Team Nica: Last Week, San Marcos, by Aileen Lawlor

March 27, 2014

Week four in San Marcos marks our final moments with the Quincho kids, and the home stretch of our 3 month volunteer tour in Nicaragua. However, as the PWB group began the week we were preoccupied with the limited amount of time we had to prepare the kids for their final performance, where they had the opportunity to create routines and showcase the amazing skills they’ve absorbed over the month. The PWB group also had a show to perform at the kids’ school, props to ready, and a safe and responsible fire-performing protocol to create for the older Quinchos that had shown they were ready to add fire to their repertoire. These tasks kept our minds occupied from the reality of leaving and realizing how much we were going to miss this exceptional family of kids.

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What a month!

We kicked Monday night off with introducing six of the Quinchos to the art of fire performance, which first included a lengthy discussion on fire and fuel safety, something we’ve noticed is lacking among other fire artists we’ve come across in this part of the world. Despite the obvious excitement and nervousness that precedes burning your fire toys for the first time, the kids were mature and receptive to the process of keeping things safe, and soon they were ready to experience the process for themselves.

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First time with fire!

Watching their faces light up (with huge smiles!) in the swishing glow of the fire was a wonderful highlight for all of us; witnessing two of the girls burn the fire hoop and staff reminded me of the first time I fire danced 10 years ago, and what an empowering moment that had been. The endorphins and energy of the moment following each of their turns was evident, and we were all impressed with their comfort and carefulness while approaching the situation. After Monday, the six of them continued their fire practice with us each night, building up confidence and safety-savvy to be able to present an impressive fire show to their peers on Saturday night.

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“Empowering moment”?

While the nights were filled with fire, we spent extra time with the kids outside of our daily 2 hours we had with them to facilitate the juggling, acro, hoop, wand, staff, diabolo, dance, and percussion routines that were being created. This extra practice time was amazing; there were a lot of wonderful breakthroughs the kids experienced with just a little bit more time. So often we hear someone say “No puedo!” (“I can’t do it!”) However, with a few more moments of practice, they always seem to get the trick they were trying, and look very pleased with exceeding the low expectation they set for themselves a few minutes before.

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The twins practicing their routine!

On Wednesday, we got the chance to put on a super fun performance of our show at their school. They joined us on “stage” (more of a dirt patch obstacle course really, with tree roots that tested our ninja skills, random concrete, and a large tree with low hanging branches in the center) and performed our dance with us, in addition to showing off a little for their classmates! Halfway through the week, we met a volunteer brigade visiting the Quinchos organization that wanted to see the kids perform their newly acquired skills before they left over the weekend, which meant having kids’ acts ready for Friday and not just Sunday! So the deadline moved up a bit.

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Hoop juggling at the local school.

I think the lot of us allowed some of this to stress us out; in addition to the thoughts of saying goodbye to these kids lurking in the back of our brains, there existed the self-inflicted pressure and barrage of internal questioning leading up to the show:

“Which acts are ready for Friday, if any?”
“Where are the boys?? They didn’t show up to rehearse their acro routine!”
“What do you mean they didn’t create their poi act yet??”
“Have we imparted the importance of practice enough?”
“…Wait, this is about them having fun and letting them take over…so…why am I being so serious?”

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Why so serious?

I think in that week of preparation the fact that everything always turns out amazing escapes the anxiety-riddled brain and keeps one on their toes. The truth is, Friday’s show went swimmingly. It may have even acted as impetus for them to take full advantage of the practice time we had on our last Saturday session of “Circo” at the farm. I had a sentimental minute of watching Daniyuska and Maria (the girls that did a contact staff piece) rehearse their movements to an ethereal music track, foreground to 30 kids busy at play, framing a beautiful photo in my memory: diabolos being thrown in the air, practicing acro pyramids and cartwheels, multiple hoops and juggling balls flying up and down, the beauty of it all enhanced by a sweet breeze and the sunlight blinking through the trees and onto our concrete practice space for our last time there.

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Cartwheels and sweet, sweet sunshine!

Before we knew it Sunday was upon us, which meant packing up our things while tying up the loose ends of the show held at the Osteria restaurant. The PWB crew and the kids marched over to the restaurant, acro mats and an artillery of props in hand, an audience of volunteers and other Quinchos waiting to be entertained. Pre show consisted of last minute play with props, face painting by Emily, and picking out silly outfits that we brought, the boys taking a shine to our wild unicorn and galaxy leggings. Two of the Quinchos volunteered to emcee the show and suddenly the “Circo Internacional Los Quinchos” were on, entering the humble stage (some on stilts!) clapping their hands and snapping fingers for the body percussion rhythm taught by Justin. The kids on stilts followed this with an awesome salsa-esque dance they learned the week before from the lovely “Zanquistas” from Leon, and then the littlest guys, “Los Cachorros” (The puppies!) made the audience laugh with their utter cuteness during their wand-diabolo-poi-acro-hoop mash-up. A practically flawless juggling routine, floating wand duet, a killer diabolo trio, group acro and a massive dance battle are just a few examples of an 18-act show!

