India 2019 – Kudle Beach Bootcamp

January 31, 2019

On a fateful day in India, January the 12th of 2019, the sun blasted down upon the dry, dusty earth, heating the steel train tracks and the speeding compartments above to a boil – an appropriate temperature to get simmering the eager ingredients of the Indian PWB tour which had only just been thrown in the pot together. Those delectable ingredients are: Dan our fearless leader and double diabolo monkey, Erika the high-flying acrobatic chicken with a side of salad, Matt the dog-whispering devil stick shaman, Gina the indomitable clown and tooting trumpeter, Chaka the Chief and triple staff extraordinaire, Iain the dexterous juggling primate and our favorite Ma’ away from home, Ashlee the hero-princess of poi and bringer of infinite smiles, and myself, Logan, resident giant juggling bird of paradise and hoarder of all ice creams. So with all the zeal of a newly formed group of adventurers we hastened toward our first home in India, Kudle Beach in the village of Gokarna. What a fantastic home it was! Our passion for the discovery of the local culture and cuisine was noticeable immediately and equal only to the determination to develop friendships and share our myriad circus skills with one another.

We worked hard every day to become as mentally and physically fit as required in order to tackle the strenuous work ahead of us. The mornings brought yoga classes, group games, flexibility and strength training sessions. Afternoons floated by, filled with rehearsals under the tropical sun and a dutiful efficiency. Evenings rewarded our efforts with the exploration of tasty delicacies, westerly ocean sunsets, and the pursuit of our diverse whimsies. Adjusting quickly to the climate and setting, we found our individual routines, whether they be an early morning swim, well-timed juggle breaks, or an epic shower after a long day’s work! Focus fell naturally on the development of the group dynamic; intentions were set to develop workshop skills and the upcoming debut of our first show.

Amid the increasing strain of show development, two unsung heroes reared their faces to assist us on our tireless journey. The first is known as Dave Ford, present entertainer, improv player and past PWB veteran from years ago. With his appearance came a plethora of perfectly timed acting, improvisation, character, and show development workshops. His engaging presence and committed enthusiasm in assisting our cause was palpable, tipping the scales of success in our favour as we watched our skills and capacity for expression grow exponentially. The second hero that crossed our path is called Shubhra Gupta, also know as our wonderful new friend and ultimate guide to all things India. Her presence helped immensely with our easing into the foreign culture in innumerable ways. The universe around us then came together in one of those serendipitous and rare ways, bringing the revelation that she could gift the fruits of her career – costume design – to our cause, that we might further suspend the disbelief of the already infinitely imaginative children that awaited the spectacle of our upcoming circus.

And so with the injection of such wonderful help, our fiercely determined adventurers played, explored and worked until they found theirselves losing their humanity and becoming the wild creatures of their skillfully crafted jungle story. This fantastic parable would have our heroes adventure deep into the savage jungle with the help of its many strange inhabitants to seek a circusy treasure guarded by a terrible monster. With its unexpected defeat would come the jubilant celebration of all things good and playful! Finally the last day of bootcamp came and with it the busking and frantic flyering about town to advertise the beach-born opening of our terrific jungle tale. Despite the sand, wind, and a last minute injury leading to the subsequent, temporary loss of our infamous flying chicken, we boldly took the stage. With courage and a proclivity toward improvisation, we enraptured the imaginations of hundreds of lucky on-looking adventurers and brought them on our journey with us into the unknown jungle. We were destined inevitably to breach the veil of triumph in a cacophony of applause as the sun fell softly into the ocean like feather at the close of our final scene…and so the adventure had finally, truly begun.

Logan “Kaa!” Goethe

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PWB Kenya 2016 – A Newbie’s Perspective by Joe Dickinson

February 12, 2016

Mambo, jina langu Joe! (Hi, my name’s Joe!) I am currently on tour with the fabulous human beings of the Performers Without Borders tour in Kenya. Right now we have been in Nairobi for just under a month and have worked with two different projects while we’ve been here. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by veterans of previous tours; all four other members of our team have taken part in PWB projects in the past, which makes me the newbie! The whole tour so far has been an amazing experience and I’d like to share my angle on it, particularly with those of you who may be considering applying for and undertaking your very first tour.

