Nicaragua: 6th Year Visiting San Marcos!

February 28, 2018

In the small town of San Marcos, 40 minute’s drive south of the capital, PWB works with Los Quinchos, an organisation that provides hospitality and support with schooling for abandoned and mistreated children.  This is the sixth year that PWB has worked with Los Quinchos and there is strong evidence that the continuity of our work here has become a significantly positive force in the children’s lives.

Apart from providing food, clothes, admission to local schools, and a beautiful home, the organisation puts on activities and workshops for the children including dance, hammock making, bread baking, sewing, maintaining a small farm, and lots more.  The children here have a rich and busy life.  The results of this are demonstrated to us by the good nature, maturity, and confidence of some of the young adults who have grown up in the organisation and now help to look after the younger children whose turn it is to learn these values for themselves.

Shoe Game

Older Quincho, Carlos, directing a game of ‘Get The Shoe’

This is clearly a wonderful place for the children.  However, it has caused PWB a bit of a problem in the past.  Oh dear.  How are WE supposed to have time to do circus and performing arts with these children when they are SO busy with everything else?!  The feedback from last year’s PWB team was that the children simply didn’t have time in their schedule to attend the team’s workshops.  So, the question we had to ask ourselves this year was, do we commit to spending a full month with Los Quinchos at the risk of not having time to spend with the children?

For me it was a tough question.  This is my fourth tour here and Los Quinchos has always been a highlight, for the nature and receptiveness of the children and the beautiful setting.  However, it is my job to make sure the PWB volunteers have plenty of work to do.  And we are also following up last year’s test run at a new project in Managua, which seems to be offering us the opportunity of daily workshops for a full month with a community that suffers from disconnection, drug abuse, and lack of opportunities for its young people; a possible canvas for some valuable work by PWB.  Due to the length of our tour, determined by visas, we would not have time to spend a full month at both locations.  In the end, we opted for a short, two week stint at Los Quinchos.

Quincho camioneta

Riding the camioneta back from our show with the girls from Los Quinchos

After the first few days, it became clear that the children were not only available for our sessions (due to the bosses putting off other activities to prioritise PWB’s work) but showed a keenness, attentiveness, and enthusiasm that was welcomed with open hearts and open prop bags by the PWB team.  We immediately began feeling slightly disappointed at my decision to spend such little time here.  The team were (and still are!) experiencing a huge sense of satisfaction at being able to share their skills with children who were not only keen to learn but had also already learnt so much from previous PWB teams.  Was it the right decision to spend half the time of previous tours in San Marcos, in exchange for the gamble of a full month with a new organisation in a new community, with no history of PWB work?

The two main questions that came to mind were: what is this PWB team’s objective?  And what does Los Quinchos need?

Apart from the enthusiasm for our sessions, another side of the ‘Circo Los Quinchos’ that we have been made aware of is the regular practice they keep up, in the form of weekly evening sessions (every Wednesday at 6pm) coordinated by Quincho veteran, Miguel.  Back in the early days of PWB’s work here, Miguel was a young teenager who showed the keenness that we now see in the next generation of Quinchos.  Now, when he’s not studying architecture at a local university, he works for the organisation supervising the children.  The result of these regular sessions is that, despite many of the older Quinchos moving on to adult life, the new children have picked up the skills and love for circus that PWB have shared with the organisation over the last five years.  So, do we really NEED to spend a full month here if so much of what PWB offers is continued by the organisation itself anyway when we are not around?  After all, for a charity to be truly successful, its work should become unnecessary …


Miguel, Circo Los Quinchos coordinator

I have no doubt that PWB should continue to visit Los Quinchos during its annual tour, but maybe, when there could be so many young people in many parts of Nicaragua benefitting from PWB’s playful work, our time in San Marcos should be more like a shorter term ‘top up’ of what we have already created here.

So we are making the most of our time here, trying to focus on teaching performance skills to the children who already have so many skills with circus props, and enjoying the satisfaction of teaching more prop based skills to people who already have such an understanding of the learning process.  And we are preparing ourselves for the challenges of working in Managua with people who have no experience of our processes, theories, and serious silliness that have proven to be such a success in San Marcos, but will hopefully gain so much from it.

There you have a relatively little summary of something that’s been on our minds over the last week.  It hasn’t really left me with much space in the word-count of this blog to give you a rundown of what we have actually done during our time here so far, but rest assured it has included the usual antics of animated group games, performance foolery, and workshop mayhem, just the way we love it.

Hasta pronto.  Buena onda.

Jakey xx

Slackline Los Quinchos

The Slackline Garden

New School in Nakuru – Working With Gabriel’s Learning Center

February 26, 2018

Greetings from Nakuru, Kenya!  We finished up our work in Nairobi and have moved to the countryside of Nakuru! Check out my personal video blog for a recap of all the amazing work we did in Nairobi

The Kenya Team enjoyed a week off February 11th – 18th.  Rachel and Juli had to leave the tour early and travel home, Enrico and Ariana stayed in Nairobi for their time off and trained with the acrobats at the Sarakasi Dome, and Jamie and I ventured to the Masai Mara for an unforgettable and beautiful safari adventure.  We saw all the legendary African animals such as elephants, zebras, hippos, giraffes, lions, and even a cheetah!

The four of us continuing the tour met back up in Nairobi at the end of our break and then traveled to Nakuru together on the 19th to start a new project with Gabriel’s Learning Center (GLC). We have worked with GLC and lived in their volunteer housing for one week now and are thoroughly enjoying it! This project is very different from all of our Nairobi projects because we are spending three full weeks training the same children instead of doing one-off workshops with many different schools. The children at GLC are absolutely adorable ranging in ages from 3 to 15. There are almost 300 children who attend school here Monday – Friday, and 50 of those children live in the dorms here because they have been abandoned or orphaned.


