Arts and Education Archives - Red Nose Foundation

Developing Inner Strength through Social Circus

Written by: Dan Roberts (Founder and Executive Director of Red Nose Foundation)

Social Circus refers to a growing movement around the world towards the use of circus arts as a medium for social justice or social good. Using alternative pedagogical tools to work with youth from marginalized communities, living in social or personal risk.


In practice, social circus helps build personal skills that children living in slum communities need to succeed against the many different challenges that await them. From simple benefits like increased self esteem and stronger understanding of teamwork, to more complicated ideas of learning skills, perseverance and the importance of respect and equality; social circus passes on these important lessons to children and young adults through tangible, hands on, experience based learning.

When a child is first engaged to learn basic circus skills, they’re excited to try, but terrified to fail. They often believe that if they try once and don’t succeed, they’ll never be able to accomplish the task. The job of the social circus instructor is to encourage and safely guide the child along the path of learning each new skill. Carefully crafted curriculum is used to ensure that the children are given the opportunity to succeed at early steps, before difficult elements are introduced. Each success empowers the child to confront the next step with more vigor and less fear, propelling the child into a state of ferocious curiosity, letting go of their inhibitions and learning that while each progressive step requires more concentration and an increased effort to learn, anything is possible with clear instructions, a little patience and a lot of courage.

IMG-20160520-WA0000With social circus, children are taught that their successes are shared celebrations and their failures are shared lessons. When children are learning acrobatics, if the pyramid falls, the blame doesn’t lay with the child on top who climbed with the wrong technique, or with the child on the bottom who wasn’t strong enough to hold them up. In fact, they both own the failure. They are taught to communicate about what didn’t work, and why. It is the responsibility of each partner to be better where their partner lacks, catch their partner when they are falling and stand strong together in the face of adversity. The experience of depending and being depended on by your partner shines a new light on responsibility and community.

Performance is a very important part of social circus, whether a short demonstration in front of a small class or a full length show with hundreds of audience members. The children spend days, weeks or sometimes months working on certain tricks or acts. They learn that the performance they have prepared is a gift in which they have the honor of presenting to their audiences. The level of effort they’ve put into the presentation is equated to the value of the gift, and they are proud to give such valuable gifts to their communities. When they stand on stage in front of a crowd, execute the skill they’ve been practicing, and throw their hands up in the air to shout, “tada!” while the audience claps and cheers; their understanding of self worth and hard work is changed forever. The revelation that the children experience on stage; that they are worth something more than their outfit, more than the size of their house or the quantity of their possessions, is indeed an invaluable prize in and of itself.

The lessons taught in the social circus classroom are learned through hands on, actual experiences. This way of learning gives a deep and long lasting impression. It is for all of these reasons that Red Nose teaches social circus as the introductory program for all students who wish to join our organization. Every child, from our kindergarten kids up through our young adults in the vocational program take at least one social circus class each week, because we believe that the lessons learned in this classroom build the foundation to help them succeed at anything they want to accomplish.

20 Great Questions To Ask Kids After School

Article originally written by Cathy and published on


Going Beyond “How was your day?”

Parent: “How was your day?”
Child: “Fine”.
Parent: “What did you do today?”
Child: “I dunno…”


If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! I’ve surprisingly gotten this response from my kidlets quite a bit this school year. Obviously they didn’t just do “nothing” at school all day…  as a parent, I feel it is my duty to take a special interest in my child’s day. I think it’s important to be involved, show that we care, ask questions and look for opportunities to teach whenever we can. Making this extra effort also helps stay tuned in to any problems that need to be addressed such as questionable behavior or issues that may be arising between friends . Sometimes it’s easy to get into a natural routine of simply asking “How was your day?” and nothing more. This has been the case for us lately so I decided to come up with a list of new and specific questions to get the kids talking and hopefully spark some fun conversations!

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7 Years of Laughter

by: Renny Antoni Roberts

As Red Nose Foundation’s Managing Director, Renny works closely with Executive Director Dan Roberts to determine the direction and the future of the foundation. Renny holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and Public Relations and has been involved in social work since the age of 12. She first joined the foundation in August 2009 as a volunteer, documenting the foundation’s various field activities. She has been the foundation’s managing director since May 2011. Here, she reflects her Red Nose experiences over the years and share her dreams for the foundation’s future.


When I first joined Red Nose, I was only a volunteer with a camera. I came every Sunday, watched the circus class, took pictures and played with kids. Occasionally, I would go to Cilincing and help with the English classes. I also joined the team on several Red Nose Relief tours to photograph the shows. In the beginning, the team was small, only Dan and Dedi. Every once in a while volunteers would come around, but the core of Red Nose was those two guys.

