Darjeeling week «3 blog. Rinki’s story :)

May 6, 2017

For the first time in my life, I have joined the circus! Circus brought to my life a sense of happiness that I have never felt before. It is also my first time to travel to Darjeeling, which I find to be a quiet place.

It is different from Varanasi, where I live. The people seem very friendly and I never see anyone fighting. It is very clean here. There are many big clouds. The town has lots of trees and flowers that I had never seen before. Chowrasta square is my favorite part of Darjeeling.

During my time here, I have enjoyed my teaching hula hoop, dance, and fans. I like teaching hula hoop moves like vortex and waist hooping. Teaching the Bollywood dance is fun because you can see the different ways everyone dances. Dan and Benji are so funny to watch when we do the Bollywood dance together in the show!

I like learning new skills like slackline, ball juggling and poi. During free play, I especially love connecting with the girls who are close to my age, we like to make jokes and listen to hindi music. With the small girls I like to sing songs and play hand clapping games. They remind me of my friends back home in a good way.

I have never performed in a circus show like the PWB show before, so it was very exciting for me my heart was beating so fast before our first show together! In the show, I do clowning, the Bollywood dance, and I am in the fan section. My favorite part of the show is when we all cry together on stage when we break the blender, it is so funny to cry with everyone. In the fire show, I perform a fire fan solo act! When I do fire fans I feel relaxed and I am able to enjoy myself.

Back at the house, we cook meals together and I love to cook with everyone. I try to cook indian food for everyone, last night I made onion pakora! It is so funny to see everyone cry when they chop onions! It feels good to share evening meals and cooking. Sometimes after dinner I have Hindi class with Dan. Other times after dinner we play the game Cuberdhee- Cuberdhee- Cuberdhee which is an indian game I taught the group that makes everybody laugh a lot.

Everyone on the team loves me, and I love everyone too.  I really like being a PWB volunteer. I will really miss this experience once its over. It has gone bytoo fast. I do not want PWB to end!Photo on 02-05-2017 at 17.30


We made it to the mountain ciTea of Darjeeling!

April 24, 2017


           After saying goodbye to modern Kolkata, the team boards a train heading towards lush and mysterious Darjeeling.  Our train deposits us in Siliguri, where we smuuuush nine clowns plus a full circus’ worth of equipment into one jeep.  And up and up and up the mountainside we go — towards Darjeeling, a trip that takes about four hours.  Four hours pass by quickly, despite our being squished and squashed, because one cannot stop oneself from marvelling, mouth agape, at the magnificent views!!! Darjeeling sits, wild and green, just beside Khangchendzonga, the tallest peak in India and the third highest peak in the world.  Gazing up at Khangchendzonga sends the message home; we have arrived in The Himalayas! Glorious! 

            This isn’t anything like the other places we have visited.  Gone are the endlessly noisy and dusty roads filled with cows, people, bikes, and cars.  Instead the roads are neatly paved and different types of trees line the roadside.  The roads explore the landscape in sleek ribbons that even give my San Franciscan upbringing cause to wonder.  Darjeeling was named after the famous Dorje Ling monastery sacred to both Buddhist and Hindus.  The local streets loop back on themselves to snake through steep land and everyone walks everywhere in spite of the extreme slopes. For the first time in 4 months, I feel …….cold? The feeling is almost unfamiliar at this point, but the group welcomes it like an old friend and we all bundle into our socks, hats and jackets, most of which are being aired out for the first time since our arrival in January. The dogs here have longer thicker fur than any I’ve seen in india so far and it must be to battle the cold, and everyone wears colourful sweaters and thick scarves.   The Tibetan influence can be seen here in the architecture, the temples, the food, and the thousands (not an exaggeration) of Tibetan prayer flags that hang everywhere.  Even more impressive is the way the flags survive the storms! Within the first couple of days we are welcomed to Darjeeling by one of the many famous thunderstorms.  Thunderstorms here take themselves very serious and include (for free);  the electricity in our home coming in and out (mostly out), the water in our tap following suit, the rain drumming on our thin tin roof , the powerful wind blowing our front door open, the deafening thunder (louder Johny’s nighttime sneezes ) and the lightening! Oh, the most wonderful performance of lightening, with the fingers of light reaching every which way, up and down and most amazingly, sideways, lighting up the entire sky and gifting a half second glimmer of the mountain ranges across the valley.  These storms are to become regular and beloved pastimes to us during our stay here.  