We teach several circus workshops to the various classes every morning, which count as their physical education for the day, but can only reach 2 or 3 classes per day (around 70 students). Every evening we have an hour to teach the children living at GLC (who we call the “homies”) so we have become particularly connected with them. We have even made a ritual of reading or telling them various bedtime stories every evening from 7:30-8:30pm.

All the students at GLC are very respectful and attentive which makes it a dream to work with. Most of the children don’t have access to toys, games, or sports equipment besides what they make out of sticks and trash, so it is a real treat for them to play with our gear. We have been teaching them ball juggling, spinning plates, acrobatics, juggling scarves, fan spinning, and staff spinning. Enrico has even purchased several soccer balls for the children after we saw them kicking around balls of trash bound together with string during their break.

One of our favorite classes to teach the children has been staff spinning. Through Enrico’s project Sponsor A Staff we were able to bring dozens of quality contact staffs with us in several snowboard bags and it has been a pleasure watching the kids progress so quickly with them. Since Ariana, Enrico, and myself all teach staff spinning, we have been able to work with the children daily to increase their skills.

When we performed our fire show for the homies they were so ecstatic! The children all began chanting our names as we took turns demonstrating, staff, poi, fans, contact swords and a staff-juggling finale. I’m looking forward to working with the older children over the next few weeks to show them how to safely spin fire!

There are several major differences between working in Nakuru vs Nairobi. Firstly, Nakuru’s population is around 259,300 people as compared to Nairobi at 5,545,000 citizens, so you can imagine the drastic difference in the “feel” of the city. Nakuru is easy to navigate, more comfortable to wonder around by foot, and has easier access to beautiful parks, local restaurants, and colorful markets all in one small city center. The traffic drives (slightly) slower and with less urgency than in the big city, and it is refreshing to pass by fields and countryside while getting rides into town.

We explored the National Park of “Hells Gate” yesterday as a team and it was one of the most astounding things I’ve ever done! We rented bicycles and were able to casually stroll through the park passing zebras, antelopes, buffalo, and even giraffes! After around 2 hours of riding we reached a canyon created by floodwaters that we hiked down into. It was absolutely stunning to see the twists and turns of the rock walls carved out over years of rushing water. I definitely plan to go back and visit that canyon again before leaving Kenya!

We only have two more weeks on tour here with PWB and are making the most of it by playing with the kids every chance we get! In fact, I hear them outside yelling and playing right now so I think I will go join them!
Be sure to follow our PWB Instagram account:

And check out our team hashtag: #pwbkenya2018 for daily updates!

Written by Spades

Adventure time (off) !

February 22, 2018

Hello again from the PWB Nicaragua team! We are officially past the half way mark of our tour, can you believe it? Time is a funny thing. It has a tendency to zoom right by when days are filled to the brim, and we certainly have had full days. The halfway mark also happened to be our week off on tour! So, may I present to you a bonus blog of our break excursions! Enjoy!


If you want to go to a place where your mind will be blown by the sheer beauty of it, definitely go to Ometepe. The entire team ended up on this hour glass shaped island at one point or another, and everyone except for one visited Finca La Magia, a quaint little guest house at the foot of the Maderas volcano. I stayed there the full week. Our former PWB member Bea (aka Hoop O’Clock) has been living and working there as of recently, and she happens to be a great friend of mind. Sooo naturally I ended up there! I had the pleasure of sleeping in a bedroom in the upstairs of her bamboo house, with a view of the lake and Costa Rica behind it. So amazing.


On my trip I hiked up a nearby waterfall, saw tons of wildlife (including a scorpion the size of a large ant, wow!), and spent so much time admiring the surrounding beauty. I have to say the highlight of the trip was taking a bike ride around the circumfrence of the Maderas section of the Ometepe island. I left at 6:30am and made it back to the finca at 2. I stopped for breakfast, later a coffee break at a really neat cafe with some gorgeous murals, and spent a good chunk of time walking up and down steep rocky roads. Walking allowed me to really take in my surroundings. Many times I was alone on the road, and it was so peaceful.

All in all, I had a super refreshing and fulfilling time off. I am super happy to be back to work in San Marcos with the team, and I’ll be visiting Ometepe again after the tour is over! Yay.  – Sara

28061147_2232724726741438_3685160248309654459_oMural at Cafe De Los Artistas


Saturday night I partied on the beach

Sunday I payed for it

Monday I cleaned and tidied the León house and traveled to Managua

Tuesday I met my partner at the airport and hustled to omotepe, by land, sea, and foot

Wednesday we toured the island by scooter and bathed in bliss

Thursday we took bus after boat after bus after hitched rides to get across the country to remote beach heaven in Salinas Grandes

Friday we made no plans

Saturday – breakfast, stretch, swim, kayak, birdwatch, sunset swim, bioluminescence, massages, good plan!

Sunday we met Jackey and traveled in the crew minibus to San Marcos

Overall week impression – MARVELLOUS!




