January 2012 sees me heading off to India on a 4 month tour with Performers Without Borders (PWB). This year PWB has a team of 8 performers from all over Europe who believe in spreading the art and love of performing as far as they can, to underprivileged children who would otherwise never have such an opportunity. The vision of PWB is to give:
“vulnerable children the opportunity to explore their potential. We understand that, through teaching performance skills an individual's learning, creativity and team working skills are developed. Further, it helps to build confidence, develop empowerment and overcome social barriers. PWB’s methodology of following the tradition of travelling show, and the principle of fostering long-term relationships, is ideal in not only engaging children, but also ensuring community trust in the project.”
This will be my third trip to work on a project such as this, and my second with PWB. Earlier this year I joined Spark!circus on a tour of Thailand. However, PWB is where my heart is as I was part of the first project and I am a trustee of the charity. For 2012 I am coordinating the PWB tour of India, which is as exciting as it is daunting; organising a group of people travelling through a foreign country, the large amounts of kit (circus performers especially!), and liaising with our partner organisations. All in a country which can try both your patience and sanity at the best of times!
So why do I do it?
Well, I love performing and teaching circus in the UK, it’s my full time job. But part of my inspiration to become involved in this field was an article in a Readers Digest, which I read when I was 14 and waiting for the dentist. The article was about a guy who set up a street children’s circus in South America. His circus kept children off the streets and out of trouble, whilst giving them an opportunity to learn, develop a variety of life skills and express themselves. When I met PWB founders Jonny Forbes and Matt Morris, it seemed like an opportunity to follow a dream of mine had landed in my lap, and I went with them on the first PWB tour in 2007. Five years later, PWB is going strong, and so far have had 3 successful tours of India. We are looking to expand and live up to our name by starting a new project in Nicaragua in 2013, and in Africa in 2014.
Teaching children that come from such poor backgrounds and have so little is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. They are so hungry to learn, and learn very quickly because of it, which is amazing to witness. The children in Varanasi (an ancient and holy city in north india) that were 10 years old on our first tour are now 15-16 year olds and this year, some have performed with fire props (juggling, staff spinning, hula hoop and poi) in front of thousands of people. They have become confident young people, who have opportunities and potential, and part of that is because of PWB’s involvement with them.
The projects don’t just benefit the children – they are a fantastic opportunity for individuals to develop their skills as a performer and teacher. I have learnt how to teach without words, performed in front of thousands of people, and been pushed to my limits both physically and mentally. I would recommend PWB’s projects to anyone who has a passion for performing, teaching, children, and child development. PWB’s projects are unforgettable, fantastic experiences which simultaneously benefit others and are a refreshing change from working in the UK - whilst still doing what you love. To find out more about PWB and what we do, visit www.performerswithoutborders.org.uk. You can also join our mailing list for regular updates on the project.
If you would like to ask me personally anything PWB, you can contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to donate to support PWB’s work – we do not get funded and raise all our funds ourselves – visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmilyBall or the ‘support’ page on the PWB website. All the donations go straight into running projects, not on admin costs or anything hidden, PWB believes in complete transparency.
You can see videos of PWB’s 2011 tour here
Visit the PWB website here: Performers Without Borders