Student Stories: Sreyleak from Circus

Meet Sreyleak, a 17-year-old circus student at Phare Ponleu Selpak. Today, Sreyleak performs in one of our mainstage circus shows under the big top, excels at contortion and trapeze, and even traveled to Rwanda earlier in 2016. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Sreyleak, like many of the children at Phare, went through some hardships early in her life. When she was young, both of her parents passed away, and she has since lived with her older sister and her older sister’s family.

For some, a tragedy like that would have been a major life disturbance, but not for Sreyleak. At age 10, she began taking performing art classes at Phare, following in the footsteps of her older sister.

Art classes like the ones at Phare have been proven to help disadvantaged children overcome stress, emotional trauma, and develop emotional and intellectual maturity. In a country like Cambodia, where arts are not taught in public schools, programs like the ones at Phare Ponleu Selpak are essential to encouraging children to overcome past difficulties and live full, creative lives.

Today, Sreyleak is part of our professional circus program, hoping to one day perform under the Big Top in Siem Reap. Here in Battambang, she performs under our big top every week as a member of Tchamlaek. Becoming a member of the Tchamlaek cast was a big honor for Sreyleak, and she works hard every day to live up to it.

“The hardest part of performing is staying in character for the whole show. It takes a lot of focus to tell the story for the audience.”

When not performing, Sreyleak can be found training in the circus hall. As part of our professional program, she spends most of her time training in her two specialties: trapeze and contortion. But she also takes supplementary classes in theatre, music, and dance for several hours a week. The theatre classes especially help her play the part of the angry mother in Tchamlaek, when she is naturally such a happy, smiling young woman.

In 2016 Sreyleak had the chance of a lifetime: through a joint program with Phare Ponleu Selpak and Global Arts Corp, Sreyleak traveled to Rwanda to perform the show See You Yesterday in a refugee camp. It was her first time ever leaving Cambodia.

“When the plane took off, I was so scared, I cried. But it was my first time ever to travel. I was happy, and so excited.”

Phare Ponleu Selpak gives its students the ability to have experiences that may otherwise never have been possible for them. Our students have travelled to France, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Tanzania, Rwanda, and many other countries. To travel abroad like this can be very difficult for most Cambodian families. With the support of Phare, these children are given the chance to live their dreams.

Want to support Sreyleak and other children like her? Visit our campus and see Sreyleak in a show under the big top! To have a bigger impact on the lives of Cambodian youth, make a donation to Phare programs, or join our Child Sponsorship Program.


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Phare Ponleu Selpak – Spectacle Tchamleak