What could be accomplished in the span of one week? Well, it all depends upon the adventure we choose to undertake for ourselves. Do take a leisurely stroll and melt our worries in the tropical breeze, or do we opt to raise the tempo with the hopes of keeping up with our anticipation. I personally chose the latter and dove in for a keen experience. I had the fantastic experience of summiting multiple volcanoes, met wonderful artists, crashed a motorcycle on the Pan-Am highway, and rode another around the most breath- taking volcanic island cluster. I am left wondering if I elected the right cadence for a week-off in such a beautiful country, and in a completely ineffable appreciation of all the personal connections I have encountered. The people of Nicaragua are such a warm, generous lot. Their big hearts and kind words have left a mark upon my mind that I hope will stay with me long into the future. P.S- Choco-banano 4 lyf  – Leo

(Bonus Haiku from Leo)

Craters reaching out                                                                                                                    Ablaze they caress the sky                                                                                                     Prompts embrace of life28342353_10156152291047612_1777593822_o


A beautiful eco jungle hostel, a motorbike and a few litres of petrol, and a set of juggling clubs is a winning combo for a week off in Nicaragua. Omotepe (tropical island on Lake Nicaragua) is full of nice attractions that you can go to as an excuse to ride a 200cc motocross bike over rough terrain. It’s not often that I’m a tourist but I think I did it pretty well last week. – Jacob


I headed to the beautiful island of Ometepe, to spend time in the jungle on a more remote farm called Finca La Magia. Along with a couple of my team mates, we perused the island, hiked to a waterfall, and chilled out while looking out over the lake. I saw monkeys, tropical birds, and heaps of crazy weird insects. Also the water of the lake was often so still and calm. One day we went to the ‘beach’ with Bea (the tour coordinator from last year) and the family who run the hostel with her. It was so cute! After that time I split and spent a few days in Granada, where I took respite in a great hostel, went to yoga classes, and took care of my body and mind in preparation for more work in San Marcos. I ate cheesecake and on my last day went to a freeform dance class. Granada is beautiful and in the evening there was a big free street concert with brass bands playing in the square. It was wonderful to see another city in Nicaragua and how they all differ a little. It really had a Spanish vibe to it, and was the perfect thing for me to do before heading back to work with the team. 🙂  -Helen


Note- must be read in a fairytale voice with an Irish accent

Once upon a time, a little girl called Darine decided to climb a very big volcano called Maderas. She got up very early, even before the sun did and packed a lovely lunch of sandwiches, refried beans, 8 boiled eggs, a beetroot and chocolate spread. After a nice big strong coffee, Darine and her crew set off on their adventure.

The first part was cute and giggly and full of nice relaxed breaths. She was birds, horses, women carrying things on their heads and bulls she thought were going to kill her.

Then, it started to get a little steep. Darine looked up every 15 steps to see when the steepness was going to stop and then realised… she was climbing a volcano. She trudged on and on and then suddenly, something very unusual happened. Her legs turned to jelly! They still looked the same, they still smelt the same, they even still wore the same clothes but they felt just like the jelly she used to eat after she ate all of her dinner at her grandmothers.

She just sat down to have a good ole cry for herself when she saw something glimmer from behind a big pile of mud. She peeped behind the big pile and saw a pair of sparkly boots with a note. Darine looked around to see if she could see who left this magical gift but nobody was to be seen. She went ahead and read the slightly soppy note
“Dear Darine,


Stop being such a little wimp. Also, your runners are going to fall apart. Here are some boots of determination” Darine slipped on the boots and immediately marched on with confidence, energy and of course, determination. She marched over roots, under boulders, climbed up ropes and finally, made it to the summit! With a massive breath of accomplishment, she stood at the top with her hands on her hops and looked around to the amazing view of… cloud. All she could see was cloud. So she poured chocolate spread into her mouth and slipping every 10 steps with her little jelly legs, went down the volcano again. The end.



Vacation was a whirlwind packed with adventures, travel, and somehow also an abundance of rest. My partner Mike came down from the States, and we spent the week bouncing around from Leon to Poneloya, Granada, and Ometepe. We started off going to a turtle reserve in Poneloya called the Surfing Turtle, which required a bus ride, walk, boat ride, and horse drawn cart through a jungle to reach the beach resort. We relaxed there for a night and enjoyed good food, swimming, a group volleyball game, and a night of learning card games from other travelers from Australia. The next day we travelled a few hours south to Granada, where we stayed near the town center at a chill little place called the Backyard Hostal. The amenities included cornhole, darts, a pool table, foosball, a pool, amazing food, and lots of really cool art being painted on the walls while we were there. The same people who own the hostal run a place called the Treehouse, which is about a 20 minute ride outside Granada, and we headed there the next day. After a short but steep hike up the side of mountain we found ourselves staying in a legitimate treehouse for our room, with a view overlooking the mountainside. This hostal was apparently quite a party spot at night, which we didn’t know when going, but got into the spirit with their 90s themed dance party in the evening. In the early hours of the evening I heard howler monkeys for the first time, and throughout the morning although I didn’t actually see any monkeys until Ometepe. After out night at Treehouse we headed to the island of Ometepe, probably the most magical and beautiful spot of our vacation. It’s an island with two huge volcanoes, one of which is still active. We rented a moped on our first full day on the island, as it is a popular way to get around and see more of the sites. Unfortunately, the company we rented it from didn’t give us much instruction, or warn us about staying clear of the gravel roads. About 20 minutes into our ride, we crashed the moped…. twice. Mike had a few rough scrapes, and the moped was a bit damaged, but we managed to get it back in one piece and decide it was not worth the risk for unexperienced drivers. Future travellers, beware! The rest of our time at Ometepe was beautiful. We saw monkeys, lagoons, waterfalls, exotic birds, butterfly gardens, beautiful flowers and plants, farms, and an abundance of local life. I would absolutely recommend this gem of a place to anyone looking for a beautiful and affordable vacation spot. It was a bit hard to get back into work mode, but I found myself missing the team quite a bit and on our last day of vacation I made my way to San Marcos where we began our next project.

– Ivy





Our Final Week – León Project

February 21, 2018

Our final week in the Leon project has been wild.

