With TaRMak's circus programs, Ell Circo D'ell Fuego aims to empower children and teenagers who encounter intrafamily violence.

Ell Circo D'ell Fuego, ontwikkel circus, circus als middel, Patrick Lemineur

Flying with hope

The corona crisis impacted children and teenagers in complex home situations unusually hard. With TaRMak’s circus programs, Ell Circo D’ell Fuego, aims to empower this group. We do this in partnership with Circusplaneet and Family Justice Center Veilig Thuis (FJC).


“We know that circus and cultural experiences can have a positive impact on the (self-)perception of young people. Circus is about cooperation, daring and fun. But also about discipline and contact with one’s own ‘being’. Based on the motto ‘In circus, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something’, we offer vulnerable young people the chance to experience something together in a non-competitive environment.”

– Joris Herweyers, project coordinator TaRMaK

TaRMaK is a circus camp and/or class series for children and youth (ages 8 to 14) with challenging home environments. The aim is for them to have positive experiences together, experience culture and have fun. At the same time, they subtly work on strengthening competencies.

In addition, TaRMaK wants to help this group build a hopeful perspective. In doing so, the organizers start from the HOPE methodology of American professor of social work Chan Hellman (University of Oklahoma). He researches the effects of hope as a psychological force that can help children and adults overcome traumatic experiences and crisis situations.

“HOPE is the belief that your future will be better than today and that you can take care of it yourself. Hope is action!”

– Pascale Frank, Family Justice Center Veilig Thuis (FJC)

Academic framework

First and foremost, TaRMaK is a safe environment where participants are exposed to individual and social learning, without school or therapeutic connotations. In addition, we also adopt an inquisitive attitude within the trajectory. To this end, we are supported by the SoMeThin’K research group of the Faculty of Social Sciences (KU Leuven). We want to share their experiences with the academic world, the social welfare sector and the broad cultural field and are working on a publication for this purpose.

“Research shows that creating a physically and psychologically safe environment is a basic prerequisite for participants to rise above themselves. It allows them to focus on the activity itself, in the here and now, outside the often difficult context in which they are growing up. The focus of the TaRMaK research is on how the HOPE methodology is “embodied” in the interaction between participants, circus techniques and facilitators. We focus on aspects that contribute to meaningful experiences for the participants. In this way we come to a better understanding of the possibilities that circus has to offer in guiding young people in challenging life circumstances.’”

– Karin Hannes, professor of social sciences KU Leuven

The project started in 2021 with several pilot camps and lesson series in Antwerp. The organizers received the necessary support from the city of Antwerp. After this start-up and research phase, TaRMaK wants to descend in other places in Flanders with the help of local governments and partners.

TaRMak, a video report

TaRMaK receives financial support from the Flemish Government, the city of Antwerp, the players of the National Lottery and the Nike Community Impact Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation.


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