Dan-yhavad Kolkata

March 29, 2017

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With everyone refreshed after the break, a group meeting was needed to discuss the plan of action for Kolkata. The organisation we are working with is called The Hope Foundation. The Hope Foundation carries out vital work in the local community helping children in extreme circumstances escape their lives of tremendous difficulty. The children we are working with have experienced lives of poverty; living in unsafe conditions on the streets and the organisation maintains its operations protecting and relieving children’s experiences of physical and sexual abuse. With many children as young as five needing support, The Hope Foundation provides an important service for them. It releases them from lives of hard labour previously required to earn money for food and provides a safe and nurturing environment to help the children grow. It provides food, water sanitation, education and frees vulnerable children from child labour funding and operating over 60 projects. It’s healthcare programme provides immunisation and ante-natal care, saving the lives of thousands of children and their mothers.

Performers Without Borders have a broader remit and contact with many children here providing a safe space for the children and engaging them in fun activities. This is providing relief and helping their cognitive development.  We provide circus skills, games as well as shows across the community. The organisation has returned to the same areas and the children clearly look forward to and get excited prior to the few weeks we spend here. Most of the children we work with here did not have a fixed residence before they were cared for by The Hope Foundation. They now have a home with many organisations developing their lives. This huge difference and certainly gives me hope.

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After show fun at the Seagull Project

The children often have a restricted space to practice circus skills which requires us to adapt our teaching methods and our performances in order to effectively teach the children. Many relationships have been built with the children along the way. They certainly all know my name and I need to improve my retention of theirs. I find my relationships with the other members of my team have continually developed along the way as well. There is a collective openness within the group which resolves any conflict along the way. This is expected with 9 people in a house. I definitely find myself having a lot of fun teaching the children circus skills, performing the shows for the children knowing that I am providing them and safe and happy place when I watch the smiles on their faces. I very much enjoy the company of the people I work with and I consider them all friends. Don’t think I would every have an underpants party in a kitchen with people who I didn’t consider friends. 🙂

My current designated position within the team is ‘Team Mum’. We have different roles at different places. I feel quite a lot of pressure due to the requirement to keep the household maintained with essentials like food, water, cleaning equipment etc. I wish to please everyone and the last team mum Benji, who did an excellent job, made life smooth for everyone. I am doing OK at the moment. I have 10 GPS points in my phone to manage my way around the place and function as team mum. I often get good deals due to my ability to speak more Hindi and just general friendliness. My competitive nature amongst such good people and performers has improved my skills a lot. I love India, the people I work with and this experience with Organisation. I will feel sad when it ends but will enjoy the rollercoaster whilst it’s still rolling.

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Bye Bye Benares

March 21, 2017

Our adventures in Varanasi (Benares) have now ended! The closing curtain of the Asha Deep show marked the end of a significant chapter in Team India’s tour and this moment brought up an incredible range of emotions – we were elated, exhausted, proud, and a little sad.

The Asha Deep Vidyashram Annual Function was a truly spectacular event. The staff and students of the school worked tirelessly to put together an extravaganza of singing, dancing, theatre, stand up and of course, circus. Many of us were taken aback by how multi-talented the students were as they remembered not only the choreography for their respective Performers Without Borders acts but also the lyrics and choreography of the many other items they took part in. As a team we were incredibly proud of the kids and we felt privileged to be a part of the event.

The Asha Deep show held further significance for the team as it highlighted many of the relationships we’d developed with the local community. Within the audience were staff and students from our other major partner schools, Duniya Education and Jeevan School, in addition to people from our outreach partner, Ashray School. It was also rather touching to see the faces of the various shopkeepers, tuk tuk drivers and neighbours who have led to Varanasi feeling like home.