Several weeks ago our tour coordinator let us know about an upcoming epic week of work: Show Week. Amalia Cuadra, the incredible woman who works tirelessly running the organisations we work with (Niños Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas) created a bunch of outreach work for us in local government schools.

You might have read about our 45 minute show in earlier blogs. Sometimes it spans to an hour including setup, clowning around with the crowd to warm up the show, and moments inbetween. It’s a charged and hilarious smorgasboard of our skillsets: clown, juggling, diabolo, acro, dragonstaff, hoop, contact ball, hat juggling, and slackline where we can.

For this week, the Challenge was: 11 shows in 4 days.

The team discussed at length what it would look like to do this many shows in just a few days. It concluded that we might be tired, need to take more time to stretch, and the possible mental effort needed to create the comedy and some of the more physically intense parts of the show. Our team are superstars when it comes to performance and everyone gives it their all, every show. So after considered discussion, it was with great excitement and the quick working-out of a new sequence that we entered into this week, with washed costumes (well, most people) and a kit bag ready to go.


The other challenge was: be ready to go at 8am.

On those days we were up at 6.30, warming up and eating breakfast, and in the Hilux van by 8am. Team mum (go Ivy) was super helpful in hustling our little bleary-eyed heads into costume, out the door and into the truck by 7.50. Sometimes we were a bit crazy, a bit loopy and singing loudly in the morning. I think one morning we pumped rave music on the little speaker to wake ourselves up.


The energy of performing in the government schools was quite different to where we’d been in the local barrios, and in the mud. There was a level of chaos we’d not yet seen, including stage rushes of 50 kids (ermm, pause the show, re-establish the stage, and, um, on with the show!), kids running to find shade mid-show (which meant changing the orientation of the show in a heartbeat) and generally super-excited children who were so happy to see us. We noticed a lot of the tuck shops were loaded with sugary candy lollies, which sometimes explained the level of chaos. At certain moments it was definitely challenging: for instance, inbetween Day 2, Show 2 and Show 3 energy levels were flat. Luckily our driver found us a glorious Comedor (local cheap delicious eatery) that had a garden out back, and we found an hour of refuge inbetween shows.

The great thing about the PWB tours is the deep understanding and discussion of what we’re doing and why, which Jake has been really thorough with. The question was raised: why do so many shows when we could be spending that time working with kids for this week? The context is this: the children who are in the organisations, whose background comes from working on the rubbish dumps and surrounds and on the streets, often have a harder time being allowed to enter local government schools. In the past there have been things in place that have made it hard for these children to be accepted into government schools, some of which still remain. It’s a testament to Amalia’s work and the work of the organisations that at almost every school we visited over this week, several children ran up to us who we’d been working with at Ninos Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas! They were stoked! It was both incredibly heartwarming and cool to see, and I got the immense sense of contributing to an organisation that is doing great work in the world, here in Nicaragua. So the greater context of Show Week was to highlight the organisations, their work, and hopefully break down some of those restrictions for children who have come from these backgrounds from entering government schools.


It was a truly whirlwind end to the project in Leon. On Friday, we had our final day working with the kids at both Niños Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas. Some final run-throughs of pieces, acts and routines that we’d worked on with them, a mini-show at the organisations, and then after face paint and some costume decorations, straight out to the main square next to the cathedral. Lots of the kids who were visibly nervous went ahead and performed in the public show anyway. Needless to say, we were SO impressed and happy with their efforts, and so was the audience! And then it was over.

It all moves so quickly here, and it reminds me to really pay attention, give my whole focus and be the best person I can be while working with these kids, because the time is precious and we are contributing to something over time that is allowing these kids to form skills and practice them when we’re gone.


Particularly, three of the Las Chavaladas boys had created a clown routine entirely by themselves: it was so funny we nearly cried with laughter. We added a few slapstick bits here and there, had some notes to add on playing out the the audience, using sound and the centre of the stage, but the routine was more or less entirely self-created and run. It was amazing to see that these kids have taken what they learnt last year and the year before with PWB and created something solid that was funny on so many levels.

Well, that’s it for now. Our next blog will cover our week off, and what we all got up to!

xo Helen

Week two in Varanasi, Settled in the city with show choreography on the way!

February 19, 2018

“So while you are young you must begin to find out, what is this strange thing called happiness. That is an essential part to education.”  Jiddo Krishnamurti

Jiddo Krishnamurti is an Indian philosopher whose teachings were spread globally while he set up schools in Varanasi based on his vision of  empower communities through education.  We are following Jiddo Kirishnamurti’s footsteps to empower the communities we are working with through education.

Settled in Varanasi

With a house to live in and a weekly timetable of lessons, Varanasi is beginning to feel like home. We spend our days cycling our rickety hired bikes to Duniya, Jeevan and Asha Deep. After a day of workshops we  share the duty of cooking dinner before our daily meeting.  As we cycle down the street, even on our days off, children yell our names or “PWB after us”.  Their excited waves and glowing smiles warm our hearts as we wave back. This feeling brings me such joy as we begin to feel a part of the local neighbourhood. The students in all the schools are eager to learn and grateful for their new performance talents. The smiles on their faces when we pass them on the street shows the happiness that education brings.


Dunyia and Jeevan- Human Pryamids! Supporting one another in Sickness and in Health

This week at Duniya and Jeevan we were excited to teach workshops in new skills that we had not yet taught on the tour! Acro, Juggling and Drama.  Some of the children got three balls in juggling after a half hour session! Others even learnt some contact balls tricks! The children loved creating shapes and pyramids in the acro workshops. It was great to facilitate workshops without props, a change for both us and the students!



