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Cape Town - A homeless boy from the streets of Cape Town is travelling the world and taking circus stages by storm.
Phelelani Ndakrokra, 17, was born on Greenmarket Square and spent almost all of his life growing up on the mean streets of the Mother City.
His mother is still homeless.
But Phelelani has managed to lift himself out of a life of crime and poverty after his talents were spotted by Zip Zap Circus bosses.
“This is the place [circus] I belong,” Phelelani said.
“If I wasn’t here, I’d be on the streets robbing people and breaking into cars.”
Phelelani said that his mom did not want him to get sucked into a life of crime and drugs and did her best to keep him away from other street kids.
The Cape teenager’s life was transformed early in 2010 when he moved into a shelter in Salt River that is run by the Zip Zap Circus.
He recalled: “The first time I walked into the circus tent I couldn’t believe it! There were people on those one-wheel bikes, jugglers and acrobats.”
The youngster said he started out slow, learning simple tumbles and how to juggle.
But he soon progressed and joined the Zip Zap “Second Chance” troupe.
His education was sponsored by a circus benefactor, which allowed him to attend the prestigious Best Centre school.
Phelelani has performed on stages across Europe with his best friend and roommate Jacobus “Trompie” Claasen, who also grew up on the streets of Cape Town.
Phelelani added: “We are like brothers because both of us lived on the street.
“He is very hard-working and he has finished his studies and is focused on improving his circus act.
“Last year I went to Paris and Wales, I want to travel a lot more. This really is a dream come true. I never thought I would even get on plane, I never dreamed of that.”
Phelelani is now a trained juggler and acrobat, and says he wants to learn as many new acts as possible.
The Zip Zap Circus was founded in the early 1990s and has taken hundreds of kids off the streets and given them hope of a better life.
But the organisation admits it is now struggling to fund its vital social outreach programmes.
“A third of our funding comes from performances, but we rely heavily on donations because it’s expensive to put on these shows,” Zip Zap Special Project Manager Natasha Meyer said.