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Leggings and two-highs – they definitely caught circus.

The kids were incredibly impressive. Seeing them perform was proof to all of us that not only had they leveled up in their skills, but that they had gained awareness of their audience and how to be on stage. The idea of performing and linking sequences together was taking shape to them, and we’re sure those will be things focused on even more for next year.

The end of the show meant inevitable goodbyes with this family of children we’ve connected with over the past month. The hour following the show was marked with dancing, laughing, embracing, crying, and questions of when we’d come back. It was pretty heart wrenching, and an indication of how this month imprinted on all of us. Their displays of affection and how candid they were with their feelings in that moment felt rare and special, and hinted that the circus classes throughout the month provided more than just skills to practice. I seemed to forget how difficult it is to be a kid, and that I can’t fathom the rough experiences they’ve had in the past that gave that much more gravity to the moment of goodbye.

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The all-star cast of Circo Internacional Los Quinchos! Adios amigos!


Team Nica: A Success Story of Social Circus??

March 20, 2014

by Jacob

As it nears the end of this Nicaragua project (less than 2 weeks to go!) we have naturally begun looking back at the work we have done and reflecting on its possible successes and shortfalls. As nothing is perfect, and we are all experts in hindsight, it is interesting to think about what worked and what could be improved for next time. Three of us in this team did the first Nicaragua project last year (my first PWB project) and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this year feels like a big improvement. And I´m not having a go at last year´s (I came back, after all!) it should be expected that it would improve!

I´m not going to go into the minutiae, maybe for fear of sounding like I have it all worked out, or maybe just to avoid boring you, but one big positive has stood out on this project. It is something that we had a taste of last year and I remember thinking and talking about it lots then but this year it has been a prominent feature of the tour. Basically, due to connections founded last year and Tilly´s relentless communications with new friends this year, during the San Marcos stretch of this project we seem to have had a constant flow of other artists/groups joining us to work with our partner organisation, Los Quinchos.

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Zanquistas salsa-stilt workshop at Los Quinchos

After our fruitful skill-shares with the zanquistas (stilt dancers) in León they have now visited us in San Marcos and worked with the Quinchos for a morning with such results that brought us to tears of joy! We had the Estelí crew come down and do their show and workshops for the children which was a learning experience for the Quinchos and for the rapidly progressing Nido de Las Artes crew. And we also had the full show from La Escuela de La Comedia y El Mimo, followed by 2 days of inspiring acro, clown, and mime workshops from La Escuela´s lead artist, Rafa.

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Rafa teaching some acro

So I should kind of amend a previous statement; it is not just “other” artists/groups coming to work with us. Our visitors here have actually been people from other organisations we have worked with before arriving in San Marcos. So not only have the kids in San Marcos had hugely inspirational experiences of meeting other kids who are themselves ´success stories´ of social circus projects, but also these young people from the other projects have been given more opportunities to get out and share and develop their performance and teaching skills.

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El Nido de Las Artes clown act at Los Quinchos

This is not all… Perhaps the most exciting thing about these events over the past 3 weeks is that while PWB is not around for the rest of the year, each of these organisations could be able to visit each other and the groups we´ve worked with during this project. It feels like it´s the building of connections like these that gives PWB´s work in Nicaragua a real legacy. One of our biggest concerns when coming towards the end of a project is how the children we are leaving will stay motivated and inspired if they wish to continue doing these things. We all know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to train or play if there is little or no inspiration around. A year just seems too long to leave it and expect these children to keep it up on their own. But now it looks like that may not have to be the case! With some organisation from across the ocean there is a high chance (we hope!) that some of these connections can be nurtured and stronger links can be created between the projects we work with.

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La Escuela de La Comedia y El Mimo


Nica: Tilly’s Top Ten (so far) (in no particular order)

March 15, 2014

I realised earlier this week that we are more than half way through the Nicaragua tour and this got me thinking about some of my favorite moments so far. I have no doubt there will be more to come… Of course, there are some downsides as well, I think I can get that out of the way now: water being cut off to the barrio where we’re staying, dust everywhere, not understanding everything people say,  being hissed at (the nicaraguan cat-call) in the street, power cuts, not having your own space when you want it… But really it all pales in comparison to what I see as the good stuff, the stuff that makes PWB projects for me! Here we go (drumroll)…

1. Teaching Elliot (13) and Miguel (17) how to pass 6 clubs. They could both already juggle 3 or 4 balls and pass 6 solidly. Their first attempts with 6 clubs they both did 4 or 5 solid throws and catches, accompanied by growing grins, lots of laughs, and a hint of that slightly awkward teenage thing, where you can see that inside they are bursting with a ton of excitement and emotion about what they have just achieved and don’t quite know how to show it fully!  However, their feelings are palpable and this week both have come leaps and bounds and are happily passing clubs with us, and fairly solidly passing with each other… and even putting in tricks!