Through learning acro you learn how to trust and support one another. The flyer needs to trust their base and the base needs to support their flyer.  Everybody involved in the position needs to trust and support one another.  This week two of the team members were sick, a difficulty India and Varanasi brings us. As a team we had to support one another, teaching each others lessons and organising each others acts at Asha Deep. Those who were sick had to trust that they were going to get better and that we were able to continue their work without them.

Show Choreography and Fire at Asha Deep

At Asha Deep the show was beginning to take shape as we started to choreograph our assigned acts:

Poppy on Fabric Fans.

Sophie on Fire Fans and Fire Hoop.

Kiera on Day and Fire Hoop.

Livi on Clubs.

Xander on Poi.

Jules on Staff.

And Daniel on Contact Ball.

The beginning of the week got off to a slow start. On Monday, I arrived to Asha Deep to a group of girls running towards me shouting happy kiss day. They all hugged and kissed me. I hugged them back and replied that I liked this day.  Although many of the children were missing the love and happiness they gave us made up for the sudden change of plans we had to make to our workshop. It was a joy to celebrate Shivaratri with the students and experience the festival in Varanasi.

Despite the illness and festival celebrations, Kiera and Poppy directed choreography for the fabric fans and day hoop act.   A dance in front of a group of students singing Mein Kaun Hoon, an indian song about the identity struggle of a teenage girl in India with a passion for singing.



The fire acts were also well on the way! The fire hoop and fire fan choreography was ready for the moves to be practiced on fire by Friday.  For many of them this was their first time spinning. With a few screeches and a lot of smiles the group where excited to show off their new tricks on fire.  The staff and poi groups also got to spin despite Xander and Jules been ill, demonstrating the students drive and passion for their performance.

We returned to the school on Saturday for a full show run through. We were blown away by the students other performances. The programme was full of beautiful indian dancing and impressive modern dance from both the older and early years. I love the passion these students have for performance and the happiness that this brings to the school. We are blessed to be such a vital a part of the schools programme.




Happy Kiss Day to all of you! Keep spreading the love and happiness.

Poppy Avison-Fell 

10 years in the Holy City

February 14, 2018

“Coming together is a beginning;

keeping together is a progress;

working together is a success.”

-Henry Ford


Like tiny seedlings working together and striving for growth we have each found our place within the team.

One month has passed since each of the 7 members landed in India and the tour, you could say, is in full swing.


Introducing Varanasi…


Varanasi, the Holy City, located on the banks of the Ganges and home to a school called Ashadeep that PWB has been working with for 10 years.

A big sigh of relief came from all members of the India team when we arrived in Varanasi. Firstly because we got to spend a full month in one place and build relationships with the children but secondly because we disembarked a 48 hour train journey that I will surely not forget.


Arriving in Varanasi we were met by an array of smells, sights and experiences.

Our journey from the train station was a bonding experience you could say. Imagine 2 rickshaws, 7 people, 2 drivers, personal baggage and circus equipment!

Connie, a wonderful woman who shines with the light of service, greeted us at our accommodation. She is the principal of Ashadeep, the school we will be working with for their 10th year.


Settling into the bustling city of Varanasi wasn’t too hard. Members of the team finding their own small comforts from home within these foreign walls.

Sophie finding a crochet needle and wool. Daniel locating a shop that sells beer and eggs. Xander reigniting his love for Indian Domino’s Pizza. Poppy discovering quiet places to mediate and make new friends. Jules acquiring a new practice space on our guesthouse rooftop. Livi reconnecting with juggling patterns she drilled with friends and sharing them with kids.


During this project the team are also working with 2 other schools called Jeevan and Duniya Education.

All the schools we work with in Varanasi are free schools which offer education for children from underprivileged families who can’t afford to send their children to school.

The ages vary and for Ashadeep the schooling goes up to 8th year but for smaller schools like Duniya the education goes upto 4th year.

The principal of Duniya was recently telling the group over lunch, which they so graciously supply to us after every workshop, that he noticed that after the children had graduated 4th year the families were not continuing to further the kids education elsewhere. He saw that the students were still eager to learn so he opened another class for the afternoon which students can come to and continue to learn.

Duniya also offer an opportunity for young women to come and learn tailoring and beauty therapy in the afternoon.

After spending only one week witnessing the amazing efforts of these three schools I am astounded by their passion for community and equal education for all.


A week of work in Varanasi for Team India looks like:


Morning session with Duniya teaching hula hoop, poi and juggling

Afternoon session with Ashadeep teaching contact juggling, clubs, hoops, fans, rope dart, poi, flower sticks, staff and acrobatics!


Morning session with Jeevan teaching hula hoop, poi and juggling

Afternoon session with Ashadeep teaching contact juggling, clubs, hoops, fans, rope dart, poi, flower sticks, staff and acrobatics!


Morning session with Duniya teaching hula hoop, poi and juggling

Afternoon session with Ashadeep teaching contact juggling, clubs, hoops, fans, rope dart, poi, flower sticks, staff and acrobatics!


Morning session with Duniya teaching staff, flower sticks, acrobatics!

Afternoon session with Ashadeep teaching contact juggling, clubs, hoops, fans, rope dart, poi, flower sticks, staff and acrobatics!


Morning session with Duniya teaching staff, flower sticks, acrobatics!

Afternoon session with Ashadeep teaching contact juggling, clubs, hoops, fans, rope dart, poi, flower sticks, staff and acrobatics!


Team Activity or show rehersals


Day off… woooohooo!


During each project we have designated roles within the team. One of those roles is ‘Fairy Godmother’.

