Gabriel’s Learning Center – PWB Kenya 2018

March 19, 2018

Runny little noses
Untied show laces
Can’t help but fall in love with the look of admiration on their faces.

Bright young eyes
Inquisitive glances
I wondered if they’d accept me and I’m glad I took my chances.

Smiles are universal
Their hugs full of appreciation
My time here has reminded me laughter is the same in every language.

With rough dusty hands
We toss sticks in the yard
And temporarily forget that their lives are really hard.

We must teach them how to share
They outnumber the resources by far
Sometimes the scarcity mindset can make learning patience pretty hard.

“Look at me”, they chant
A little attention is all they want
And even with nightly bedtime stories I can’t feel I’ve given them enough.

I do my best to be present
Their synchronized dances melt my heart
I’ll never forget their situation even long after I depart.

I learn so much from them
By their endless dedication
I’m incredibly confident they will surpass life’s tribulations.

Though they were abandoned
In this world they belong
Remind them that with an education they will continue to grow strong.

And thanks to this learning center
I see them filled with purpose and elation
I want only to give back a fraction of the inspiration.

I thank my fellow teachers
For their selfless participation
In impacting these lives through playful meditation.

This tour was really beautiful
And for now our it must conclude.
If you’re inspired by our story, there’s always more to do.

Written by Enrico SolRiso, March 2018




Jambo! Kenya Team 2018!

January 22, 2018

Hakuna Matata!
Greetings from Kenya! And yes… they ACTUALLY say “hakuna matata” here and it does mean “No Worries”!!

Our team of 6 volunteer circus performers from around the world has assembled and completed bootcamp! We all met together for the first time in Diani Beach, Kenya on January 5th.

bootcamp teamAnother common saying (especially on the beaches) is polepole which means “slowly”… but we were more “haraka haraka” (fast) and got straight to work bonding, sharing teaching strategies, and creating a our MAGICAL CIRCUS SHOWCASE!

We will be touring through Kenya volunteering to bring circus arts to children until March 11th and we couldn’t be more excited! This enthusiasm carried with us throughout PWB “bootcamp” for the first ten days.

The team consists of:
Rachel Butler – Australia – Tour Coordinator (Kenya Expert and Partner Organization Organizer)
Jamie Mulligan-Smith – USA – Tour Coordinator (PWB Tour Expert, Financial Organizer, and Record Keeper)
Enrico “SolRiso” – USA – Volunteer and Stick Expert
Ariana Madappa – USA – Volunteer and Poi, Juggle, Acro, Stick Multi-Talent
Julia Schmitz – Germany – Volunteer and Juggle Pro / Children Facilitator
Tyler “Spades” – USA – Tour Coordinator (PWB Tour Expert, Media Guru and Partner Organization Organizer)


We each bring unique and valuable skills to this tour that we shared and discovered on the beautiful beaches of Southern Kenya. We worked long hours every day for over a week in the tropical heat to play games, share ideas, eat amazing local seafood, create new and amazing circus acts, and explore how we could be most successful as a team. Many of us are very experienced with fire performance and enthusiastically shared our passion for fire arts in the evenings with each other and anyone happening by on the beach.


ninja reflection

Diani Beach provided a stunning backdrop for our laughter, innovative thoughts, and sweaty work. The area is full of lively monkeys during the day that constantly try to take your food (and they DID by sneaking into our kitchen whenever anyone left the door open for a moment on many occasions!) and adventurous crabs covering the beach at night. Many of us started and ended our days with a refreshing dip in the Indian Ocean, which kept us vitalized. The white sand of the beach seemed to stretch onward forever and reflected the sunlight blindingly during the day, so we often took cover in the shade of tropical trees.  This stretch of beach is also globally known for its prime kiteboarding conditions and it was a treat to watch participants sale over the waves every windy afternoon.


IMG_4144 2

After several group discussions we decided to theme our show around ADVENTURE and going on a magical quest. Each team member embodied a different character that aided in the journey of our protagonist (Jamie) finding true happiness with the help of many new friends.

Julie plays a market vendor with a magical map

Ariana plays a seafaring captain with a spirit for adventure

Rachel plays a beach oracle (as well as a transitional acrobatic thunder storm!)

Enrico plays a jungle catalyst (as well as the base for the thunder transition)

And Spades (me) got to play the role of the magician that initiates our protagonist’s quest and checks in on her periodically throughout the journey while also controlling most of the sound for the show!