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Club juggling be plentiful at Los Quinchos!

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Hammocks, clubs, and coconuts!

2. Jake and his coconuts… He climbed a tree in the courtyard where we’re staying and has been drinking and eating his way through the large pile of coconuts that he got down.  He has refined his technique, which usually but not always, includes use of a knife, saw, bare hands tearing the outer husk off, straw to drink the juice, and then banging the coconut hard on the concrete to crack the inner shell. I don’t need to say any more about the sweaty state that this gets him into, I will just say that Jake really likes coconuts…

3. Watching the group of older children from El Barrilete rehearse and then perform their own acrobatic and acro-balance routine.  We had taught them various moves, as had the lads from Estelí, but they made a whole act all by themselves, complete with entrances, combination tricks that they had made up, and a finale. It’s truly rewarding to see children find their own way to perform tricks and seeing them perform them at the end of the month was fantastic.

4. Going to see the ‘Circo Internacional Los Quinchos’ this week.  It was amazing!  There was stilt walking, dancing on stilts, clowns, unicycling, juggling, and acro-balance, all performed by a select group of the children that we taught here at Los Quinchos last year. 

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Los Quinchos stilt crew waiting to perform


They have made their own acts, have costumes and music, and the whole show is compered by Rojito the Clown (also known as Carlos) who is one of the Los Quinchos coordinators from the boys’ home in Granada. The epic dust-covered ride both before and after the show has to be mentioned. The whole PWB team rode in the back of a pick-up with some of the circus troupe (some in full make up and costume).
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Dust and clowns – circus in Nicaragua!


We headed out of San Marcos and down approximately 10km of dust/dirt track, occasionally stopping to ask how much further it was to the village. Regular shouts of ‘Ramona!’ from the boys warned us when branches across the track (called rama) looked likely to thwack into our faces. A special shout out and respect to Franca, an elderly Italian supporter of Los Quinchos, who also rode in the back of a truck both there and back! I hope to be doing the same at her age!

5. Our skill exchanges with the stilt walking salsa troupe from Leon. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we had a lot of fun.  In the last session we had I even managed to salsa, throw in an acrobatic partner move we’d taught, and then back to salsa, and land more or less back in rhythm I think!

6. Justin’s reaction when he turned up at Los Quinchos and saw where we would be staying for the next month. I don’t know what expectations he had but they were certainly exceeded as he settled into his own little room in the ‘Hotelito’ in the Centro Cultural.

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La Escuela students from Granada inspiring Los Quinchos

7. Having the youth circus troupe from La Escuela de La Comedia y El Mimo come and perform for Los Quinchos. It was a super exciting day already with visiting Italian supporters, pizza, missionaries bringing donations of clothes and then the bus of Escuela performers plus guest artist Tito from Australia.  The whole of Los Quinchos watched the show with founder Zelinda in the centre of the audience of her children. The faces of the children as they watched the show, performed by children the same age as themselves, were a picture, as (we hope) they realise what is possible with practice!

8. Face painting the children of El Barrilete to get ready for their final show.

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Hearts and flowers for all!


Normally having a queue of over-excitable children wanting their faces painted fills me with a certain amount of dread but how can you not smile when there is boy after little boy asking for hearts, butterflies or flowers to be painted on their faces?! There was the odd one out that wanted a spider, but for the most part… and the girls wanted the same, in case you’re wondering.

9. Bags and his grasp of Spanish. Ever the english eccentric abroad, I do enjoy his look of innocent  incomprehension when some unsuspecting soul tries to speak with him too quickly or asks a complicated question. He takes delight in asking for translations of silly, absurd or plain weird things and sometimes I wish that he could communicate these things himself but mostly I enjoy the challenge – Thanks Bags!

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Innocent incomprehension . . .

Finally… Number 10… I can’t decide… Eskimo ice-cream? Fresh fruit juice (fresco)? Watching the twins from Los Quinchos giggling and firing spitballs out of straws? The whole of El Berrinche festival? Watermelon being available everywhere? 16 of us (PWB and Quinchos kids) in the back of the pick up going for dinner? The rate at which kids learn here (I swear its faster than kids in the UK….)? The smiles, hugs, or fist bumps when they pass by on their way to or from school?  I don’t know, all of it I guess!


