Nicaragua: New project, same team!

March 20, 2018

The team have moved to Managua and are deep into their project already! Here are some snippets of info to fill you in

  • We are living in a really nice space full of greenery and amazing trees.
  • Our accommodation was full for a few days so we got moved to an amazing hotel nearby with a pool just outside our rooms!
  • Everyone’s Spanish is getting so much better
  • We’ve got 2 denim hammocks
  • We just did up our last calendar of the tour and saw the finishing date… dun dun duuuunnn

One of the projects we are working with is Casa Alianza. This is a place for teenagers from about 13 – 17 years old who come from vulnerable backgrounds. We are working with a group of “Phase 1” teens who are fresh to the programme. Despite being so fresh, they have positive attitudes towards each other, us, working as a team and learning in general. For me, this shows that the programme they are running is super good. They listen to each other when we ask what they learned in the session, they sit out and take time when they feel that’s what they need and in general, work as a big family despite having lots of things running around in their own minds, I’m sure. I have felt both nourished and challenged coming out of each of these sessions.


Helen & Will with upcoming diabolo superstars


Project two is in a school six minutes away by car. We are working with about a million children with an average age of about 9. These kids are really well behaved and because of a mixture of their good behaviour and the team growing in confidence, we have had the chance and courage to try out some new workshops. This week’s specials included a rhythm workshop with lots of clappy numbers and a magic workshop with the infamous “paper bag trick”. The kids run around, so do we and we have a great time teaching them what we know.


Darine teaching a macho routine with devil sticks

Project 3 is a village down a bumpy road that makes me feel car sick. We were told that this community is relatively new and they are having issues with togetherness along with drugs and violence. We go there once a week to do 2 sessions in the back garden of a lovely man called Done Jose who sits on a chair and smiles as everyone runs around and has a great time. These guys don’t have major experience with circus and are quite young so it’s a real treat to be able to introduce them to our little tricks.

This week especially, I’ve really been appreciating our team and all of the amazing things that they bring to the vibe. Here they are with 3 little facts about them (in alphabetical order)

  • Darine – (that’s me so as told by Jacob) gives lovely head massages, 
  • Helen – laughs a lot, never drinks her fresco and recently has become a badass base for acro.
  • Ivy – is a ninja in everything you can classify as a board game, always has very tidy facepaint for shows and we have discovered, loves throwing water around.
  • Jacob – is an expert at washing his clothes by hand, loves wearing leopard print and will usually finish food you don’t want
  • Kit – has an amazing collection of quirky facts, takes amazing photos at the right time and always comes back with a story after days off.
  • Sara – juggles anytime she has a spare breath, gets her hair cut most often and is great for little chit chats
  • Will – loves bopping his head to cheesy Nicaraguan pop tunes, says random funny words in his sleep and once had clean sweat bands.

During bootcamp, we were all fresh and hyper and eager to get to know the personalities of the team. In Leon, we were starting to figure out how a group of 7 people who previously only knew each other’s Facebook page, can manage to work together. San Marcos, things were starting to settle, and here in Managua, I feel like we are all fitting together like a little jigsaw.


Back of the camioneta cheekiness

I’d be telling fibs if I said there were never frustrations but frustrations are (usually 😉 ), not at each other directly and just at the situations that happened. We’ve got a team that I feel is really emotionally intelligent and know what they need when they need it. We’re really open as a team and are free to express what we feel and always try to accommodate needs of whoever in the team is having difficulties.

I’m so glad I’m working with people that will jump in and run games for me if I’m feeling really tired after a show, that will check in a little bit extra if I mention I’m feeling a bit tender that morning, that will tell me they disagree but do it with love, that teach me, let me teach them AND have really funny cheeky banter in the back of the camioneta. It has only been when I stepped back and looked at our amazing team without a mind full of workshops and shows that I realised how much I appreciated this bunch of energisers.

So I’m taking this blog post to publicly tell this amazing team that you are amazing, we’re all doing a perfect job at being ourselves and we are all playing a really important part in this mind blowing project doing heart warming activities for groups of superstars full of potential. GO US!

Well done team Nica 2018. Looking forward to the next few weeks.