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Me, just before heading to the airport!

So, what did I expect? Despite trying to keep my expectations to a minimum, I was full of ideas of what life on tour might be like, how living with the team would be and the kind of work we would be doing with the children at the various projects along the way. It will not surprise you to learn that I’ve been off the mark once or twice and I’d like to share the small amount of tour wisdom that I have accumulated up to now.

I shall begin, as one should, at the beginning. I applied for this tour back in the summer of 2015, having been pointed in this direction by my performing partner. After a simple application process and a very friendly Skype interview I was informed that I’d been accepted as a member of the team. I was elated and nervous and began, slowly, to prepare for the trip.

After a few Skype conversations with the team over the following months things slowly came together. Flights booked, vaccinations up to date, fund-raising done [see video here!]. Before I knew it the new year had rolled around and I was on a plane to Mombasa, the main port city of the Kenyan coast. The others on the team had booked their flights into Nairobi (on the other side of the country) so I had a couple of days at the accommodation in Diani, where we had our bootcamp, to myself before the others arrived.

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The view from our accommodation in Diani.

I should mention that this tour is my first time outside of Europe and a big step out of my comfort zone. Having those two days without the team around me to overcome the worst of the culture shock and settle in were very helpful for me but it was, nevertheless, a joy to see the others when they arrived. They’d actually made it to the accommodation the night before but the watchman at the site had put them in another block!

Surrounded by the team and thrown headfirst into the task of teambuilding and making a show, our two weeks at bootcamp flew by. Having the weird and wonderful characters of the team around me during this period of adjustment was such a pleasure and, despite getting sunstroke (remember to hydrate!) and the emotional upheaval of missing home, we really bonded as a group and put together the first version of our show, known as ‘Sleepy Fly’.

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The team before our first show, Lillian is behind the camera for this one!

The team here in Kenya are a fantastic bunch, we have a great mix of skills and personalities. In no particular order we have:

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Coco – Juggler, clown and theatre nerd. He’s been involved with social circus projects like The Serious Road Trip [website] and was part of the PWB India 2014 team. My roommate, training and club-passing buddy throughout the tour so far, off to climb Kilimanjaro in his week off. Nutter, nice guy.

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Katie – Former student of Circomedia in Bristol, dancer, clown and undercover juggler. Katie has worked at summer camps teaching circus for the last few years and went to Sierra Leone as part of a PWB team. She has loads of energy for the kids and silliness amongst the team. Diamond.

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Lillian – Graduate of Naropa University in Colorado. A well-travelled and caring soul, bringing a wealth of knowledge of theatrical teaching and practice to the team as well as being an idea factory in the show-making process. Loves to clown and paint with the kids. A free spirit.

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Abi – Performer with Chaplin’s Circus in the UK. Abi is our tour coordinator and came here to run a project by herself last year (respect!). With a lot to organise and keep track of I am consistently amazed at the amount of energy she has left for the kids. Powerhouse.

Having these guys around me has been amazing, united by the common desire to make this project work we have really formed as a team and our differences have made us diverse and flexible. After a month of sharing a flat and the pressures of living and working in Nairobi together, we are strong. PWB attracts some wonderful people and it’s a real pleasure to be travelling and working with some of them!

The day-to-day operation of the tour is all go. We teach and/or perform 6 days a week on the projects and manage to find time to refine the show, train our individual skills and keep up with the necessities in between! Boot camp on the coast was intensely hot throughout, a very pleasant change from the British winter. Diani beach is one of the most beautiful in the world and working on the show whilst sipping from a fresh coconut was a rare pleasure!

After our time there (and a nine hour bus ride on rough roads) we came to Nairobi to begin our work in earnest. Nairobi is Kenya’s capital, home to country’s biggest slum (Kibera), awkwardly juxtaposed with the huge villas of the nation’s wealthy and powerful. A city of real contrast and unbelievable volumes of traffic.