The ‘Fairy Godmother’ is responsible for creating group outings. This month the ‘Fairy Godmother’ organised the team to go to a waterfall 1.5 hours outside of Varanasi. After a week in the busy city the tranquil, open space of the waterfall was much needed by all team members. Whether it was spinning props in the water or taking some alone time on the rock face overlooking the valley…. All team members were relaxed and ready to start another busy week in Varanasi preparing Ashadeep for their yearly show on the ghats.


Stay tuned for more posts about how the choreography develops for the show with Ashadeep and what else the team gets up to in the Holy City.


~ Kiera Blaney, Australia

Empowering Orphans One Smile at a Time

February 13, 2018

That’s a WRAP on Nairobi and our last week working as a complete team of six!

The PWB Kenya team has been busy traveling all around Nairobi and many surrounding areas this past week including the Ngong Hills and Kiambu. We have worked with several inspiring orphanage schools and heard many touching stories about lives changed through these philanthropic organizations.

We started out the week by visiting Dream Children’s Home on Monday, February 5th in the Ngong Hills. Like many orphanages in Kenya, their biggest expense is providing school for their children. The families of each student privately pay for all schooling for their child including the cost of food and uniforms. As you can imagine, this is a big cost for a large orphanage housing dozens of children, so many orphanages have created a public school adjacent to their dorms that enrolls paying students to help subsidize the cost of educating their in-home kids. This seems to be the common model for every orphanage we have visited so far.


The kids at Dream were VERY excited to meet us and were one of our most energetic audiences. We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately went to work performing our magical circus showcase. Afterwards we were very excited to do a fire show before returning to the dormitories for dinner. We stayed two nights with Dream in their volunteer dorms and were graciously offered delicious breakfast (with fresh milk for our coffee!), lunch, and dinner every day. Both nights we stayed up late with the children laughing, playing, and dancing to the songs they would play on our speakers. Enrico, Ariana, and myself did a second fire show for the children on Thursday night and the kids loved the chance to sit closer to us as we performed.

They all went wild for the big fire props and burnoff explosions of the staffs. The children were very sweet and many of them wrote us personal notes before we left on Wednesday.


Joseph, one of our friends working with Smiles For Change, lives in Ngong and met us to show us around the area and introduce us to other schools we could work with. He took us to a very lovely school in Ngong called Shelter Children’s Home. One show in the afternoon was all we had time for, which made me wish that we could spend longer at each location we visit. The children swarmed us after the show and many of them asked about my friend Nicholas, a PWB volunteer from last year’s Kenya tour who stayed with them for several days. They obviously really enjoyed learning circus arts and I was sad to not be able to spend more time teaching them.


Wednesday morning we were able to take an early hike through a dry riverbed with a local guide before leaving the Ngong Hills area. It was a great change of pace to spend the morning scrambling over giant boulders, breathing the fresh country air, gazing at vast landscapes from beautiful lookout points, and having a moment to ourselves.


From Ngong we drove directly to another project in Nairobi called Agape Hope Children’s Center. The woman running the center was named Margie, but preferred to be called Mom (even by us). She was extremely genuine in her love for her work and proudly showed us around their orphanage which included a small garden, an area for their two dairy cows, several dozen bunk beds for the boys and girls living with her, immaculate classrooms, and a huge playground for the children to run around and play football (soccer). We performed our show for several hundred children surrounding us in a circle. This was fun and unique as it was our first and only show “in the round”.

After our show we took an hour or so to play with the children and make some personal connections before setting up for our fire show. The kids were enthralled with the fire performances and chanted for us to do more.
My personal highlight from visiting Agape was listening to the children sing in prayer before eating dinner. Their voices were superbly angelic and created beautiful harmonies together.

Thursday morning we had our closing group meeting which was bittersweet.  We were all very excited from the amazing work we did in Nairobi, and sad that two of our members would be leaving us soon.  We filled out evaluations of all the projects we worked with, shared our emotions and feelings from the tour, and concluded with a round of genuine hugs.

Later that afternoon Juli, Ariana, Jamie, and myself visited a very small boys home in Nairobi called Life4Kids. They housed 26 young boys that they rescued from the street and it was very touching to witness the boys’ brotherhood together. The older boys looked out for the younger ones, and they all seemed to have an intricate system of inside jokes and silly mannerisms. It made me contemplate how different their personalities were from the mixed gender homes we visited and appreciate the special bond between brothers.

Friday morning we visited an all-girls school in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world. It was very interesting to drive deep into the slum and see firsthand just how sprawling it was. The school we performed for is called SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities) and is sponsored by private US donors. They offer free schooling to any dedicated young girls in the area who apply. It is a giant, modern building in the center of the slum and stands out prominently, towering over every other structure in the area. It was a treat to climb to the top floor and look out over the miles and miles of makeshift houses created from sheet metal.


Our show at SHOFCO was absolutely the largest show of our tour and it felt very appropriate to be our last show together as a complete team of six. The hundreds of young girls, all wearing red, were phenomenal to see laugh and yell in excitement.


Friday we had our last day working with Smiles For Change. Working at Kenyatta Hospital has been an unforgettable experience and I have learned much from the SMC crew. They are all master clowns and theatrical artists, making the kids in even the most desperate situations laugh, smile, and feel at ease. I will truly miss working with them and playing gently with the healing children.


Saturday Enrico, Ariana, Jamie, and I traveled to Kimabu just outside Nairobi for our last project before leaving for Nakuru. We visited Gathaithi, a beautiful orphanage with around 90 children and adjacent public school that also focuses on permaculture along with their primary subjects. Each child living in the orphanage got their own garden bed to tend, but we were informed that there was currently a drought affecting their ability to grow a bountiful harvest.