Darine xx


Team Nica 2018 pre show being their amazing selves


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




The last week meant lots of things…

March 19, 2018
It meant our last chance to see the kids we have spent so much time bonding with…
Facepainting at Duniya! (Paints kindly donated by Oddballs Juggling, Camden)
It meant Holi the festival of colour…
The team after ‘playing Holi’ with the kids at Asha Deep
And for Asha Deep; it meant show week!
Each member of the team took a group of children and started working hard to choreograph something special.
I worked with “Team Sticks”…
The dedication blew me away.
Not only did these kids train really hard – they asked me, each day, “can we do an extra rehearsal tonight?”. Well, there’s only really one answer  to that: YES! As a teacher – there is nothing more inspiring than passionate students. So, each night after dinner, I walked by the ghats to go meet Team Sticks and together, we made something really awesome. 
There were times of worry, there were arguments, and tears… but… then someone would say; “sab kuch mileaga” and we’d go one more time from the top. Sab kuch mileaga translated literally to, “I will get everything” – but means “anything is possible”. So we added – “if you practice every day.” 
To see these kids, who had worked so hard, dance their hearts out was really quite beautiful. Lots of performers understand the post-show Buzz. Thanks to PWB, these kids have felt it, too.
Here’s Team Sticks…. smashing it…

Au Revoir San Marcos, until the next time…

March 8, 2018

Final week in San Marcos, the PWB team navigates the complexities of the beautiful Quincho community. We had such a short amount of time with the Quinchos, this is a community truly filled to the brim with love. They have left a lasting impression among all the team members. We made the decision to take the excitement of presenting our personal show and devise a show with the children. Our workshops became more show oriented; how do you enter the stage, what is your stage presence and persona, and how do you exit. We queried the children on what they found an interest in presenting, and made an effort to facilitate partner acts. The Quinchos have a literal sister group, the Yaoskas, we also wanted to make a conscious effort to integrate them as much as possible. So off we went…. This is a piece of my personal photo journal:


We fell in love with this motito, down to the amazing custom paint. I’m still considering driving one of these beauties back to the states, one kilometer at a time.


We had the pleasure of building up a lot of skills with this group, truly a benefit of having such a prolonged presence with his group (6 years running!). Some of them just started learning circus skills the week before and they were already showing proficient skills. Some of them took up acrobatics, others heard the call of the unicycle, while prop manipulation was not one to be left behind either. Many surprised us by forming group acts without our guidance, or blindsiding us by hooping on stilts. It was amazing to see individual people whom refused to participate at first climbing on top of each other!


Then came the time to clown out with everyone! It was amazing to see the camaraderie amongst this group, many even requesting to have ‘Quinchos’ written across their arms.DSCF6794DSCF6823

Many wouldn’t leave the costume closet until they had found just the perfect outfit to wear, but you could see the change in their demeanor immediately. It was very impressive actually, as soon as the perfect wig or hat hit their head they were immediately in character.DSCF6840DSCF6853

We opted to have the show at the central park to an unsuspecting audience. Even the short ride was a blast with the group, lively and ready to party.DSCF6928

The partner acts were a hit, the music was perfect, we had the audience loving every minute of it. This specfic part of the show was very personal to me. Before I arrived to the Quinchos I was ready to gift out my fans as I was not using them very much on the tour and I had not really planned to give any workshops with them. They had essentially become dead weight for me. However on our first day one Quincho approached me and asked me for specific instruction on learning some fan techniques. After working with him he requested I join him on stage, how could I refuse! We formed an act together and performed it in front of the town. Unbeknownst to him he has given me a reason to continue transporting my fans with me.DSCF6943

We actually ended up overshadowing a neighboring celebration for the anniversary of the city. Who knew our little ‘Circo los Quinchos’ would be such a hit!!! Our acro group performed their newly polished routines, and got an opportunity to show off all their new skills for our finale. They had a child walk across multiple two-high’s, then completed the act with a partner diabolo and two-high combo that was completely out of this world. Simply, WOW!DSCF6831

Shortly after staging this great show the team had to bid goodbye to the lovely Quinchos. The night of out farewell we enjoyed a lovely night over dinner conversing with Zelinda, the program coordinator for ‘Los Quinchos’. Zelinda chatted with us for hours about how the Quinchos were established, as well as the political difficulties faced by such a program in Nicaragua. Truly an eye-opening and awe-inspiring night, Thank you Zelinda!

And with that we rode off into the high noon sun, looking for our next assignment in the city of Managua.
I will cherish these memories for a lifetime!
—Until the next time,
Leo ‘Kit’ Astorga

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

A Day in Varanasi

March 5, 2018

Performers Without Borders has been an amazing way to spend my spring, and Varanasi has been a great place to spend my February. It’s beautiful, colorful, noisy, and alive.

Mornings often start on the ghats of Varanasi. Built along the Ganges river, Varanasi has dozens of different named ghats, or steps down to the river. All are unique: some have shops, some have laundry areas, while others are reserved for cremations.

Located on the western side of the Ganges, Varanasi is renowned for it’s sunrises when the buildings along the ghats are bathed in a golden glow.

No morning is complete without a stop by your favorite chai shop. Seriously, I’ve never met anyone who loves anything as much as Jules loves chai.

The team spends three mornings a week working with the kids at Duniya. We taught a variety of circus arts, and spent our last day there working on some face painting. We were impressed with both Xander’s and the kids’ artistic talents!

