Circus WOW trainer Wendy Regan, with son Taro, has just returned from volunteering at a children's refuge in Kathmandu. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO
11 Jun, 2012 12:00 AM
Circus Wow trainer Wendy Regan might have thought she'd seen it all from the ranks of Wollongong's all-women, all-welcoming community circus.
But she'd never seen young men who learnt their tumbling tricks on the street after being abandoned by their parents as six-year-olds, or girls who became experts with a hula hoop as a result of being trafficked into circus slavery.
Miss Regan recently spent five weeks as a volunteer with Nepalese charity the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation (EBMF), which runs a children's refuge in Kathmandu.
The foundation teaches vocational skills to its older charges, including circus skills to the large numbers who have been rescued from abusive and exploitative circuses in India.
"People ask why they keep doing circus, but they actually have decided they want to," Miss Regan said.
"They want to create Nepal's first circus, called Circus Kathmandu."
A mother to 12-year-old Taro, Miss Regan spent Mother's Day in the refuge with scores of orphans.
The circus troupe she aided included hoop specialist Sharmilla, who was trafficked into an Indian circus when she was seven.
Last year she told an Al Jazeera documentary crew of the circus' brutal training regime.
"If anybody made a mistake the whole group would be told off and beaten," she said.
EBMF conducts raids on unregistered circuses in India suspected of trafficking.