After spending a half of his life in Indonesia, the founder and executive director of the social circus NGO for Indonesian underprivileged kids and adolescents Red Nose Foundation (RNF), Dan Roberts, is going back to his homeland in the US as the organization is going on a new direction without him.
He can still recall the first day he went on a solo mission to put a smile on the faces of the poor kids in the slum of Cilincing, North Jakarta, by doing a mini circus as a part of his duty as a volunteer at Clowns Without Borders. With a suitcase full of juggling balls and pins among other things including the signature big round red clown nose, Dan spread happiness in an area where there was little to no happiness, encouraging him to take things further and become better with his ideas for providing them with joy and education—leading to the establishment of RNF in 2008. Ever since then, he is determined to build their confidence through circus so they will have faith in themselves, if they succeed at circus, why not succeed at academics as well?
Now happily married with two children of his own, Dan is returning to the American soil to lead a Chicago-based social circus NGO for kids (just like RNF) Circ Esteem as the Executive Director. Dan said it is tough to leave now that RNF has over 300 participating children and a talented staff of 20 people as well as over 1,500 scholarships awarded over the years. However, Dan feels that he has to take this next opportunity as he sees a mutual cooperation between the two given their similarities.
“RNF is much larger than Circ Esteem, however I see potentials in this NGO and I believe it can grow even more. There could be an exchange in which the students and the teachers or circus trainers from RNF visit Circ Esteem to learn and come back with new experiences to share (and vice versa),” Dan said in an interview at his home, which also serves as the RNF office in Pondok Indah on Wednesday (17/08).
Once leaving, Dan will join the RNF’s Board of Directors and will still closely coordinate with the new executive director . “There is no fear that RNF would be lost without me. We are still looking for my replacement until September, someone better than me in many ways who has his or her own style and not copying mine. I know my job is not easy, it’s not always gratifying. But if you believe in the foundation’s mission, and you have passion and compassion for the kids, you can do it.”
Despite the sadness, he is excited to see where RNF will be heading to in the future under the wings of a new leader. He however refuses to be acknowledged as the “angel” that helped hundreds of impoverished children live in better conditions, though he prefers to define it as a collaborative efforts of the team that gave the kids opportunities to grow instead.
“I’m a servant for RNF. The kids do have achievements (at school or the circus) but that’s not thanks to me. It’s thanks to them. We just offer them opportunities but it is their decision to take it or not. It’s their decision to finish school or not, to go on international circus competitions or not. My two former students, April and Wawan, are all grown up now and train circuses here. They make good role models for the kids—we are from the same village and look at them now, so why can’t I?” Dan humbly said with a big smile.