, young people and the wider community. The children we work with are growing up in a context of extreme stress and violence in the West Bank, and our innovative work makes a real difference in helping them cope and even thrive. I feel extremely lucky to be involved in their work. 

I am so very proud of our team and the PCS family because of the way we do things. We believe that the process is often even more important than the end result. We do our best to be values-driven and use reflective learning processes in every part of our work to evaluate our impact, so that we can always improve on what we do.

Over the past two years, we conducted research to understand the impact of circus training on the wellbeing of the children and young people who participate in our weekly activities. We spoke to 140 children, young people and women through focus groups and questionnaires.

The research found a significant decrease in the emotional concerns, hyperactivity, unhappiness, nervousness and conduct disorders among participants. Results also showed an increase in behaviours such as cohesiveness, sharing and kindness. Emotional concerns and nervousness decreased from around 50% to less than 30% after the activities; conduct disorders decreased by more than half from around 40% to 20%; hyperactivity was reduced from 55% reaching less than 30%; and prosocial behaviours increased from around 30% to more than 65%. Both male and female participants, in all age groups, benefit from our activities, experiencing positive effects on their psychosocial wellbeing.

It is worth mentioning that there was a significant change in parental opinions too. Whereas 63% of parents surveyed in the pre-questionnaire believed that their child would improve their social skills by being enrolled in PCS, 94% believed this when measured in the post-questionnaire.

We believe that the ‘social circus’ model we use is one that might be beneficial to others working with marginalised young people in different contexts, and hope that this research will not only help us continue to provide quality activities here in Palestine, but also allow us to share our learnings with others around the world.

We are proud of these achievements but are expecting to face more challenges in the future. Currently, we are struggling to meet the high demand to offer children, young people and communities the magic of the circus. We are a small team with limited financial resources, so we are doing our best to develop the skills of the next generation of future circus trainers and artists, and build partnerships with other communities to meet this huge demand.

Thanks to MAP’s support and the expertise they offer in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and promoting their inclusion, we hope we will be able to offer more support to those who need it.

I am very excited about the future and our plans to increase the quality of our work, and strengthen our relationships with partners, supporters and the communities we work with. Our dream is to contribute to build an inclusive, accountable, just and equal Palestine.”

  • Mohamad Rabah, Executive Director of the Palestinian Circus School

Read the PCS’ research here and please consider making a donation to continue their incredible work.


Stay updated – join our mailing list

* indicates required
Your Interests