During our two-week period of working with acrobats of The Sarakasi Trust [website] in their training and outreach projects we spent a whole lot of time on the matatus (privately owned buses, brightly decorated, playing loud music) averaging four hours a day getting in and out of town. I got used to this pretty quickly, sharing the weirdness of the experience with others certainly helps! Living and working with the same group of people every day in a new and chaotic environment has certainly not been without its challenges but it’s a credit to focus and drive of the team that all the little sticking points are quickly resolved or accommodated for the greater good of the project. It’s a great dynamic to work with.

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A view over Kibera.

Of course, all of this is about working with the kids! Over the last two weeks we have been working with our partner, The Koinonia Project [website], at one of their children’s homes called the Kivuli Centre. This is an open community centre with a pharmacy and library that also houses 35-40 rescued boys, who were formerly street kids or the children of single parents who couldn’t cope.

The boys sleep in two dorms, depending on their age and are fed and looked after by a house ‘mama’ as well as receiving lessons in drumming and acrobatics from local trainers. The boys come from a tough place and connecting with them and keeping them engaged was pretty tricky to begin with. They were prone to fight and squabble and this takes a lot of energy out of the teachers.

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Working with the boys at the Kivuli Centre.

We have very quickly got them onside and we’ve been priveleged to see some startling progress from them. Skills with the props are coming on fast; the boys are hungry to learn and pretty adept at it! They’ve been engaging really well with the theatre and clown workshops run by the team as well and their cheeky, slapstick sense of humour is really starting to emerge.

Seeing the progress of kids in this way has been a very fulfilling experience and it’s heartening after a few weeks of one-off visits to possible new locations and partners. All this is part of laying the groundwork for future tours in the country but it’s hard to leave a group of smiling faces knowing you may not see them again.

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A one-off visit to a children’s project in Kibera.

So, would I recommend going on tour with PWB? The short answer is “Heck, yes!”  if you have a skill or two to share and the time to do it.  I had considered applying for tours in previous years and always managed to make excuses about my commitments at home in the UK or my ability to contribute to a project like this.

I couldn’t have been more wrong; with the support of the team I’ve found that I have a lot to share and a lot to learn from the teachers and children I’m working alongside. Performing arts have a real power to open people up and make space for community and fun, even in deprived places. Perhaps, especially in deprived places. The work is emotionally demanding but you might just find yourself surrounded by the perfect people  both to make a real change in the world with, and to help you grow, yourself!


Our First Kenya Tour

February 3, 2016

Our story so far- inspired by words in Swahili. Written by Abi, Tour Co-ordinator

‘Safari’ : ‘Journey’

This tour was a long time in the making.  It is the first time PWB has taken a team to Kenya. I made a trip here last year as a solo teacher, visiting projects and planning the tour.  I’m super-excited to be bringing four talented teachers along with me this time!

P1080205.JPGFresh off the plane; Lillian, Katie, Joe, Abi and Coco

‘Twende!’ : Lets Go!

Arriving in sunny, sticky Mombasa on the eastern coast of Kenya, the whole team had so much drive to learn and create together; interluded only by team ‘mango eating’, and team ‘let’s swim in the sea’ time. Our manifesto included grow, share, express and PLAY! We created our show and shared skills in theatre, improv, club manipulation and acrobalance.

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Diani Beach, 30 metres from our cottage

In our spare time we went snorkling, ate coconuts and fresh fish and played in our huge garden alongside all of the monkeys including the beautiful black and white colobus monkeys and mango-stealing baboons.

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Workshops in Kibera- Africa’s second biggest slum

‘Mambo’: Hello!

We headed to Nairobi, where our first project takes place. Getting on the bus, not just any bus, the the famous Nairobi ‘matatus’; graf’ed up, pumping out reggae, afrobeat and sometimes – to our surprise – country and western! What an introduction!