PWB Salone: The main tour might well be over, but there’s always time for some more fun in the sun! Our final few weeks in Sierra Leone through the eyes of Kay-T :)

March 14, 2014

Pujehun – 28th Feb to 3rd March

Our wonderful, epic tour of Sierra Leone ended its journey in Pujehun. A town first described to us by Augustus, head of the children’s club as a place ‘suffering from depression and full of ex-child soldiers.’ He was very keen to explain these children needed life skills and distractions from their tough and troubled lives…what better than to bring the Circus to town?! On first impressions the town seemed pretty bleak. The sky was grey, everything was run down and it felt empty and low; somehow missing the buzz other towns and villages have had. However first impressions really count for nothing and after two wonderful afternoons with the children, a shopping resulting in an amazing Chop My Money cap and funky trousers, plus a good nights sleeps and delicious food, I definitely warmed to Pujehun.

(You should probably know at this point I love buying hats. With me I packed a pink panda cap, an umberella hat and a jazzy swimming hat and on our travels here I have added a visor with a fish called Orvis on it, a cap so colourful it looks like multi-coloured sick according to Peachi and now my Chop My Money hat. Imagine how big Gangnam style is, add more popularity on and you have Chop My Money…it’s literally being played everywhere and I’m pleased to say I now see myself as the coolest kid in school!)

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I think we can all agree on how great I look…!

We were staying in the luxury of the Save the Children guest house, a place with real walls and en-suites and bread and light switches…all rarities after our time in the wilderness. Lulled into a false sense of security, Emma and I were shocked and terrified when a huge spider ran across us inside the mosquito net. After nuking it with bug spray and stinking the room out we retired to the safety of Emma’s room, still not cured of our arachnophobia even after sharing a room with all sorts of creepies in tiny mud huts!!Image

Our teaching schedule was arranged to be 2 afternoons with the potential of 1000 children turning up as it had been advertised to every school, community group and even on the radio! After a crisis meeting and a change of teaching plan we were ready to take the leap from our usual class size of 20/30 up into the hundreds. We set up a stage under the cover of a concrete area of the local football pitch and had microphones and speakers in order to reach the masses. Augustus had arranged for 4 police men to come along for crowd control- their presence made me somewhat apprehensive about what we were going to be faced with and the task we were taking on. However as usual everything went swimmingly and a great time was had by all! At least 250 people turned up although we maintain we could have dealt with 1000 easy (haha!) and we played a range of games, Kay-T-robics, (one of the funniest things ever to see 250 African children doing aerobics!) European dance and Cultural dance. Afterwards we did a show and were met with slightly confused but still happy faces, unsure of what to make of us! We did the same the next day but with an extra circus workshop first for the members of the children’s club. We were assured they’d be 40 children and over 70 children later packed into the Save the Children car park. We had ALL of our equipment out being thrown, spun and caught in a whirlwind of happy rainbow joy! AKA mayhem!

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Emma rocking the Britney mic!

Because the children’s club is so much about educating and learning, we developed our cultural dance in the show to include a story with a message at the beginning. After establishing Brima and Morlai meant an anti-abomination message not an abomination message like they kept saying, we were ready to go! We all had our part to play; Livi the washer woman, me the one who tries to help her but gets ignored, Tim the evil voo-doo spirit killer (typecast!) and Emma & Morlai the ones who manage to stop Tim taking over the world. The basic moral of the story was don’t’ wash your clothes in the sacred river or an evil spirit will come and kill you…so watch out ok, you have been warned! I could see 4 or 5 old ladies in the audience as we were performing who loved the message. They were nodding and smiling, their faces lit up and it was so encouraging to see! I really love the elders here, have so much wisdom and are so beautiful…I think I’d take anything they told me as fact!

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Augustus was extremely happy and it was clear the children of Pujehun had had a wonderful time. At the end of our last show Augustus got on stage with some of the other Save the Children youth leaders and they were dancing and singing and generally being very silly. That was amazing for us to see because so often we have come up against adults who won’t be silly or even let the children laugh and joke around in our classes. We were pleased to see he was on the same wave length as us and glad the children are in his capable hands!

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Adults dancing…what a rarity in Sierra Leone!

 

Back in Freetown, ready for action! 4th March onwards

After a relaxing day at the beach and a dinner wholly consisting of pancakes, we were settled back in Freetown! Our next stop off was to two of the nearby slums that Save the Children work with. It was quite exciting and a part I’d been really looking forward too. I’ve never been to a slum before anywhere in the world, so had no idea of the reality of it. I only really knew to wear real shoes, not go to the toilet there and to watch where you’re walking. I was expecting it to be very crowded, smelly, dirty and poor, (which goes without saying) but with a buzz about it and an excitement and willingness to welcome us and see what we had to offer. In hindsight what I was expecting was spot on.