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Although our official PWB time in Varanasi had ended, it did not mark the end of our relationships with the community. Many of the team still returned to the schools during our break to juggle and play with the kids after class and develop their skills. Dan and Rowan also spent time developing a “check-out system” at one school. They were keen to ensure that the equipment that was left with the school may be used regularly but also provided a simple and easy method to keep track of what equipment is available, who has props in their possession, and strategies to deal with misplaced or damaged equipment. One of our favourite experiences was being invited to spend time with the kids to celebrate Holi. Never before have we been assaulted with such a beautiful array of coloured powders, water balloons and water pistols! The kids’ smiles and energy brought the experience alive for us.

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While on the break we also had the opportunity to represent PWB in a less official capacity. Seven of our team spent some relaxation time at the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve southeast of Kolkata. This was a stunning region of the country filled with twisted mangroves, winding rivers and fearsome tigers and crocodiles! Our hosts gave us a freshly prepared stage in a paddock and we provided the local community with a short circus and fire show – for many, the first circus show they had ever seen. Celebrating with the locals afterwards in the form of singing, dancing, eating and conversing was a wonderful way to share what we do. It also served as a nice prelude for our next project in Kolkata. We can’t wait for the second half our tour in India to begin!

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Greetings from San Marcos!

March 14, 2017

We’re into week three of the second phase of our Nicaragua tour. The breezy town of San Marcos is a refreshing break after the sweltering heat of Leon. We’re working and staying at Los Quinchos, an orphanage that has numerous programs to educate and empower about 30 kids with nowhere else to go. We are teaching them every day, as well as doing shows around the town.

 

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Taking a selfy at the senior center. Or as we call it, a “selfish.” Hehehe.

This is quite a change from the fast paced, sweat infused mission that was Leon. We teach on the same property that were staying at, so there is much less commuting. They weather is considerably cooler (Thank you thank you thank you) and there’s almost no mosquitos. Hooray!

As this is a place PWB has been visiting for 5 years, the children already have a bunch of circus skills, so it is a real treat to start working on some high level stuff with them. About 7 kids can already ride a unicycle. Sam has been teaching them hopping, and idling now. There’s a handful of jugglers, some staff and poi spinners, lots of talented hoopers, and a huge group of boys that absolutely rock it with Diabolo! The enthusiasm these kids have for circus arts is remarkable. Every time we see them earlier in the day they ask “hay circo hoy!?” Is there circus today!? Si hay. Yes there is 🙂

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Post Show Smiles!

 

 

So far we’ve done a few school shows and one at a senior center. The senior center show was lovely, and a nice change. Instead of hundreds of high pitched screams, we got slow claps, hearty chuckles, and wide, consistent smiles. This show was on International Women’s Day, so we made a bunch of origami flowers to give to the women. It was sweet and special and gave us some warm fuzzies inside.  One of the men there was a musician, and after the show he sang us songs and played on his harmonica as a way of saying thanks. It was nice to hang out afterward and bond with the people we had just entertained. They were super appreciative.

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This incredibly talented man gave us a private serenade after our show at the senior center!

On March 9th we celebrated my 30th birthday! What a fun day! Since we didn’t have a show that morning, we went to the beautiful Laguna de Apoya for swimming, lunch, and a surprise piñata! Yaaay! When we returned to Los Quinchos, I let the kids shave my head before the workshop. I had had shoulder length hair, so it was quite a spectacle. They loved it, and started calling my El Pelon. “Baldy”

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Birthday field trip!

Now we are shifting our attention towards preparing the kids of Los Quinchos for their show. Near the end of our stay here, they will be doing their very own performance! The creation process is a fun and challenging time. We try to find a fine line between providing ideas and directing them, and letting them come up with there own material. Kids have great ideas if you just give them a platform to express them. By doing so, it empowers them, boosting confidence and creativity.

We’ll keep you posted with more material as it comes out, and of course photos of the kids doing their final show. Thanks for reading, and spread that joy around!

Hasta Luego!

Eli March

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What time is it? Hoop o’clock. Duuuhhh.