         Another amazing thing to share is that we will be having a student called Rinki, whom we worked with during our month in Varanasi, come to teach with us for the last three weeks in Darjeeling.  She is an exemplary student, a leader in her community, and a great fan spinner.  She has shown herself to be responsible and trustworthy, and she will be the first female student to become a junior volunteer for PWB, setting the precedent for many students to come.  We are so excited to collaborate with her, as this deepens the work we can do here with PWB, and is a huge opportunity for her to grow and experience teaching and performing with PWB.  We are honoured to be joined by such a thoughtful and kind student, and I know we will be able to make magic happen with Rinki as a new addition to the team.  I will be going to Varanasi to travel with her here on the train, and we will all resume ( as a team of ten!) teaching and performing together until the end of our tour.  

           As we settled into our new accommodations (2 houses, 5 people each house) we began to prepare for our first week of teaching.  We will be working with two main organisations; Edith Wilkins School for Street Children, and the Salvation Army School for the Deaf and Dumb. We also will work a bit with an organisation called Hayden Hall.  We will work with some of these children at least 5 days a week— this is a real opportunity to relay an array of skills and form deep connections.  This leg of our journey will emulate our time in Varanasi because we have more time to spend with the same group of kids over the course of one month.  This allows for a real relationship to be made between teachers and students.  At the end of the month we will be helping the kids at both organisations put together a show for their community.   The kids here have a true sense of mindfulness, their prop closets are kept in pristine condition and they seem to have a true reverence for the work.  We spent the first week evaluating skills and seeing what the kids had in mind for what they wanted to learn during our time here.  So many enthusiastic students!  Many of them have already established skills in juggling, hoops, spinning plates, and poi.  We hope to introduce fans, rope dart and staff to them as well.  So we have a lot of work to do! I am really looking forward to empowering the children to perform and share their passions with the community here and I cannot wait to see the beautiful art we will make together.

Looking forward with a cup of Darjeeling tea in hand,

Ling Ling 



New PartnerShips Set Sail

April 17, 2017

The winds of growth blow in our direction this week as our fantastic team of 9 volunteers divide and conquer throughout the sprawling neighborhoods of Kolkata. In addition to working with our long-term partner Hope Foundation, the team spent this week laying a strong foundation with new schools and shelters.


One of the schools reaches a large group of 4-10 year olds in the red-light district of Kolkata. These young children have mothers who are sex-workers and are provided with free education by a local NGO. On our first day with these boys and girls the children were naturally a bit shy but opened up with laughter and smiles half way into the morning. These young children were enthusiastic about hula-hoop, clowning, toroflux, table-top acrobatics, hula hoop, juggling, poi, oh yeah and did I say hula-hoop?!?! The team developed their knowledge and skill of creating lesson plans that are developmentally appropriate for young children. A helpful offering from Jamie, who taught 2nd grade in the U.S., was to focus on developing more basic motor skills for children ages 6 and under.

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The largest group of kids met PWB in 2016 and were highly recommended to do more workshops with. This group of one-hundred boys come from families living in poverty throughout West Bengal. They are extremely enthusiastic about learning circus and display unwavering levels of high-energy. These kids love to play games and pick up circus skills very quickly. We performed our fantastic circus and fire show for these children in their local community center. The feeling of the show was joyous and the children constantly interacted with us throughout the show. The great finale included our Bollywood dance and all of the children singing and dancing with us on stage.


We would like to give a tremendous shout-out to Jaes, the man who organized all of these new amazing opportunities with us. The work felt like it was a huge benefit to the children and we hope to see these partnerships expand in the years to come.

As our days came to an end in Kolkata, we performed one more circus and fire show for the children of Hope Foundation. We blocked off the street in front of Hope Cafe, a restaurant run by Hope Foundation that provides job opportunity for many young people in the community. The show brought together many children from various Hope centers and the local neighborhood. Ling met a journalist who wrote a newspaper article on the event, providing visibility for the work of Hope Foundation and PWB.


The last 19 days were full with 22 workshops and 4 shows held at 8 different centers. Leaving the children here is difficult because of the connections that we formed with them. However, new experiences await in Darjeeling… an amazing city perched in the foothills of the Himalaya. This may be our first breath of fresh air since January.

Your captain and French stow-away
Avi and Benji

Dan-yhavad Kolkata

March 29, 2017

17545389_10154477609371824_7866791028308574186_oBenji, Mika, Johny and Grant enjoying the session.

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.


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.

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.


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!



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.



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 🙂


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.


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”


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


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

The end of our Safari (Journey) Team Kenya

March 13, 2017




(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.



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.




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