Slum 1 – Susan’s Bay

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Brima the ringmaster

I woke up as we were unpacking the car and before I knew it was following a line of people with our stuff expertly balanced on their heads through an extremely narrow, crowded street. There were stalls selling food, milk powder, soap on each side; a dribble of presumably sewage running down the centre and no room for a car and row of people- hence I ended up standing over a tub of scouring pads, in someone’s stall with a dried fish tail in my face! We kept moving up hill which then opened onto a plain with the most incredible view on every side of the slum rooftops, the markets, Freetown in the distance and straight ahead the endless sea. We then carried on down again through a football pitch and onto a clear, flat space clearly designated for us because there were hundreds of chairs set out, seating mostly adults at this stage excitedly expecting a great performance! By the sound of their cheers (by the time we started all of the children from the youth group had turned up along with many, many more!)  we gave a good show that they really, really enjoyed. For me it was one of the most rewarding shows we have done in a while because the response was so vocally positive. We gave it our all and even when the generator cut out we continued to the sweet sounds of Brima’s drumming. 2 hours later we were packed up and gone, leaving excited chatter and many happy faces behind…definitely an afternoon well spent!

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Slum 2- Kroo Bay

Faced with a huge and ever growing crowd of new faces we set up for our Kroo Bay show in record time. We were stationed on the impressively large and flat football pitch and with Emma warming up the crowd we were ready to go!

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5 things that made this show different to any we have done before

  1. There was a pig on stage that somewhat enhanced mine and Emma’s puppet dance!
  2. 4 ladies with HUGE stacks of coal on their heads were in the audience.
  3. Some dog friends also graced our stage with their presence.
  4. Tim got a healthy mix of sun cream, sweat and strong sunlight in his eyes making it his (quote) ‘Most challenging juggling routine to date’ (unquote)
  5. The football pitch was being hosed down 3 meters from our fire routine and very nearly all over the electrical equipment!

Another successful show in our books!!

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PIG!

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Audience with better balancing skills than us!

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AMAZING

 

Freetown Outreach 11th-14th March

After having a relaxing weekend exploring Cockle Point and having a well-deserved chill-out, we were refreshed and ready for action! On Tuesday morning we headed to a school by Lumley beach to do a workshop and show so once again we packed up the car and off we went! Our friend Craig who has been extremely helpful during our fundraising works there and so we went specifically to teach his form group, much to the excitement of them and the bemusement of their fellow students! The school itself was a typical Sierra Leone government school; tiny hot classrooms, a lack of teachers, no way of maintaining and sort of privacy or safety as the site isn’t enclosed and minimal (none) hygiene facilities. I was expecting it to be manic and although I didn’t see a single class being taught all morning (even with exams next week!) we were made very welcome and had a really great time. Half of the class did circus, half European dance then they switched over. They loved all of the toys and were so engaged in both classes, they really were a pleasure to teach especially as they clearly got so much joy from joining in. The show was incredible; we all got a real buzz from it because the audience were so vocal and genuinely very impressed! There was no generator so we had to use our tiny mini rigs and the mats were so hot our feet were burning like running along hot sand at midday…BUT it was well worth having red soles on our feet because we bought so much happiness to the school and especially Craig’s form group!

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In the evening we headed to the Cultural Village where Brima, Morlai, Tessay and Mummy live for a performance swap and in my opinion it was the most exhilarating show we have done! The whole village came into the performance area to watch so it was packed out full of dancing children and eager adults awaiting the show! The cultural group opened the show with the most incredible drumming I have ever heard. The sound was so full and vibrant; they had 3 drummers out front who were not only drumming but performing with their whole body and faces which made it so engaging to watch, at least 4 big bass drums and 2 huge wooden xylophones to add melody and like I said the sound was just insane. Then when the dancers came out the energy went through the roof, it’s so hard to explain the feeling it evoked but I can say I felt so honoured to be there and especially honoured to have worked with them and got to know them, I was beaming from ear to ear as I watched! Next it was our turn and boosted by the energy in the room (well, there were no walls so almost a room!) we gave our absolute all and the audience loved it! I got the feeling they were overwhelmed by the diversity of our show but in a really positive way. They especially loved the fire and it was so lovely to see the national guys we have been working with get to perform their new skills in front of their family and friends. We had the best evening and all came away with a great moral boost and all feeling fantastic!