The end of our Safari (Journey) Team Kenya

March 13, 2017

 

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(Below is the speech I delivered to the Gabriel Learning Centre School at their Monday morning assembly 13th March, I had it translated into Kiswahili for them at the time)

“Dear Gabriels learning Centre, Wowee! Well done for your show on friday. You were all so wonderful, I hope you are all proud of what you achieved in only 3 weeks! Thank you also to all of the teachers, and all the staff at Gabriels for their energy and support. Making a show is a big part of performing arts, the most fun and exiting exam you will ever have. It allows you to share your amazing talents and new found skills with your friends, with your school, and your teachers around you. I hope that this performance sharing with some of your community can spark communication and smiles in your families.

 

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Showtime is also a brilliant way to finish our project, a real destination to arrive at. So today our part in this journey is ending, today we are leaving as our time in Kenya is at an end. But the journey for you in performing arts should continue, keep practicing the things we have shared, the games, diablo, dancing, clown, acrobatics, juggling.

 

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The things you have learnt are tools for the future that you can use in many ways, for example building trust in acro-balance; seeing and recognising emotions in clown and theatre; fun and exercise in hula hoop dancing; and hand-eye coordination in juggling. As teachers we believe these skills are valuable and fun and important to children. We all really look forward to working with you all again with a new team in the future.

We will all remember our time as part of the Gabriel’s family, so now I will take my memories, smiles and laughter in my hand, put it in my pocket. And take it wherever we go.

Asante Sana ( Thankyou )

Created and Read By Abi Cooper, Team Kenya Co-oordinator 2017

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Team Nica 2017: En un círculo (in a circle).

March 11, 2017

Mid Leon

Our first project out here in Nicaragua was in the beautiful colonial city of León. Our time there was a huge learning opportunity for all of the team. Mid way through the project we went on a field trip to help us understand the context of the projects we’re working with and presented our students and ourselves to the city of León.

Learning is often a challenge and this experience was more challenging than most, but the team walked away with renewed vigor and some insight into where the kids we’re working with come from and why our works is so important. With this fresh perspective we returned to work, preparing these eager performers for their big presentation in the main city square.

El Fortín

In 2009 Leon’s municipal garbage dump was moved away from the historic fort of León, a site of major significance to the Nicaraguan revolution. The local government has allowed the construction of large township on the site of the former dump which currently survives on contaminated water pumped directly from the site.

The new garbage dump supports a large number of families who collect recyclable materials in exchange for a small cash redemption. Children as young as 6 work amongst burning refuse, toxic fumes and medical waste where a family might be able to collect 50 kilos of plastic and metal to earn around 30 córdobas each day ($1).

Some of our students still work with their families at the garbage dump and many have been relocated to new neighbourhoods away from the site. One of our partner organisations works with families to get these children into school, providing them with lunch, dinner and after school support easing the economic cost to their families and ensuring children get the most out of primary and secondary education.

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Leon´s municipal garbage dump.

Niños Y Niñas del Fortín

We regularly work with many of the children who have been affected by living or working at the garbage dump and we run an after school club with these Niños Y Niñas Del Fortín (Boys and Girls of the Fort). Whenever we arrive at the community centre we’re greeted by smiles, excitement and more often than not, a ton of kids eagerly playing with hula hoops. After a warm up and a few games for focus we open up a number of teaching stations and we teach a huge range of skills to sometimes over 40+ chavallos (kids). Their favorites are hula hoops (of course), acrobatics, juggling and diabolo.

Chavaladas

In contrast to the large group of kids at Niños Y Niñas del Fortín, the kids from Chavaladas are a smaller close knit community of boys. Our time with them is often more focused but equally as energetic. We spent several weeks preparing this group of boys from the ages of 8 to 17 to present their talents as a pre show to our own presentation in Leon´s main square.

These guys work great together, often supporting and encouraging one another, sharing skills and tricks between themselves. One of the most uplifting moments with these guys was a spontaneous, undirected clowning parade based on an exercise we´d taught them the week before. When those 3 guys started flocking together, we know, that had to be in the show!

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Bea teaches diabolo to the Chavaladas boys.

