From the crammed and tiny classroom at Children of Topsia to the rural but still jam-packed home of Bachpan, Performers Without Borders has certainly made an impression on Calcutta. The main part of our project here has been with Future Hope – PWB’s third visit to this fantastic and every-growing organization. They are currently working on plans to build a new home and school complex outside of Kolkata, to home and teach up to 300 children at risk.
Although we could not spend the whole month with Future Hope, the children nevertheless learned so much in the time we had with them. The older boys (many of whom fondly remember our first visit in 2007) were very keen on acrobalance this time around, as many of them are budding sportsmen they are keen for new ways to use their strength and agility. For many of the younger members, it was their first experience of circus – and still many of them had favorite skills after the first 2 days! Everyone’s skills progressed quickly – we were met at the gates with ” Diabolo today Aunty?” – or, at the boys home, by one grinning face just seen over the top of the gate ” I’ve been practicing (unicycle) since i woke up”.
Eager for new skills and to add to their existing ones, PWB have left a new generation of circus enthusiasts at Future Hope this year, as well as further encouraging existing talents. The older boys have already been performing their circus skills – at a yearly “Mela”, which they have plans to perform at again this year – as well as at some smaller Future Hope events.
The remainder of our time in Kolkata was spent with Children of Topsia and Sanlaap – for more on these 2, see previous entries on the blog. And then in our last week we visited 2 more NGO’s, one being the Barrackpore Avenue Women’s Cultural and Social Welfare Society, which is run by the inspirational Camille Johnson. Under this umbrella name, there are 10 – yes 10!! – different projects running, including 16 small slum schools, and 2 shelter homes catering for misplaced boys and girls, and old women who have been abandoned or found on the streets. We performed for one school (catering for children of mixed backgrounds) and the shelter home residents – performing for the boys, girls and old ladies. It was fantastic to see some older faces amongst the young ones when we performed – as bemused as the kids were amused at our antics. For more information, see http://www.avenuewelfaresociety.com
Our last few days were spent re-working our show, due to the departure of Mystic D (or Darren) back to the UK (he had an important interview to attend about his chosen future career- teaching. Good luck Darren!)
Having achieved this in minimal time and maximum heat (it is hitting 37 degrees at the moment), we visited 3 different Cini Asha centers – 2 shelter homes, one for boys and one for girls, and a drop in centre at Sealdah train station. Our audiences at these centers were small but perfectly formed – the children were full of smiles and excitement and we couldn’t have asked for better audiences for the first outing of our new show. In the boys shelter a couple of the boys had taught themselves to juggle, which throughly impressed me. We had time for a quick “have-a go at circus” at the shelter homes, met with laughter and and enthusiasm as unicycles were fallen off of and acrobalance moves achieved.
As we leave the heat of Kolkata for a short break, and then on to our final project in the cool mountains of Darjeeling, my final thoughts are of the many smiling eager faces that we’ve met here, and just how excited they all were to learn, to have a go, to try new things that (some of them) had never even seen before! And that’s something worth remembering – for us all maybe – the excitement of trying something new, the thrill of trying, and finally, the satisfaction of learning.