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Wednesday came and bought with it a very poorly Livi and Emma, but luckily Tim and I were still going strong so we poodled off for our day of teaching somewhat diminished in numbers! We headed back to Susans Bay to work with a charity called Goal who work to bring street children off the street and rehabilitate them with family; whether that be parents, siblings or more extended family. Quite often these children are being exploited for work and sex and all of the children we were going to work with still lived on the street and just came into the centre 3 hours a day. They got some schooling, activities, a safe place to go and a hot meal which is great but to me horrific to think after that time they are heading back onto the street. It usually takes 3 months to get a child rehabilitated; after 1 month or so of coming to the centre they start telling the staff their real story, what is actually happening to them not just a brush over missing out the key facts. It’s only then the staff can start to find their relatives, a seemingly impossible task in a country where no-one has an address and people can easily disappear into the woodwork. The children we worked with were reaching the end of their 3 months and so nearing rehabilitation and it was clear how much of a difference Goal has made to them. They were engaged, eager, happy and extremely friendly and polite. I must admit I was very apprehensive about the teaching because everywhere we have worked so far the children have been relatively sheltered, very well looked after and monitored 24/7 so there is a huge degree of control but obviously these children don’t have that structure but as soon as my first class of beaming, excited children ran into my teaching space I knew we’d be absolutely fine! The national guys came along too so we taught drumming, cultural African dance, circus and European dance so the children got a really wide mix of skills and had a fantastic day, just as I did too!

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With that our final workshop was complete and the evening led to a wonderful show at Atlantic Bar in Freetown; a great turn out of all our friends we met back many weeks ago during our Freetown Bootcamp came to support us, the backdrop for the show was incredibly beautiful with lit palm trees and the vast sea spanning out and as we watched slideshows of photos and expertly edited videos (well done Emma!) we all felt very emotional but proud of the journey we have completed together. We had a lot of fun during the show, shaking it up a bit by adding impro skits, sabotaging each other’s acts, and generally having a lovely time! After a wonderful party we called it a night, comforted by the knowledge we have completed what we came out here to do and had a ball doing it!!!

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What a fantastic backdrop for our show!

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Team shoelace!!!

Next stop, Lumley Airport…we’ll be back, I’m sure of it 🙂

We’d like to say a big shout out to the teams in India and Nicaragua…all the best for the rest of your tours guys and we’ll say hi to England for you!!! See you on the other side 🙂

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Farewell shinanigans

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Big love for Emma, Morlai, Livi, Brima, Katie, Mummy and Tim 🙂

By Kay-T, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it 🙂 


Nica: Estamos Aquí by Super Bolsas

March 10, 2014
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“Countryside haven” – El Centro Cultural, Los Quinchos

After a week’s holiday it’s time to reconvene in San Marcos. The organisation we are working with here is called Los Quinchos and it’s run by the wonderful Zelinda – an exuberant Italian lady who sold-up everything and moved to Nicaragua to help needy kids. Our first order of business is to find out what everyone has been up to since we went our separate ways a week earlier. We do this at Los Quinchos’ pizzeria which is staffed by some of the older kids that we’ll be working with. Los Quinchos takes vulnerable children from the streets of Managua and transplants them to this idyllic little countryside haven. It houses and feeds them, puts them into local schools and teaches them trades like hammock making, bread making and the fine art of baking Italian pizza pies.

Saturday night is karaoke night. So we exchange slices of pizza and stories of our time off while tipsy Nicaraguans caterwaul songs they have seemingly never heard before. After we endure this for an hour or so it’s time for PWB to represent. Aileen belts out a sterling rendition of “Estoy Aquí” by Shakira in Spanish which seems to mightily impress the assembled locals. Our project has begun.

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Los Quinchos children enjoying the PWB show in the pizzeria


 
The next morning finds us back in the pizzeria but this time to perform our show for the children of Los Quinchos. To see so many faces I recognise from last year is a heartwarming experience. We rock out our show which is greeted with suitable amounts of laughter and applause. We then pass out some props and they proceed to blow us away with how much they can do. Seeing kids nailing diabolo tricks, weaving poi, dancing with hoops and juggling four balls, and all before we’ve started teaching them again, is a beautiful and inspiring sight to behold.

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A Quincho gettin´ his flow on!


 
We spend the week topping up their skills and introducing the kids that weren’t here last year to the wonders of circus. These kids are such a pleasure to teach because they are eager to learn and pick things up so quickly. They also seem many times more confident and focused this year then they were last year. Some of the kids have their own circus show now which we’ll get to see next week and they obviously have a passion for circus which is tremendously rewarding to see.

 
 

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El Nido de Las Artes show

 

At the end of the week El Nido de Las Artes (translation: “the nest of the arts”) come down from Estelí and perform their show then help us teach some workshops. It’s so exciting to see these connections between organisations being made. Hopefully they can come and visit the Los Quinchos kids again during the year and bridge the gap between us leaving and returning next year. Forging links between organisations like these is a really important part of our work if it is to stand a chance of becoming self-sustaining.

 
Despite it’s seemingly relaxed country location San Marcos is crazy noisy. Packs of loudly barking dogs decimate the night while eager cockerels penetrate our morning slumber. Both get particularly agitated during earthquakes – we had two minor ones this week (but as of yet we’ve had no problems with volcanoes). At weekends a brass band erupts at six in the morning for reasons unknown, accompanied by startlingly loud fireworks. But the loudest and most frequent noise is due to what I believe to be (and I’m no expert on this) a modest-sized colony of bats noisily engaging in intercourse, at all hours, in the rafters of our residence. However, we have all survived and flourished here and we are eager to see what the next few weeks have in store for us.