The Main Show

By far our biggest show in Leon was collaboration of performing groups in Leon´s Parque Central. We were joined by Los Artistas del Nido, Los Zankistas and the boys of Chavaladas in front of an audience of several hundred Leonese, tourists, volunteers and the families of the Chavaladas boys.

The boys presented their skills on stilts, with hula hoops, club juggling, clowning, levitation wand and acrobatics to a rapturous, encouraging crowd. We combined our own performance with an Nicuraguan and international group of performers as our troupe of confused and clowning tourists journeyed our way through club juggling, contact ball, hat manipulation, hoop and some hilarious acrobatics. We wrapped up the evening with a spectacula fire performance, blending danger, magic and world class talent which raised several thousand córdoba for our partner projects here in Leon. The boys left exhausted, proud and smiling and we were delighted to see all their hard work come together.

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The hoop troupe perform in Leon´s main square.

Closing the Loop

Working with an awesome group of motivated and excited kids, watching them go through a journey of trying out new and untried disciplines, discovering a new favorite or continuing with an existing passion was an enthralling experience. One that reminded me and my team mates of our own journey of discovery with circus and performing arts. From discovery, to development, performing to teaching, the love of our arts goes round and round, as we say so often in our workshops, en un círculo (in a circle)!

Until the next edition, adiós from me, the team and from Nicaragua.

Ali Wilson – Team Nicaragua – 2017


Acronym-o-blog

March 5, 2017

Play. Passion. Presence. Peanut Power. Poverty. Performers. Physical Exercise classes we teach daily at the school – Gabriel’s Learning Centre here in Nakuru, Kenya. Polé (sorry). Polé Polé (slowly). Pamoja (together).

Enthusiasm, excitement, energy, early nights and early mornings. Exercise. Daily exercise before dinner. Energy. Exhaustion.

Religion is here, prayer is a part of daily life for these Christian children giving them focus and hope.

Fire show especially for the homies at Gabriel’s Learning Centre. What an engaged and ecstatic audience, singing with us in the rain. Respect to the fire. F also for funding and lack thereof. F for Fab500 – fabulous people giving £2 a month to help keep PWB sustainable. (Go on!!)

O – My favourite shape. Yes to the hoop lessons hoop dance hoop play and my hoop progress this week (6 hoop split!!!!)!!!

Rest, relaxation, recuperation – maybe after the tour! Take every opportunity!!

Music, Meditation and Yoga. Chez and I lead a powerful yoga session for the homies at GLC on Tuesday night. We improvised a story of rain and sun acted out through various gentle yoga postures. During the ending mediation (Savasna) some of the kids fell asleep. A sure sign that they felt safe and relaxed and were able to surrender to this.

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Ending. This has been our penultimate week. Preparing ourselves for what is next to come.

Respectful Relationships. That is my bread and butter as a sexual health educator and we have been able to deliver this message through acrobalance workshops. Whether working or playing with an Acro partner, a sibling, a friend or a partner – to achieve harmony, balance & safety these things are key; Respect. Communication. Trust. Honesty. Listening. Consent. Appreciation.

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Sexual Health – my other career and passion. Where appropriate I am delivering sexual health sessions with the older young people on these projects. Empowering them with education and knowledge to make informed decisions.

Workshops of a week – 2 shows, 24 workshops, reaching 258 children! Weeding at the farm where GLC grow their vegetables to feed the children.

Impulsive improvisation. Imagination stations! Creative storytelling & theatre through improvised movement & play. This is Chez’ background and some of her skills. She has been taking the smaller classes (aged 2-6) on journeys to the moon, through the elements using movements, fabric, song but mostly using her imagination to spark theirs.

Thirst for knowledge, skills & play.

Hunger for learning and a total willingness from the PWB volunteers to share and teach and pass on the food of performing arts.

Outreach. On Saturday we went to Springs of Hope – an organisation which runs 2 orphanages, one for rescued girls and one for boys who are mostly ex street kids. We performed our lovely and extra silly show for them all in their garden followed by an acrobalance workshop and a theatre workshop. They were keen to learn and play as is their right as a child.