IMG_5381.JPGCoco teaching at the Sarakasi youth circus

‘Sarakasi’ : Circus

Sarakasi is a centre for performing arts in Kenya and our first partner in Nairobi. They teach acrobatics and dance internally and send teachers to outreach projects. The performers here perfect their skills in acrobatics, juggling and take acro and pyramids to dizzying new heights!

forblog2.jpgPlaytime at the Sarakasi Dome

‘Kidumbuisha’ : Lets Play

We started teaching alongside the Sarakasi teachers on their outreach projects such as in a garden of Bahat Boys centre, a drop in centre for street boys, in a centre in the Kibera slum and 150 very exited kids in Kayole. it allowed us to build on our Swahili, and learn new games and songs too.

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The kids show off their pyramids overlooked by their teacher Samjee; Outreach in Kayole

‘Gerazani’ : Prison

One of our most memorable workshops was in Kamiti Maximum security prizon, after we went through all of the security and seriousness we were greeted by a group of bright eyed gents who picked up juggling so quickly!  Afterwards they showed us some of the pyramids they had learnt from Washika the acrobatics trainer from Sarakasi. We heard afterwards that some of them made their own juggling balls out of rags and sand. A truly wonderful and memorable experience

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Games with the inmates at Kamiti maximum security prizon

‘Kugawana’: Sharing

I really believe that in sharing we are stronger, at Sarakasi we did one of their acrobatic workshops, and in turn we invited them to join us in the surreal world of improvisation, mime and theatre. We also held a discussion on working with children, doing games and role-plays with the outreach teachers at Sarakasi

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Discussions on teaching at Sarakasi dome.

‘Karibu’: Welcome

Our second week was partnering with the Smiles for Change Project (formerly Sarakasi Hospital Project), bringing performing arts to disadvantaged children in Hospital and rehabilitation centres. We did a wonderful workshop to Kirigitti girls rehabilitation centre alongside Mulkasa a musician and Lilian a social worker, we taught them hula hoops, acrobalance and self defence. We also did our new and improved show at Kenyatta National Hopsital, I will never forget looking out onto 84 little smiling faces, who for a few moments forgot their pain and worries and laughed! [We are sorry but we cannot show photos of this project]

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Our biggest workshop as a team so far; 150 smiling faces! In Kayole

‘Asante Sana’ : Thankyou very much

I would like to say thank you so much to everyone that has supported this project to bring smiles to the children of Kenya, for supporting Performers Without Borders and our wonderful teachers and volunteers.

Thanks for Reading. Lots of Love, Abi and the Kenya 2016 team.

 


Cup of tea dear?

May 1, 2014

Leaving what had become extreme heat in the rest of India, we run to the hills! Darjeeling is not like the rest of India, it is beautiful in a different way. The people are much more relaxed, nothing like the daily harassment of Varanasi touts. For the first few days our surroundings are covered with cloud, but then first clear day comes and the view is breath taking, the enormity of the hills around us leading up to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas made me feel very small. Its 2130 metres up and for the first week we’re getting out of breath just walking up the stairs from our apartment, serious altitude training! The Incessant horn blowing of Indian motorists is still a constant however .

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Meanwhile we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Manish from Varanasi, he has been taught by PWB for 7 years at the Asha Deep project. Now it has been made possible for him to come and work with us in Darjeeling, it’s a very exciting prospect for PWB to have a national involved in a project with us and has been several years in discussion. It’s a big step for PWB perhaps an even bigger step for Manish.

After a few days of acclimatisation workshops begin at Edith Wilkins Street Children Trust Foundation. It’s a steep thirty minute walk down from our apartment to the foundation, arriving out of breath and sweaty the kids are delighted to see PWB again, it’s the highlight of their year. We play some games and the kit comes out and off we go, they are a pleasure to work with and keen to learn. Some of the kids have a performance coming up at a meeting of NGOs from Darjeeling area that work with children its just over a week away and they have an act prepared but need some extra polish to make it sparkle!

 

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The day of the show comes round and we all jump on the EWSTF bus to Kalimpong, a mere four hour journey along some scary mountain roads! The journey is great fun, singing Bollywood pop songs and nursing the little ones suffering from travel sickness. We arrive and the sun is beating down on the sandy sports stadium where the event is taking place. The kids are on last and they are feeling the pressure, as their slot gets closer we can sense the tension from them. One last pep talk and they go on, their act is fantastic and the audience agrees. The programme finishes with a speech from the District Magistrate who highlights the EWSTF circus act as his favourite of the day! The kids and staff are delighted and we all jump back on the bus for anther four hours of songs and sickness.