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. . . And here´s the “happy children in hoops” photo you´ve all been waiting for!


Hey ho, team Salone went to Bo! 18th – 22nd Feb :)

March 7, 2014

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I knew Bo would be good fun from the offset….I mean seeing a guy on an okada wearing a Santa hat in the mid-day African heat HAS to be a positive thing right??!

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Impromptu workshop during our stop off in Makeni much to the excitement of the children!

Due to issues with non-appearing transport (West Africa Wins Again..) instead of travelling to Bo on the Sunday as scheduled, we ended up surprising the kids in Makeni by turning up unannounced hoping that they wouldn’t mind if we stayed the night. Even though we were sad not to have made it to Bo in time, the kids excitement in seeing us was overwhelming and so sweet. They all ran up to the car and it was hugs all round! Not only was it a fantastic feeling the old ego, but it means PWB is really working out here and that we are doing our job well!

When we finally arrived in Bo we were welcomed with loving open arms!! Well, we were by the groundskeepers and children and orphanage leader and after a frosty welcome from the headteacher of the school it transpired he thought us Brits were going to try and take over and ‘teach all us African’s how to dance!’ After gently explaining this wasn’t the case we finally got him on our side and arranged a schedule that involved spending the morning with the drama group and the afternoons with the orphans.

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We did an assembly at the orphanage and they were delighted and excited to have us to stay, everywhere we have been we’ve always had a great response but it’s Tim’s contact ball that really gets them going…it’s so amazing to see them getting inspired and eager to learn. It makes our job so much more satisfying, and helps us get through those tired or extra long days!

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After our first day of workshops (all received brilliantly) we realised our equipment needed a well deserved sort out. So, after a meal of dried fish, cold chips and fried plantain (a meal which continued to haunt us for the whole of our Bo trip!) we got on re-counting and packing and making some more juggling balls! 2 hours later we had a perfectly organised, ready to go kit bag, 12 new juggling balls and a beach-worth of sand all over our the floor of our lovely guest house…whoops!

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Brima and Tim have a little bromance going on 🙂

Our time in Bo seen through my eyes…well and a lens. Sometimes pictures speak louder than words.

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This little lady was ALWAYS in the front row giving it her all 🙂 She was a talented young dancer and thrived off learning the European routine.

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Great pose 🙂

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Emma’s improv….a great way to break down barriers and let the children see us as adults they can have fun with, something that seems to be very rare here in Sierra Leone.

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The football pitch became our designated teaching area. One third for circus, one third for cultural dance/drumming and another third for European dance. It was a massive hub of excited children. I’ve never seen so many toys flying around and so much happy laughter!

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Shout if you wanna go higher!!

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Well how can you resist when there’s a playground right outside your bedroom?!

Showtime!

Our couple of days in Bo absolutely flew by…it turned out we couldn’t teach on the Friday because the school had a prize giving ceremony which we were invited to attend and perform at. The stage was extremely rickety and after sitting through what felt like endless names of award-winning students and some rather amusing French plays where one shared microphone was snatched mid sentence from character to character, it was finally our turn. The younger children started off by performing Emma’s ‘European’ dance and they were fantastic! They’d only practised for 3 hours plus a sneaky go before the show but they nailed it, we were very proud 🙂 Then the older guys and girls performed a cultural dance taught to them by Brima and Morlai which was also great. They had made a real effort with their matching lapas and face/body paint so they looked so professional and were clearly very proud to show off what they had learnt! The audience responded very well to them with whoops and cheers, and although slightly apprehensive they also enjoyed the short show put on by us. I’d count it as a successful show purely because no-one fell off or through the stage haha!

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Our last night in Bo came about too quickly and we treated the orphans to a fire show which they absolutely loved! Unlike the school who had seemed a bit quiet during our show in the assembly, the orphanage kids were one of our loudest audience yet. It’s interesting how much of a difference it makes in how the children react to a performance after we’ve spent a week working with them. At the end of our fire show as a special treat, Peachi left the generator on and got out his flashing disco lights (not a euphemism). The whole orphanage went absolutely crazy as they danced their hearts out to the 4 West African tracks that we had -on repeat for 2 hours. The PWB had to dance in shifts; a sort of African disco relay team! They had way more stamina than us for sure! When we began to wind it down, they kept shouting “Please come back! Please come back’ which I’m pretty sure means they enjoyed themselves! Yet another confirmation that we’re doing what we came out to do 🙂

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FIIIIRRRREEEEEE!!!!