What I liked about the circus and English classes they taught in Cilincing was that they made the classes casual and simple but the kids were really learning. Disciplined but fun. I could see the children’s enthusiasm in the circus class as if the class were the only place they could play and have fun.


My first day in Cilincing, I met the all the kids, their families and neighbors. Cilincing is a big community in a very poor slum area. I helped Dedi with English class that day and also tried to get to know the kids. While chatting with one of the girls, she opened up to me about her story. Because her parents couldn’t afford to pay for her school tuition, her parents wanted to send her back to their village (a girl only 13 years old) and for her to marry an older man that she’d never even met. Her parents thought that if they married her daughter (even at a young age) it meant they would not have to be responsible to feed her or provide anything. In fact, the daughter could help her parents to improve their financial problems. This was a heartbreaking moment for me as a woman, who was fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to choose my own future.

I am not a teacher or an educator, not a circus performer or musician, but at that time I knew I wanted to be involved with Red Nose to help these kids, especially the young girls. I wanted to give them the same opportunities I had, to get quality education and to reach their dreams.

When Dan and Dedi ask me to join Red Nose full time, I was excited and nervous. It would be a challenge for me to help the children, as I didn’t have a background or any experience working with kids. I started by taking over the English classes to help children of their students. I would spend hours researching teaching techniques that would be simple and easy for the kids to understand.

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Circus Dreams in Cilincing: An Interview with Wawan Kurniawan

In summer last year, Red Nose Foundation sent one of its first and oldest students, Wawan Kurniawan, to the United States and Canada for a four-month intensive circus training in Ludlow, Chicago, and Vancouver.

Nowadays, Wawan is a junior teacher at Red Nose Foundation who helps our artistic director Dedi Purwadi and assistant circus instructor Yanuar Hermansyah in teaching circus skills to small kids in Bintaro Lama and Cilincing. Wawan also helps Red Nose founder and executive director Dan Roberts in teaching circus classes at the Jakarta International School. Next year, Wawan seeks to return to America for one whole year to deepen his circus training. In the future, Wawan hopes to become a professional circus artist.

Earlier this year, Wawan had a conversation with Red Nose’s communication manager Iman Mahditama about his experiences in America, what the trip meant for him, and his hopes and dreams for himself and his friends in Cilincing.

This interview piece was originally published in Red Nose Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report. 

Wawan US


Iman (I): What was your most memorable experience during your American trip?

Wawan (W): My most memorable experience would have to be when I participated in the Wheel2013 international German wheel competition.

I: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

W: Well, at first, I didn’t even know what it was all about. Ka Dan was the one who told me that I would take part in the competition and I didn’t even know what a German wheel was.

When I arrived at the US, I was told what it was. I trained for a month on how to use it. Several days before the competition, my trainer said that my German wheel skill is great. My trainer said that I grasped all the lessons quickly and Ka Dan said that I was ready for the competition.

I have to say that I had been quite nervous before the competition but it turned out to be a lot of fun.

I: When you first learned that you were going to America, what was your reaction?

W: I was very excited. It was my dream to travel to America and Red Nose made it come true. It was the first time I went abroad. I was really thrilled.

I: How did your parent react when they heard the news?

W: Well, they were one part very excited and one part very worried. Because they knew that I was going to be in America all by myself, they were very concerned about who I was going to stay there with, will I have friends there, and other things like that.

Fortunately, I was able to stay connected with my parents through Skype during my time in America. It was Ka Dedi [Red Nose Foundation’s Artistic Director Dedi Purwadi] who set up Skype for my parents at their home.

Everytime I wanted to call my mom and dad, I would send an e-mail to Ka Dedi, who would then bring a laptop to my parents’ home and set up a Skype connection.

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October 2014 Partial Scholarship ceremonies went off without a glitch

Red Nose Foundation is happy to share that the Fall 2014 Partial Scholarship ceremonies proceeded smoothly both in Cilincing, North Jakarta and Bintaro Lama, South Jakarta.

Part Sch Bin

Scholarship recipients from the MA Al Ikhwaniyah and SMK Al-Ikhwaniyah high school in Bintaro Lama, South Tangerang

As in the past, the Red Nose Partial Scholarship program was sponsored in full by Permata bank, in an effort to support underprivileged school children who continuously demonstrate excellent academic achievements.

This school year, 250 partial scholarship were given to students ranging from fourth-graders to twelfth-graders.

Among these 250 students are 65 kids received Partial Scholarship for the first time.

“On behalf of Red Nose, I’d like to congratulate all the students who received scholarships. Today, you are all winners. We hope that these scholarships will help lift some of the financial burden of your education and allow you to focus on your studies and pursue your dreams,” Red Nose Foundation executive director Dan Roberts said in his opening remarks in the ceremony in Bintaro Lama.

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Introducing Meisi Kacaribu, our new Education Manager!