All together we create a whirlwind of magic, adventure, talent, and surprises leading to a very happy ending.


Our hard work was validated when we brought the show to over 200 children at Mekaela School and performed our saga followed by a thrilling fire show to thunderous applause! Check out the VIDEO to see for yourself!


Since bootcamp we have traveled to the BIG CITY of Nairobi and have been doing outreach work here, but that story is for our NEXT blog!! Stay tuned!

Written by Tyler “Spades”

Abundant smiles

February 14, 2011

What a pleasure to once again be in a country where it is appropriate to be inappropriate, or at least appropriateness takes on a completely different meaning. The joy of walking down a busy street and to be approached inquisitively by a complete stranger, ‘Country?’. Although one understands the context of what is being asked it certainly instigates a playful and jovial interaction. This is often followed by equally out-of-context questions like, ‘Marriage?’, ‘Father?’, ‘Mother?’. The thing about being thrown these isolated words amongst the cacophony of sound that is already present, is that it is almost expected that those same questions are reciprocated with equally absurd answers. The interaction that follows can then go down any number of routes, in my experience always ending in a humorous exchange which parts with big smiles from all parties.

We are living in Sister Fatima’s home in Golapudi, a village on the outskirts on Vijayawada. The image of a ‘village’ maybe be somewhat misleading as we are situated on one of the main highways out of the city and the quiet village life that one might expect definitely does not prevail. We have been living here for over a week and it begins to feel like home: always greeted by friendly chai wallahs, mischievous children and pushy fruit vendors. We seem to have adjusted to the fact that we are living amongst nuns and Christian symbology and it no longer feels strange that a large porcelain statue of Jesus watches over us whilst we enjoy our communal meal at the end of the day and although some of us struggle, swearing is kept to a minimum.

We are now half way through the first project and have performed our show to different groups of kids who have responded excitedly to its playful tone and colourful characters.  The kids seem to enjoy the character I play, a strict authoritarian policeman who demands seriousness at all cost but is continuously mocked by the rest of the cast, providing humorous interludes between scenes. The other characters are met with equal delight: two mischievous clowns, three friendly street urchins and a pair of unassuming tourists, not to mention the charismatic, yet accident prone subji wallah (vegetable vendor)/rickshaw driver/waiter.

Vijayawada is South India’s largest railway junction and many street children end up here as a result. The organisation we are working with at the moment is called SKCV, who’s main concern is providing shelter and food to those children who have had the misfortune of ending up on the street for one reason or another. Dividing up our teaching time between the night shelter, the boys’ village and the girls’ home we spend a total of four days a week with the kids. We have been welcomed with an enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn that confirms the validity of this project.  ‘Brother!’, ‘Sister!’, echoes around the yard as children are eager to show us their success in spinning a plate on a stick or managing to juggle three balls for a number of consecutive throws. It is incredibly touching to be able to offer them the encouragement and recognition they deserve and the look of glee and excitement on their faces is the most satisfying reward. Next week will be our last week with this set of kids and although it will be sad to say goodbye, it warms me to have spent time with them, gaining insight into their world and experiencing a truly beneficial exchange.

As I complete this entry I am being evacuated from the cool afternoon shade of our porch, as mosquitos here don’t seem to to be limited to solely nocturnal activity. Contently I sit in my room with the fan on, enjoying the free time Sundays provide, recognising the gratitude that lies within and looking forward to the weeks to come.

– Olly


Train tracks and balancing acts

February 2, 2011

On the train to Vijayawada: its reflection time.

We left Gokarna in a hot state, dragging our bags up the rocky path from our guesthouse to the pick up point around 16:00 hrs. A few of us were feeling too ill for breakfast but our spirits are high, after the success of the show the previous night.

The reception from the crowd had been stunning! Olly and Andy, dressed in costume, rode unicycles up and down the beach rounding up loungers and travelers. They were a great sight and our audience grew rapidly. With Kudle beach as our backdrop and facing one of our regular restaurants we dazzled with a strong ensemble dance, composed by Eluned, as a start to the show. Then straight into a street scene with a subji wallah (vegetable seller) with a stock of juggling props, while three lively street urchins stole juggling balls and clubs (clean finish please).

This followed into a pretty ribbon interlude with some dancing and acro followed by another group ensemble – as a cycle rickshaw – this one got an unexpected applause partly due our fantastic soundtrack (we got many compliments for our music).  Our rickshaw whisked a traveling couple to a restaurant before deftly exploding! With the rickshaw wheels as hula-hoops, this moved nicely into a hoop routine by the girls. Livi finished on multi hoop, which got the crowd clapping.