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Ugali!! I hope you have watched the video about Nairobi I spent many hours editing (https://vimeo.com/206390921). Ugali is like polenta but better – a staple of the Kenyan diet. Ugali dance! Yum.

Teamwork. Togetherness. As a group we have formed, stormed, normed and we have been performing for quite some time and it is harmonious and productive. A great example to set for the children we work with.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Be here now.

Orphan. Orphanage. All together a concept I am struggling with coming from a country where we have abandoned the idea of orphanages and moved to smaller children’s homes. Being here my eyes are opened to the massive number of vulnerable children who would be far worse off without these orphanages. Certainly at GLC these 38 children have formed their own family and care for each other as such. There is so much love here. This is what they need if they cannot have a traditional family unit.

Resilience. An artform we must build in the face of adversity to survive. These kids have had to become resilient sadly.

Dust. Lots of dust. Swirling whirling dust storms.

Explorers! On our one day off we went on a cycle safari to Hell’s gate national park! Zebras! A gorgeous gorge.

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Rain to settle the dust.

Singing, smiling and story time! So much beautiful singing with and for these beautiful smiling children. Smiles – I feel honoured that we spread smiles in abundance and we get to be witness to and share in the smiles of so many vulnerable children.

Written by Jess Mess


Variety in Varansi

March 2, 2017

It is hard to believe that nearly four weeks have passed since our arrival in Varanasi.  The sights, sounds, and smells that at first overwhelmed the senses have become strangely normalized and now dodging swerving motorbikes or enduring over amplified bollywood tunes as celebrating families dance through the streets seem like routine elements of a life I have always lived.  Walking to Asha Deep (one of the schools we have been working with here) each afternoon, I am greeted by familiar faces all along the way and it hits me: I have come to feel at home here.

Likewise, in our work and home life, the group has settled into a fun rhythmn.  We enjoy nightly dinners together cooked in our own kitchen, a pleasant change to the constant eating out that defined our time in Gokarna and Ahmadebad.  Juggling and other prop practice happens daily in the living room and on our apartment building’s rooftop, and the joy of working with the same students over the course of several weeks has allowed for meaningful and loving relationships to develop between members of the PWB team and the children entrusted into our care.

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The entire team works daily with the students at Asha Deep, PWB’s longest running partner organization.  Because of the history that PWB has here many of the students have advanced cirucs skills and it is a lot of fun to play alongside them and challenge them to further their learning.  It is also exciting to help mentor those who are ready in taking on greater responsibility and independence in their lives as young performers. After facilitating a school wide meeting for those interested in fire performance and conducting a specially designed fire safety workshop, 2017 has seen a great increase in the number of students (and particularly young women) who are spinning fire.  Twice this month members of PWB have joined students from Asha Deep in fire busking on the ghats.

The last two weeks have been especially busy as PWB instructors have been helping students at Asha Deep prepare circus acts for their annual Spring Extravaganza.  Staff, hoop, club juggling, fans, poi, unicycle, diablo – these kids can do it all! And on fire!! The show is just 4 days away and it is shaping up to be a guaranteed dose of fabulousness!

In addition to Asha Deep, Team India has invested considerable time in developing PWB’s relationships with two other schools in the area during this period.  Several of our instructors spend three mornings a week at Duniya school while another group offers instruction Monday through Friday at Jeevan School.  We also continue to perform; last week we performed our show twice, first for students of Ashray School and a second time on the banks of the Ganges for those living in the slum community near Jeevan.

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Yesterday, while at Jeevan, it came up that this would be our final week there.  A girl who had come to class grudgingly (at best) the first few days, but who has in the weeks since seemed to discover a real joy for PWB “class” time, suddenly spoke up.  Her bright smile turned into a temporary frown as she leaned in to hug me and say, “I will miss you.  Circus coming to my school has made me so happy.” It took all I had to hold back the tears in that moment.  Knowing that we have made a difference in even one child’s life, that somehow our presence and efforts have made her day a more joyous one in any capacity – this is why we do what we do and her acknowledgement of impact is our greatest reward.