The children were thrilled to watch our show and excitedly participated in our workshops. Enrico and Jamie taught acrobatics, Ariana taught poi, and I taught staff spinning. It was very exciting for me to teach staff because it is my personal favorite subject, but I haven’t taught it more than twice this entire tour so far because Enrico and Ariana have also prioritized teaching it. The children caught on very quickly and were learning contact staff moves in under 15 minutes!


We had dinner at Gathaithi and then performed a small fire show that the children went crazy for! I can honestly say that they were our most emotional group of children to leave. The kids hugged us endlessly, surrounding us with songs, asking for selfies, playing with our hair, and asking us to take them with. One child came to me crying, telling me that he didn’t want us to leave. I hugged him close to me and held him tightly until his heart began to slow from a mad pounding to a normal rhythm. The kids all yelled and chanted after us as we drove away.

Our team has truly formed a unified family over the past 39 days, and just as we were settling into harmony we are now disbanding. Rachel had to leave the tour early to continue running her circus school in Australia, and Juli needed to continue traveling to attend a personal training she was enrolled in. We were all very sad to see them go, but are also confident that our remaining team of four will be capable of spreading smiles and circus arts to the children of Nakuru.


Now we have a week off to do some personal exploring before meeting back up to continue another month of our tour. Be sure to follow the PWB Instagram PWB.NGO and search for our hashtag to get daily updates!



~Written by Tyler Spades


Performing for Refugees, Streetkids and Smiles for Change

February 8, 2018

PWB Team Day

The week started with un unexpected PWB Team Day due to political unrest. The partner organisation told us to stay at home and not to leave the house. As scary as it seemed, nothing happened fortunately. On the positive side, we had a team day to improve transitions of the show and share our skills with each other. We had so much fun! Also Spades shared the “miracle fruit” activity with us. You take a pill of this tropical miracle fruit, let it dissolve, and then all sour fruits taste extremely sweet! Also we lifted up our power level by daring to break an arrow through our bodyweight placed at the base of our throat.


Working with street kids

After two weeks with Sarakasi we have met up this week with a new partner GRT, an Italian NGO which works with street kids. The aim is to help to safeguard them from a life of drugs (sniffing fuel and glue), crime, violence, and prostitution through activities (like our workshops and shows), talks and counseling.  On the first day we found ourselves in the community hall close to Kikomba Market in Pumwani again where we cooperated with the “Amani Lazima” project. Now, same place but a different organisation. We performed for a group of young adults of this area.


In the afternoon we went to the rehabilitation and refugee centre Heshima Kenya of GRT. Most of them are from Ethiopia and Somalia. Here, they have the possibility to attend school and continue their education with vocational training in areas such as beauty, tailoring, catering, mechanics, and ceramics.

The younger kids live in families from their same culture while the older youth live in small groups together. Not all of them speak English or Swahili so it was not always easy to explain our games to them. But laughter and expression don’t need words :). That is the beauty of social circus – playing and being creative together regardless of what background you are from.

On the second day with GRT we performed our show at the Mlanga Kubwa (“Big door”) slum for over 100 young adults. It was a very special and intense experience because most of those that were in attendence sniff glue or fuel. If you ask how we might make an impact, take a look at these pictures:


AFTER / WHILE the show

Refugee and Rehabilitation centre

In the afternoon we gave workshops at the Heshima Kenza centre in Eastleigh.

The motivation these young adults displayed was amazing. They were very shy the day before during the games but that day their energy, joy and laughter filled the hall. Learning new skills can be contagious…


Smiles for Change

On Friday we returned to Kenyatta Hospital. We have started to connect deeply with some of the kids and can feel how our presence and love is needed. The kids so enjoy being hugged, entertained by the puppet show, and participating in our special obstacle course. With the kids at the burns unit we drew the most beautiful pictures (as far as our abilities allow) and the children would colour them. The kids had some pretty demanding requests for us, but we did our best to please them. 🙂


Next week we head off to the Ngong Hills to stay with the Dream Childrens Home for two nights.  Our next adventure is coming.


Julia Schmitz, Germany







¡Dale! Let’s Go!

February 6, 2018

Hola a todos! PWB team Nicaragua has completed another week of our Leon project, and that was our final week of workshops and show preparation with Las Chavaladas and Ninos Del Fortin. It’s been challenging, heaps of silliness, and bittersweet as we near the end of this project, and I am here to tell you all about it. As they say in Nicaragua, Dale Dale! Let’s go!

We’ve completed our last week of workshops, and boy was it a lot of work! the best kind of work I might add. I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose here and what being a volunteer means to me. One thing I can say is that the feeling of knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on a child’s life and that I’ve left them with new skills and happy memories is an affirmation to me that I am where I need to be. Yay social circus and making a positive impact in the world!

Okay okay, let’s get on with the blog update!

I have done a tour previously and have some experience with show development with kids, and there were many similarities with the creation process here vs. in India (I toured with PWB in India in 2015). One example is that there are always kids that may not want to participate, and are nervous to go on stage. I think the team did a great job accommodating the more reserved and shy kids. For instance, we noticed that the older kids didn’t always want to work with the younger ones at Ninos Del Fortin. A solution we came up with was to separate the older kids and let them create their own pieces, and the outcome of this was that more children were willing to participate in show development. 