In September 2014, Red Nose Foundation (RNF) welcomed Meisi Kacaribu as the newest addition to our team. As Education Manager, Meisi is responsible to set up and implement the foundation’s curriculum as well as oversee all teaching and learning activities.

Prior to joining the foundation, Meisi had nine years of experience in various roles in the education sector, including as Child Development Counselor, Teacher Assistant, Curriculum Coordinator, Curriculum Developer, Teacher, and Deputy Principal. Her work has brought her to many parts of Indonesia, including the far-flung provinces of Aceh and Papua.

Here, Meisi shares what attracts her to work at RNF, her future plans for the foundation’s Arts and Education Outreach Program, the challenges she expects to face along the way, and ultimately – the wonderful dream she has for Red Nose students.  

MEISI KACARIBU 3When you talk about education in Indonesia, one thing is for sure: the system leaves a lot to be desired and there is so much room for improvement – to put it politely.

I have worked in numerous capacities within the education sector for nine years. I have been in Aceh and in Papua [Indonesia’s westernmost and easternmost province, respectively]. I came to Aceh in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami to help local children overcome post-disaster trauma. Towards the end of my time there, I was involved in a project to develop local schools’ student counseling capacity.

All during my journey around Indonesia, I kept realizing that Indonesia still has much homework to be done in terms of improving its education system. Sure, we can all blame the government and say that it’s not doing enough and it’s not putting education as a top priority. However, I always believe that the people themselves can also make positive contribution to improve this situation – that each one of us can become an agent of change.

In the end, this becomes my personal vision as a human being: I want to do something to help improve my nation’s education system.

So, maybe, the next question will be: why choose Red Nose Foundation to do this?

Well, for me, joining the foundation was not a hard decision to make. I think RNF is unique compared to other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on education in Indonesia, in that it refuses to settle in merely doing the generic things like helping children go to school or training school teachers.

Of course, RNF still does all of that. However, what sets the foundation apart from the rest is that it has a circus program at its core and all the other organizational programs and activities revolves around it.

I think this is very interesting. Education can be a very generic idea for an NGO to focus on. Through using circus arts, RNF manages to come up with something original that you cannot find anywhere else in Indonesia.

The first time I was in Cilincing, the thing that struck me most was how wonderful the children were. They were really polite. They greeted me and asked me questions right away. Some even greeted me in English. Personality-wise, I believe these children are really comfortable as themselves. They are self-confident, happy and highly enthusiastic in learning new things and developing themselves.

I am really excited to work at RNF. I believe there are many great things the Red Nose team can accomplish together. Furthermore, the Red Nose students have great potential. When I was in the field recently, I tried to involve the kids to create a fizz inflator using a balloon, vinegar, and an empty water bottle. They got so excited when they saw the balloon inflates as if by itself.  It’s fun, not by-the-book, and even a bit thrilling. Some of the kids got scared that the balloon might pop up but, they did not move away because they wanted to know what was going to happen next.

In the end, the children got to learn science but in a fun and colorful way where they all could have a laugh together. It’s not boring, it’s not just memorizing formula after formula. Science can be so fun that the children do not realize that they are actually learning something important.

I believe it is through fun experiments like this that RNF can offer a creative learning environment that heavily relies on “active learning” that the children most probably don’t get at school.

The fizz inflator experiment

The fizz inflator experiment

Right now, I am doing a baseline assessment for the Math, English, and Science abilities of all Red Nose students. I wish to find out the academic progress of all the students so that I can formulate the Red Nose curriculum to best suit the students.

In order to do this, we have to always be open-minded and willing to learn new developments in the world of education. The world is always changing and so do the sciences. We must always catch up with all the new things. We also have to be open to partnerships and collaborations in developing our educational programs. There is so many great opportunities for us out there that we will miss out on, if we fail to collaborate with others.

In terms of challenges, I think the biggest challenge for me is in assembling a team of teachers who shares our idea of “fun and active learning”. It is not easy to find teachers who can easily think out of the box – those who think that education can be more than just simply telling your students what to do and how to do it in a classroom. Education can be done by exploring through the neighborhood or by doing science experiment outdoors. Young teachers should be open to trying these ideas and coming up with their own ingenious ways of making learning fun for students.

Another big challenge for RNF, I think, is how to transform ourselves into a bigger “agent of change” with a much wider impact. Educating our students and making them realize that science can be fun is only the first step. They will still have to go to their formal schools, where they will also get science classes in which the lessons are probably taught in a traditional way that may bore them.

This means that the second step is trying to involve the local schools and local community in the discussion about “fun and active learning”. This way, there will be a higher chance that this alternative approach can spread to a bigger arena and have a much bigger impact on the lives of underprivileged children.

In the end, my dream is for these children to one day be an integral part of society that is able to positively contribute to improving the lives of the people around them. If today we are creating this huge project to help them improve their lives, then I hope one day it is them who will be the thinkers and decision makers whose actions improve the lives of millions others.