Group photos after face painting at Duniya. Look at those happy kids and colorful circus artists!

Our other mornings are spent at Jeevan school. This group of well-behaved kids had a particular love for diabolo and surpassed our skills within a couple sessions.

Every afternoon we head down to Asha Deep to work with the children there. As our primary project, we spend a lot of time with those children and have been working hard to prepare them for their annual show.

Children of all ages and talents get to participate in the annual Asha Deep show. These little clowns love circus and especially contact juggling!

We don’t have many days off here, but the ones that we do are amazing. Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the world and full of temples and art. It’s a magical place that becomes even more magical when viewed from the PwB perspective!

-Daniel McGuire

Loving life in Nakuru

March 4, 2018

28279801_10156842470767289_7943539382928481900_nFollowing a wonderful first week, Team Kenya has continued to bask in the good vibes that have come to define our time here in Nakuru. Classes are running regularly, the children remain enthusiastic and engaged, emotional bonds are forming and being strengthened (both with the children and amongst the team members), our beloved Lucy – who helps with our in-house cooking and cleaning – returned after a short absence due to illness, recent outreach shows have been ridiculously fun, and the team is operating better than it has all tour.

The “long rains” have come early to Kenya this year.  Beginning last week, each day by around 3 o’clock in the afternoon we listen, watch, and feel as the winds begin to blow with an increased fervour, swirling the dust in the yard and heralding the heavy downpour that soon follows.   But while the skies may be dark and the air damp, the feeling inside Gabriel’s Learning Centre remains bright as the children’s laughter and excited play echoes through the concrete corridors.


Our comprehensive curriculum for the school wide Physical Education program includes instruction in creative movement, acrobatics, tumbling, spinning plates, staff, poi, hoop, fans, juggling balls, juggling scarves, and foot sports (aka hackey sack and soccer).  Additionally we have been sharing several songs with the kids — they absolutely love to sing!! No sooner has a song been introduced than it can be heard floating across the yard or in the hall.  Watching the kids take ownership of these songs and make them their own fills us all with an incredibly warm feeling and solidifies our belief that song is truly a powerful way to spread joy and build community.

Several members of the team joined Angela, the resident social worker at GLC, on her weekly round of home visits here in the Kaptembwa neighbourhood.  This experience was especially insightful and emotional as the PWB teachers were introduced to many mothers (all of them single, with no male/father figure involvement) of various GLC students.  The homes visited were typically somewhere in the realm of 10×10 feet, without electricity or running water, and with one pit toilet shared with multiple other households.  The dark, cramped spaces housed anywhere from 3-11 children alongside the mother.  Most of these children come from different fathers, and almost all of the mothers began having their children around the age of 13. We heard stories of women who will leave their young toddlers unattended for an entire day so they can find work washing clothes in town; others of those who will prostitute themselves for 20-50 cents USD.


We encountered neighbors who stank of alcohol, found a toddler trapped in a trench running with raw sewage, and watched children bathing and playing in old wash water the color of mud.  Every mother welcomed us warmly into her home, and after visiting for 10-15 minutes, some would join us to a local duka (small shop) where Angela would purchase rice and flour for the family who, otherwise, had no food.  We learned that — in addition to providing day education for 270 neighbourhood children and residence for 50 orphans — GLC also sponsors the families (mothers and siblings) of their day students by purchasing food when necessary, contributing to school fees so that siblings can attend the public school, and paying medical bills.  Their work is extensive and commendable, and we are honoured to be participating in their efforts to serve the children and families of Kaptembwa.

Team Kenya enjoyed giving several performances this week.  Some of the GLC sponsored residents who are attending secondary school elsewhere returned this week.  Both they and Lucy requested that we do a fire show (as none had seen our previous one) and so we brought fire back to the GLC yard.  It was, once again, received with uproarious joy and the children chanting each of our names in turn.  Not only did they chant our names, but they also chanted the names of various superhero characters which they have assigned to each of us, such as “Master” and “Wonder Woman”.

We also performed two outreach shows this week; one for Pistis Home and Educational Center and another for the Alpa Stars Nursery School.  Our audience at the latter was doubled by several neighborhood families (both adults and children alike) hearing the music, wandering over, and joining in the fun.  Our show was followed by well over an hour of merry play, all to the repeat soundtrack of the “Odi Dance”, one of Kenya’s current pop favourites. The team had such a blast performing again after nearly a ten day hiatus that we have committed to doing two more shows in our third, and final, week which begins tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe that our tour is nearly over.  Mixed sentiments are starting to surface in the various team members; feelings of excitement to return home to missed loved ones or set out on new adventures, but also feelings of sadness and nostalgia for these children whom we have come to love and this land and culture which has, slowly over the course of the last 2 months, come to feel like home.


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