As a team it is very important to us that the kids enjoy participating in the show. We don’t want them to feel like we are forcing them to learn routines just because they should perform. That being said , we do our best to encourage and teach them new skills, and give them space to play and practice the things they want to. Most of our days of work last week consisted of physical warm ups, group games, rotating workshops, open box (kids can practice whatever they like at the stations provided), show development, and then a “show and tell” of the acts. Performing can be very intimidating, so we taught the kids a theatre exercise to get them warmed up for the stage. In this exercise, a person or a group of people walk onto the “stage”, acknowledge the audience, and then bow. We had the kids walk on stage with props to simulate what it would be like for them when they perform. A lot of them were shy to do this, but I think ultimately it helped them get a feeling for what it’s like to be on stage in front of heaps of people!

DSCF2787Happy hula hula playtime at Ninos Del Fortin!

Work with Ninos Del Fortin was a bit more challenging because of age differences and the amount of kids we work with there, but in the end we pulled together a handful of stellar silly acts! The Las Chavaladas boys were super keen on act creation and a few groups needed very little assistance creating clown + prop pieces! Personally I feel that all of the kids are rock stars and I am excited to see them do their thing on show day this upcoming Friday.

DSCF2838Helly hoops playing “Stacks on” with kids at Ninos Del Fortin!

PWB had a couple of stellar shows last week as well! Our first show was with Escuala Movil (mentioned in the previous blog post by Ivy). They drove us to a barrio they travel to and we performed our show in the middle of a dirt road with a super enthusiastic audience of adults, children, and many a passerby. There were multiple times during the show when we had to make way for vehicles and people, and that was the perfect time for us to practice improvisation! What do you do when a huge truck needs to pass through the middle of your street show?! You go with the flow, and direct them through with juggling clubs of course! The second show we did was in front of Las Chavaladas. It was a massive street show extravaganza! The road was blocked for us, we had a massive crowd, and an hour long pre show with a boomin’ sound system! This show was unique because we had a fire show after! I burned a dragon staff for the first time! We also got to play with a couple of our students at Las Chavaladas pre show, and it was so cool to see them in their element, smashing diabolo and some acrobatics with the team!

DSCF2876Show time!!

DSCF3300Post epic street show group photo, featuring Jacob basing one of our students Corbin in a two-high!

This week we have 4 days in a row of shows (11 total!) and then we have a big “Despadita” party with all the children at Ninos Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas. The party ends with the big show with out students, hooray! I know they’re going to be great! As much as I want to see them perform, I am much more excited to have another day of playtime with them. It will be the last time we see them on this project and I’ll miss making jokes with them, trying to have conversations in Spanish (getting many confused and funny looks along the way because of my broken Spanish/Spanglish), teaching workshops, and spending time with these Gems of Nicaraguan kiddos.

As I said before, it’s bittersweet. Life goes on, so Just keep swimming… and juggling 😉

-Sara Noelle

Acclimatising in Ahmedabad

February 4, 2018

On January 4th 2018, a group of somewhat functional circus types managed to meet in Goa under the name: Performers Without Borders, to join forces, to teach and perform for children in areas of high poverty. Our aim? To share some smiles…. 

Since then, we spent some time in Gokana for bootcamp and to begin adjusting to the Indian lifestyle. Next we took our brand new, all singing, all dancing, circus show – to begin doing what we came here to do.

Today is our final day here at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad; soon we will be boarding a 36 hour train to Varanasi to continue onto the next stage of our adventure. Today marks the end of the second of four destinations and one third of our total time together as a group. It is amazing how time spent in one place can simultaneously feel like a second and a lifetime.

Our arrival here, just 13 days ago, began a little sooner than we anticipated – roughly 10 hours earlier than expected – as what we thought was a 30 hour train, turned out, well, not to be. Luckily, bootcamp had prepared us for solid teamwork. Between us we got our team of 7 and all our luggage off the train and into three ‘tuck tucks’ (rickshaws) – much to the surprise of all of us – and en route to a last minute booked hostel. Despite confusion, tiredness and a general mild hysteria from the team we settled down into our hair covered beds for a night of rest, dreaming of what tomorrow might bring. One thing was certain – we weren’t in the luxury of Namaste Yoga Farm anymore.

When we arrived the following day, we were welcomed with open arms by people with sparkling eyes. You know those special kind of smiles that reach the eyes – the kind of smiles filled with warmth you can not fake? This was the kind of smile we were greeted with by everyone we met.

We were told the rules of staying here, shown the places we would be staying and were given a tour of the Gandhi museum. Each team member was lost in their own internal journey of self-exploration – and we hadn’t even begun working yet. It was clear that being here would present challenges for each of us – and would change all of us, at least a little.

In our first few days here, we realised everything would be different – from our clothing to our hair. Culture shock a plenty.

But the changes we were asked to make seemed almost inconsequential.

Our job while here was to visit some of the local communities and villages and inspire, through workshops and performances… What we didn’t expect was how inspired we would be by the welcome we received at each and every place we visited.

When I think about the places we have been – I think about how beautiful it is. But let me be clear – it is the people who are beautiful – with their colourful clothing and warm smiles of welcome. The place is not. It is dirty, with strong smells of rotting and piles upon piles of litter. It is cramped, with people and houses crammed together, in unhygienic, unsanitary conditions. By Western standards – it is inhumane.

Between hundred of smiles, cries of “selfie, selfie”, shows and teachings, the days passed by like blurs

We learned a lot across our time here: how to eat food we didn’t want to begin with, (because saying no to Indian mama’s is almost impossible and wasting food isn’t okay), how one selfie means at least five and how as a white person, eating an omelette in a street warrants a crowd of fifteen spectators…..

We also learned how much of an impact Performers Without Borders really makes.

Before I came here, I was convinced that workshops without words are possible, that the performing arts offers us the opportunity to break barriers; cultural, social, political – but being here gave me the affirmation I was looking for.

Smiles truly are universal.

Kiera (6)