Performers Without Borders (PWB) teaches performing arts to vulnerable children in countries of high child poverty. We interviewed Emily Ball who has worked with Performers without borders since 2007 and is an avid EJC fan. Emily and her colleagues will be recruiting performers for their organisation and will be answering your questions at EJC 2014 in Millstreet.
1. What is Performers Without Borders (PWB) and where did this all start?
The idea for Performers Without Borders (PWB) was first developed by two hobby jugglers and students of social development, Jonny Forbes and Matt Morris. During the Spring of 2006 whilst Jonny Forbes was studying in India and Matt Morris was finishing a voluntary project they meet up in the city of Varanasi. Sweltering in the summer heat they formed the idea to fuse their shared interests in performance skills and community development.
The first PWB tour took place in 2007-2008, a 6 month long trip to India with 4 month long projects at various locations across the country with an intrepid team of 8 performers and teachers including Matt and Jonny. Since then, PWB have returned to India 5 more times, each time with a different team of performers, teachers, jugglers and artists determined to help make a difference. The last 4 tours being annual, something which we aim to continue in 2015. In 2013 PWB started another project, this time in Nicaragua, Central America. This tour was created by Rob Thorburn, who's family have been working with charities in Nicaragua for 8 years. In 2014 PWB added another tour to this, our first ever in Sierra Leone, Africa - set up by Peachi Pete who is currently living there.
2. How did you first get involved with PWB?
My involvement with PWB started in the summer of 2007 when I was introduced to Jonny and Matt at a festival and they told me about their plan. I had been interested in social circus for years - it was one of the things that got me into juggling in the first place, so i was very excited to be involved with a new project and charity that followed what i wanted to be involved in. I joined the first tour in October 2007, and since then have toured 3 more times - again to India in 2012 as a coordinator, and then twice to Nicaragua in 2013 and 2014, the second time as a coordinator.
3. How do PWD trips generally work?
A typical PWB trip is made up of between 1 and 4 different projects, in various locations working with organisations that are helping underprivileged children to get a better start in life. PWB arrive and perform their show to the host organisation and stay for one month teaching the children circus and performance skills. At the end of the month the children are encouraged and helped to create their own show which they then perform to their peers or local community. In India we are seeing the long term benefits of this with one school having an annual gala show for the public which attracts audiences of more than 1000. On tour we also perform for local organisations and for the local community as well as offering shorter workshops to other NGO's in the area. We return year on year to the same organisations to build up a relationship with the children and community. We have watched children and organisations grow and develop and we aim to continue doing so into the future. My most treasured memories of tours are mainly ones that involve juggling - I have taught children to juggle and pass clubs in both India and Nicaragua - some of them even juggle with fire now! and watching them learn and perform their skills and the confidence they gain from learning a new skill is an incredible experience and memory.
4. What does an EJC mean to you?
The EJC is a big event on many of our volunteers calenders, many of them being professional or hobby juggler and performers. I went to my first EJC in 2006 - the same year that the idea for PWB was created. I remember being blown away by the amount of juggler and exicting things happening. Some of our volunteers try to attend every year, for some they are inspired to attend more conventions after doing a tour. Of course, the EJC is also a great place for us to spread the word about what we do, and encourage new volunteers to become involved - be it professionals looking for something different to do in the winter season, or aspiring performers looking to develop their skills and find out what they are capable of.
5. What is the prop box idea and how can we help?
The props box is open to anyone who may have unwanted or unused props that they would like to go to a good home. Each year PWB has to raise funds to be able to buy props to teach the children that we work with. As all jugglers know, props can be expensive and now with 3 tours running it is a large amount of equipment we need to make the tours happen. We do not receive any funding so we really do rely on the support of the community, our friends, family and fundraising events to help us continue our work. The props box is just one way that you can support PWB's work - we make sure that props go to places where they will be used, treasured and appreciated. In some of the countries we work in, the equipment cannot even be bought, so PWB is the only way the children will have access to equipment to play and practise with. Seeing a young persons face the moment that they learn how to juggle 3 clubs is something that stays with you for a long time - and you can help us give that joy! We accept any props - preferably not irreparably damaged ones though! Juggling balls, clubs, diabolos, fire props...they will be distributed between our 3 tours according to whats needed where. Or, if you have a preference for where they go, just let us know!
6. When will you be at the EJC and how can people engage with you?
I will be at the EJC from sunday the 20th until the end of the EJC... there are 6 or 7 of our ex volunteers here as well who will be around for the majority of the time. You can check out our information stand to find out more about who we are and what we do, plus you can come and find one of us to talk to us more about our tours, what we do, how you can get involved. Our applications to take volunteers for 2015 are now open so you may want to consider applying! PWB are always open to ideas of fundraising, any ways in which we can help other organisations and be of mutual benefit to one another...just come and find us and have a chat!
Emily will be stationed at the press desk in the EJC main hall along with her colleagues Livi Little, Matt Morris, Thomas Herzmark, Tom Barker, Moira Morrison and Paul Sargent. They are happy to talk you through PWBs work and volunteering opportunities.