Art as a tool for healing? Cambodian circus fosters joy and confidence.

In Cambodia, a circus is helping break the cycle of poverty and renew arts that were nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge regime.

A short drive away from the famed Angkor Wat temple ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia, another spectacle has been quietly attracting visitors for years. Every evening, under the big top at the Phare Circus, audiences watch mesmerized as acrobats and artists jump and somersault, dance and paint, execute midair flips and twist into pretzels.

Forgetting the discomfort of the hard wood seats, the viewers cheer and clap at the entertainers, who work in perfect harmony as a team.

Watching them smile under the spotlight, it is difficult to imagine that these confident young men and women come from impoverished or troubled families. Celebrating its 10th anniversary on Feb. 8, Phare Circus simultaneously provides young Cambodians with a livelihood and showcases the talents of students at Phare Ponleu Selpak, a not-for-profit arts school located in Battambang, Cambodia.

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