Happy Days!

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Working with Duniya School, Varanasi March 2014

April 14, 2014

9 a.m. in the beautiful city of Varanasi, India.

PWB team wakes up at by the side of the river Ganges, stretches its bones and proceeds to the upstairs café for the morning meeting. We sit around the table bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to plan our workshops, rehearsals for the show and have some breakfast and say “good mornin”. Then it’s off on our bicycles to workshops!

Clown Workshop DuniyaIn the mornings we worked with Duniya School, a Dutch charity, working since 1996 they’ve helped the residents of the Nagwa slum have access to health and education. Alongside this Duniya Foundation distributes blankets to widows, the infirm and local families, provide food and extra curricular activities for the kids at the school and outreach projects in the community.

Raj, Nisha and the staff at Duniya really show a great interest in the development of their children and do regular social and after school activities. This was evident from the start when the staff all joined in on the workshops, their intention to learn so they can help the children where they can. Everyday a home cooked lunch is provided to all the children (in our opinion the best tasting food in Varanasi). The PWB team decided we would give more workshops with this organisation based on our shared interests in the community spirit and commitment to children.

Warm up GamesThe teaching space at the school was small and during these sessions we would do workshops based more towards the performance aspect rather than the prop such as clowning, mime or theatre. As an extra treat- twice a week we would go to a quiet square overlooking the river Ganges. This provided us with ample space to teach some hula hoop, poi and juggling workshops. The children really enjoyed the workshops and you could see the excitement exploding inside them every morning upon our arrival. Teaching these kids was an absolute pleasure; the teachers were always on hand translating and getting involved, the children well behaved and eager to learn.

We ended up donating a good portion of our PWB kit to Duniya School knowing that they would continue to bring out the props and encourage their children to play and learn these fun new arts. We knew this was the right decision when Coco and I went to the school a couple days after the project ended to drop of some last pieces of equipment. We found the school filled with children laughing and playing with the various circus props we had donated a few days prior. This is the kind of partners that PWB are looking to work with engaged in circus skills, to explore the physical and mental potential of the children while having great fun!

Kids Walking to Workshops


The Children of Topsia – Week 2 (3 – 9th Feb) PWB India

February 20, 2014

During the second week the team started to find a rhythm but this was quickly interrupted by mass illness. We were plagued by ‘Delhi Belly’ and what we dubbed the ‘Kolkata Cough’. The hygiene standards of the street food vendors were poor at the best. Plus the heavily polluted and smoggy air of this massive city was a probable cause attributed to our illness.

This did however not stop the team and we pushed forward with the project. During the second week our focus shifted slightly to ‘The Children of Topsia’ an NGO working with underprivileged children in the slums of Topsia. Their aim is to provide the basic education needed by the children so they can pass a basic entrance exam and be accepted into the Indian schooling system. PWB has been working with this NGO for the past couple years and has become a highlight to all the children involved. Each year PWB spends a week working with the children and at the end hosts a day in the park where the kids perform a ‘mini show’ for their family, friends and community.

On our first visit to Topsia we were barely through the door and the children erupted into cheering. Circus, circus, circus! We were almost instantly surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of over excited children all wanting to shake our hands or give us welcoming hugs. Once we finally managed to calm the children to a panic we managed to introduce ourselves and start teaching.

ImageThe conditions we were teaching in were challenging to put it lightly. We had almost 100 children and only 3 tiny rooms in which to teach. The small indoor space with masses of children also meant it was very loud. But this is India and we would just have to make due with what we have. After a few days of sustained work with the children we saw incredible progress in skills and confidence. It was almost time for the big weekend where they would be performing in their very own show.

The Children of Topsia Playing on Show Day

The Children of Topsia Playing on Show Day

On the day of the show we arrived what we thought would be early, before the kids got there. Instead we were greeted by the majority of the children, some of which had been there a couple hours already. This just reinforced how important and special this day was to them. Shortly after our arrival the days activities began.