As for Red Nose Foundation, I hope that we can be sustainable long into the future and develop learning approaches, curriculums, and programs that can be widely replicated by other organizations working in other areas.

Of course, this is not for the sake of our pride.  Instead, it is our responsibility as NGO professionals to tirelessly contribute to the development of social development sciences.

Good People, a Great Cause, and a Wonderful Success Story

Jennifer Quirnbach from the United States volunteered with us for four weeks from mid-June to mid-July this year. She wrote this blog post for us.   

by: Jennifer Quirnbach

Jenn with kids

I posed with the Red Nose kids for a picture

I stumbled upon the Red Nose Foundation when I was looking for things to do during the gap between graduating university and starting my “real job” in the United States.

I volunteered with the foundation for four weeks from mid-June to mid-July, mostly helping with the English classes and teaching some minor gymnastics/circus.

Everyone at the organization was incredibly helpful and welcoming as I adjusted to teaching in a foreign country. At times, it could be tough to keep the students’ attention, but all the staff members were extremely enthusiastic and supportive. They really lessened the culture shock I experienced during my time in Jakarta.

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My Wonderful Time Volunteering at Red Nose Foundation

Jess Herman from London, UK, spent two weeks volunteering at Red Nose Foundation in June 2014. This is her own thought and reflections of living in Jakarta and spending her time teaching circus and English to Red Nose kids. 

by: Jess Herman

I arrived in Jakarta on one Saturday night in early June and, right from the start, the city astounded me.

Jakarta is definitely not an uninteresting place to be in. One of the first things that struck me about Jakarta is that it’s a sprawling city lacking in greenery and heavily overloaded with cars and motorbikes. Traffic is the one word that is totally synonymous with Jakarta. There is also an absolutely massive gap between those living in poverty and those who are wealthy. A visit to one of the city’s many mall has highlighted for me the stark contrast between the expensive, clean, air-conditioned shopping center and the poverty-stricken villages where I volunteered with Red Nose Foundation.

However, I also got to experience the heavenly Indonesian dishes during my visit to Jakarta. I am loving the tempeh and the thousands of different street food options – particularly gado-gado (an Indonesian hodge-podge of vegetables with loads of peanut sauce). I really wished I could have tried them all, but my time (and also my stomach’s capacity) is unfortunately limited.

Secondly and most importantly – what I believe to be the most redeeming element of Jakarta – is the people. I found Jakartans to be really lovely, genuinely friendly, and just all-around good-natured. Every time I got on a train or a bus, I made at least one new friend if not many! People welcomed strangers like me and seemed to even went out of their way to help me – making getting around a pleasure instead of a chore.

So, what about me?

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Red Nose: My Home Away From Home

Australian Annette McDougal spent the last two years living in Jakarta. During that time, she volunteered as an English teacher with Red Nose Foundation for 10 months. The following is her own recollection of the Red Nose memories she gained while living in the Big Durian.

After spending a couple years living in Singapore, my husband and I moved to Jakarta in January 2012. Thinking that some adjustment was necessary, as the two cities can seem to be worlds apart at times, I ended up spending my first 12 months in Jakarta shopping!

IMG-20140203-WA0001I have to admit that I am a true shopaholic that finds Jakarta as nothing short of heavenly. In this city, for example, I can actually find clothes that fit me at prices I can afford, unlike in Singapore.

After a year, though, I began feeling that I might have run out of shopping centers to visit and, while preparing my New Year’s Resolution for 2013, I realized that my one resolution should be finding something constructive to do before I completely emptied our bank account.

Then, one day, I read an article in a newspaper about unique NGOs that work with teenagers and needed volunteers. Of the several organizations listed in the article, Red Nose Foundation caught my attention.

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The Rough Life


Indonesia’s economic growth over the past few years has landed it on the business pages of international newspapers. But the country’s development and emerging wealth is yet to trickle down to the masses. Countrywide, millions of parents struggle to make ends meet, and their children are left with little opportunity for change. The contrast between Indonesia’s rich and poor is particularly obvious in Jakarta, where exorbitant wealth and devastating poverty coexist. 

Jakarta is built on a floodplain that covers 650 square kilometers of land, and more than 10 million people reside within its boundaries. Each day, however, this figure swells as countless others from the 18 million people living in the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Area (Jabodetabek) travel into the city for work.

Despite being the economic and political center of the country, Jakarta is riddled with problems: poor physical infrastructure; high informal employment and unemployment rates; low wages; inflation; air and water pollution; flooding; a lack of affordable housing; and inadequate public services and facilities, particularly where health and education are concerned. And those who are living on or near the poverty line (less than US$2 a day) feel the full weight of all of these issues every day.

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