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A great time was had by all in Bo!

By Kay-T and Emma 🙂


Nica: Our Last Week in Leon by Justin Pulsford

March 4, 2014
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Justin, sad it’s the last day!

I’m leaping volcanos after finally recovering from ten days of tooth, root canal and toilet adventures. I am really happy to return to the crew, school everyday, eating ALL the food, the kitchen and all things Mama J. Just to explain, all PWB volunteers take on 1 of 7 roles. For the past four weeks I have been Team Mum. My roles include conflict resolution, time keeping, delegation of daily tasks (shopping, cooking etc.) and a mid-project check-in session with each team member.

Jake wakes me at 6.15am with coffee ready in the pot! It’s cool outside and I’m happy to join the boys for their morning training session in the park. I’m currently working on 3 clubs and some bounce juggling. Then it’s off to the market with Emily to gather tropical fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs and honey. I love this place, it has a wicked buzz about it!

At 2.05pm I rally the “kids” with the ten minute leaving call, ‘Vamonos!’ We scurry onto a camioneta, like a kinda colorful “chele” centipede. We are greeted with smiles, excitement and the usual stampede from the El Barrilete children as they run past me to grab and climb Valentina 🙂

After a round of body percussion and improvisation games the children try out entering the ‘stage’, smiling, performing an action, bowing and then exiting the ‘stage’. They laugh wildly as their friends present in front of them, though we still have some shy ones as not everyone braves the walk of fame. They know it’s not long now and together we count down the days till their grand performance.

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Practicing our dance routine

Over the next two days the children form small practice groups to run through their routines. I help Jake and Aileen, a school ‘educadora’, with the Diabolo routine. The children are wild with excitement and it takes everything we have got to shape them into a step by step presentation. Coming on stage in two files, Diabolos in one hand, sticks in the other. Jake works an awesome rhythmic clatter of Diabolos down the lines and a graceful turn with the sticks in the air. A heavy dose of patience & encouragement and it’s really coming together.

Janeli & Nayeli (2 of the girls at the school) have been keen to show me their 3 ball juggling progress. In week 1 & 2 we practiced 2 balls up, 1 after another. Then onto 3 balls, walking after them as the balls fly away in front, to the side and occasionally behind. Now I can barely keep up watching them stand in one spot and throw 10, then 20 and by the time the sun has fallen I counted 53 throws from Nayeli with catches to match. Wow! Along with Wendy they also work on a juggling, Acro-balance & Hoop routine. I stand speechless and amazed as their 3 minute act unfolds, utilizing tricks we had taught them and their own addition of originality, new combinations and shapes.

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Janeli, Nayeli & Wendy practicing their act

Aileen & I head out to a local barrio with the Escuela Movil. As we trundle down the pothole ridden track, eyes and voices appear from huts, behind trees and across ditches to follow us to the basketball court at the heart of this barrio. This month’s addition of Team Nica and its colorful crew & props has really captured the focus of local children here. Ad-lib Hoop shows, comedy club routines, wand, slack rope, mime juggling, contact juggling and theatre acts have drawn them in to play and to take part in the educational mathematics and language games that the mobile trailer has to offer. Hector, a Nicaraguan volunteer, takes time to express his gratitude to me, and how he has enjoyed having us there each week. The importance of a fun atmosphere, co-ordination classes, balancing, juggling and straight-up high energy playtime! In addition to this, the chance for these children to experience mini circus shows, brought to them on their patches of earth with the thrill and excitement of seeing some of these things for the very first time.

The last session is intensely hot, though we play mostly amongst strips of shade that line the court. Aileen gathers a group of 8 for a wand class, with many more onlookers watching from the stone steps. Following a short session balancing a club in different places with some boys, I turn to organize two triangular throw and catch games with the balls I brought with me. After a contact juggling demonstration we finish by playing a throw, catch and name game. Names and sports, to favorite foods and fruits. I feel privileged to share laughs, smiles and praise with the 10 kids who joined us. Long after we change games 1 very sweet boy is still catching and calling out “Futbol” with a 5 second pause to think.

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Playing with the kids at Escuela Movil

5mm out and 3mm up, somewhere between a tense finger lock and even pressure, is sufficient enough to keep the MP3 player cable steady to play music through the massive sound system provided. Apart from the occasional frustrated face of a dropped prop the show is nothing short of monumental! If the applause and cheers of 100 people from the barrio isn’t proof enough then the wave of happiness and emotion that sweeps us all off our feet is.

The sun had long gone, we present the school with their decorated wheelie box of circus props, and bathe in a warm pool of gratitude from Maria and the kids. A strong cocktail of sadness and joy passes over me as a tear rolls down my face in the circle of our goodbyes. What a show! What a Month!…Mad love for you, Team Nica!

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Face painting on the show day!