It was a hot sunny day, the large park that usually stood empty was now full of children, running playing and having fun. I think it is important to mention that special permission had to be obtained by the local council for us to use the Park; usually it is locked to the public and not available to the children. There was a small unreliable PA system that was playing all the latest Indian hits like ‘lungi dance’ when the system felt like working. The children started the day with kite flying. Then open box with the circus toys.

The kids then performed their show which included the following acts; plate spinning, diabolo, a dance routine and even a mime act! The audience cheered and clapped as the little ones did their show, the parents as proud as peacocks. The children bursting with confidence, all beaming with huge smiles over what they have achieved. It hits me then just how significant this all is and how much joy we have just brought these children and families.

Topsia River

Topsia River

I cannot begin to explain to you the harsh conditions most of these children grow up in and what a small chance of success they have of breaking the cycle of poverty. Most slum children do not have the opportunity to go to school. Instead they wander the streets, beg, work as child labourers and even steal. This is why the work of NGO’s like ‘The Children of Topsia’ and PWB is so important; to give these children the best possible chance of overcoming the challenges of poverty.

The sight of the children play in the sun, running around laughing, having fun is a very emotional one. Giving these kids the freedom to just be ‘kids’ for one day and forget about the hardships. The learning of performance arts and circus arts is something that they would never normally have had exposure to. Something they never thought they could do and suddenly there they are spinning a diabolo and doing tricks. This builds confidence from the core. Making them realise they can do anything; they just need to apply themselves and work towards it.

By the end of week 2 I think many of the team had a feeling of achievement and fulfilment.

By Bruno Kopf


Finding Hope in Kolkata – Week 1 (27Jan – 2Feb) PWB India

February 20, 2014

We all set off on our 36 hour train journey to Kolkata excited to finally get started with the first project. Our train journey covered 2662 km and took a total of 38hours. A true Indian train adventure, we even traveled in general class packed in like sardines for a 12 hours leg of the journey.

Kolkata: city of love and warmth, sorrow and despair, dreams and hopes, poverty and squalor, grandeur and glory. Kolkata is compelling, effervescent, teeming with life and traditions – a melody of moods, styles, cultures, politics, industry and commerce. Originally designed to accommodate a population of 1 million during British occupation, today Kolkata is bursting at the seams with a population of just over 14 million. Regardless of how many times the ultimate collapse of Kolkata has been forecast in the past, the people of Kolkata remain proud of their city and never give up.

Tollygunge Boys Home

Tollygunge Boys Home

Upon arrival in Kolkata we were met at the station by representatives of the ‘Hope Foundation’ one of the NGOs we would be working with on this project. They also provided us with accommodation in the form of an apartment in the bustling area of Tollygange.

The Hope Foundation is committed to supporting and encouraging the development of underprivileged and vulnerable children living in difficult circumstances. It has a vision of a society in which every child is educated, protected, respected and valued and grows up to turn the tide of poverty.

Boys Rehabilitation Center

Boys Rehabilitation Center

We were invited to attend a sports day held by the Hope Foundation where we got to meet many of the children from their various projects. The day was spent with the children playing games and running races. In between the various events we performed some of the acts from our circus show. This was something the children greatly enjoyed. The PWB was in town and they were going to get the opportunity to learn circus and performance arts. The Children were bursting with excitement of this prospect.

Deciding as a team to work primarily with the Hope Foundation as they had multiple projects with a large variety of children we could reach. Our first week consisted of visiting the various centres and projects run by this organisation, day centres for street children, orphanages and even a boys’ drug rehabilitation centre.

Our first visits were mayhem! The children were wild and excitable shrieking with laughter between a constant barrage of “Aunty!, Aunty!, Aunty!…” or “Uncle!, Uncle!, Uncle!…” desperate for our attention. We quickly realised our best approach was to split into smaller teams and choose six of their centres to work with for the remainder of our three week stay in Kolkata.

By Bruno & Tom

Ash and 2 Girls at a Nabadisha

Ash and 2 Girls at a Nabadisha