Of course a good theatrical show must have a comical interlude and Olly had spent some time preparing himself for this. Comparing between acts as policeman who slowly gets won over by the circus even though it is raucous and messy. The thinking was that our main audience would enjoy poking light fun at this figure of authority, perhaps one that they may have run into trouble with. It also acted as a unifying theme, a way to crowd control and an extra body to move props between scenes.

Our last scene took the audience back to the restaurant, with Jemma and Mike as patrons who get waited on by a diablo-ing, plate-spinning Andy-waiter. (our ex subji wallah).  We have some audience participation when an unsuspecting child is made to hold spinning plates in hands and teeth, after which Dave does the walk of death with his knives over an exhausted waiter.

As the sun sets we move into a spectacular fire show with home made fire fans, palms and bull whip as well as a numerous assortment of juggling clubs, poi, hoops, staffs, devil sticks etc. The finale saw us all jumping through a firing skipping rope, a first for many of us on the PWB team as the crowd cheer. The show is also a fundraiser and PWB raises over 100 pounds through people’s generosity.

The rest of the night is spent celebrating Dave´s birthday with rum-lemon nanas (fresh mint lemon drink) and receiving congratulations on the show. We become almost mini celebrities the next day, even in Gokarna we get a wave from some locals on a motorbike as they zoom past “Great show guys” We were a hit!

We are sad to leave the beach, but look forward to seeing more of India. This first show was mostly in front of a traveling western audience who will be used to more professional productions. So we sit in high spirits on lightly cushioned blue bunks, surrounded by our luggage (the unicycles carefully balanced on the air con fans above) awaiting our arrival at Vijayawada, a show ready to go and a strong group vibe.

–  Elma

The first PWB boot camp 2011

February 2, 2011

Karnataka, Gokarna, Kudle Beach

What do you get when you combine 9 people, 2 weeks and a multitude of skills, circus and imagination?

An hour-long show spanning dance, theatre, circus, clowning with a firey finale!

The first PWB boot camp was a stimulating meddle of skill swapping, sharing (on many levels), sunsets and show creation.   Having all met only once before jumping on the plane to India, the 2 week boot camp had to cover much ground.  It gave the 9 strong group vital time to get to know each other, to learn and swap teaching methods and skills and to create and polish the show ready to take on tour.

We stayed at Namaste yoga farm (www,, above Kudle Beach. The affable Oliver runs the retreat and put us up in a small cottage, tent and hut split between the 9 PWB members. Two weeks on the beach might sound idyllic but the fierce daytime sun robbed us of the energy and brainpower we needed to work on show creation. Thankfully Namaste yoga farm came to the rescue with a covered practice space to shade us from the heat.

We split our time between daily morning and afternoon sessions. Inspiration for devising the show came from games, warm ups and group exercises, which also helped us to work on teaching techniques. Many of the shows strongest images came from the practice sessions initially intended to help us get to know each other. It’s often said too many cooks spoil the broth, or in this case slows progress, but the group dynamic worked well to keep the pace moving forward, the project on track and everyone happy.

Each evening found us practicing skills as the sun went down over the ocean and the two weeks proved exciting for all as new tricks and props were shared– including acrobalance, silk ribbon and juggling to name a few – and we used the time to improve old skills and rehearse set acts. Kudle was an inspiring place to be as many other talented and enthusiastic people joined the skills swap and fed into the learning experience.

As the day of the premier show drew nearer sourcing materials, props and costumes was sometimes a hot, frustrating but ultimately rewarding experience. It was a valuable lesson of being on Indian time (shanti shanti, slowly slowly). Note to self: things take longer than expected here, especially in the energy sapping heat of the day!

We took our selves to Om Beach (the next beach along the coast) for a pre-show fire practice; both to keep some of the fire show secrets hidden from our future audience and to spread the word about our premier show. (Which obviously worked as we were getting post-show praise as far as Paradise beach, three beaches away from Kudle! Whoop whoop!) The practice run was a brilliant evening, despite a hint of chaos as we tried to finish props in time, while spinning fire and holding the crowd. But we drew a sizeable audience and played with newly created fire toys (thanks to Mike!), plus testing ideas for the actual show.

The final show developed the initial street scene idea to take you on a riotous, often ridiculous circus ride showcasing the range of skills with which we want to inspire and teach the kids.

– Jemma