Performers Without Borders 2016 – INDIA


It has been a while since I’ve written a blog, but I’m REALLY EXCITED about an upcoming adventure that has been set in motion!  I will be joining Performers Without Borders in 2016 for a four month tour teaching and performing with disadvantaged youths in India!!


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Performers Without Borders vision statement:

PWB works towards giving disadvantaged 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 the traveling show, and the principle of fostering long-term relationships, is ideal in not only engaging children, but also ensuring community trust in the project.

PWB envisages a world where all children are able to realize their full potential, and have an understanding of different cultures, the complexity of development issues and the importance of personal action.


I am extremely honored to be selected from dozens of applications to join their team in 2016!  We will be traveling throughout India spreading the art of object manipulation, juggling, acrobatics, circus, and flow.  The trip will begin in January when I fly into Goa, India and last through April 2016.

The first PWB project India was in 2007 – 2008 and has been building year on year with two or three main partner organizations as well as a whole host of new outreach partners during the growing of the project.  That means they have been organizing volunteer trips to teach circus arts in India for 8 years!  I am thrilled to join their 9th tour and continue building on the skills the children have already learned as well as welcome in as many new participants as possible.


Eight of us will be forming the 2016 PWB India team.  Most of us have never met or even know anything about each other.  We all applied to volunteer for the project with the objective of broadening our perspectives of the world and helping bring smiles to children who desperately need it in the process.  We have all committed four months of our lives to volunteer our time away from our homes and families to share our passions.  This is a very scary commitment indeed!  (I know I will especially miss my wonderful girlfriend Erika and my amazing dog Ember!!  I’ve never spent so long away from either of them since we’ve met…)

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the 2016 Performers Without Borders India Team:

  • Mika Kiburz, our coordinator extraordinaire, from the USA
  • Shaheen van de Schyff, South Africa
  • Shouniez van de Schyff, South Africá
  • Magnus ‘Mags’ Cromarty, UK
  • Beatriz ‘Bea’ Vicente , UK/Spain
  • Mark Duncan, UK
  • Ellie Manners, UK
  • Tyler ‘Spades’ Macklin, USA

Our first destination will be along the western coast of India in Gokarna, Karnataka where we will have a “bootcamp” to develop acts together as a team and formulate our roles.  From there we will travel to Ahmedabad for a short week-long project teaching and performing.  At the end of January we will travel to Varanasi and establish our home base for our first large project together!

In Varanasi we will be working with Asha Deep Vidyashram, a school founded in February 2004 with the purpose of providing education to underprivileged children in the city.  The school’s aim is to give children a chance to break free from the cycle of poverty by providing a quality education in a loving environment, enabling them to live with dignity and respect.  At present they have about 250 children ranging from 5-15 years old and seventeen teachers.  Asha Deep Vidyashram is the longest standing partner of Performers Without Borders and their students already have a high level of circus skills which we will be building upon with after school programs.


There is a culture of performing fire and some of the older children have performed with fire since 2011.  I’m really excited to impart my knowledge of fire performance and safety with these students!


A culmination of this project is a large scale show on Ravidas Ghat.  The school prepares dancing and singing acts alongside the circus acts of the children performing and provides staging, lighting for the show.  I can’t wait to see what we can come up with!

Here are some primary values our tour will be embodying during all of our projects:

  • Education should provide the child with a wide range of life skills and contain aspects of fun and playing.
  • Self confidence development is key for the disadvantaged.
  • Learning and developing performance skills has great rewards.
  • Fostering cross-cultural community links benefits all involved.
  • Sustainability of the work through long-term contact with communities.
  • The community is the main actor in development.

After Varanasi we will be traveling to Kolkata, West Bengal sitting on the mouth of the Hooghly River, on the North East Coast of India.  Kolkata was the original center of the British East India company, which in turn led to it becoming the center of British India. It was also the centre of the fight for Independence. Since then it has had mixed fortunes, and found itself as one of the poorest cities in India during the 1970’s-1990’s. This has then been followed up by Kolkata establishing itself as a centre for technology since 2000.  It is also huge, with a metropolitan population of 15,000,000.

We will be partnering with The Hope Foundation, a large organization consisting of different homes/orphanages/schools/street children outreach in various venues around Kolkata. The Hope Foundation works inside the slums and on the streets to offer children and communities an alternative to nothing. Offering protection to those without a family, providing education within the communities as well as healthcare to those turned away from state hospitals. Working on the front line of the battle against human trafficking and the child sex trade, with anti-trafficking projects, and emergency response crisis units for children abandoned or working in the sex trade.  PWB will be offering morning and afternoon sessions teaching juggling (balls,clubs, some rings), unicycle, slackline, acrobalance/acrobatics, diabolo, poi, staff, hoop, dance, singing, stilts, improv theatre and clowning.  We will also be doing alot of outreach work with various other organizations in the city offering workshops and shows in their local parks in the slums.

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 Our final project will be in Darjeeling, West Bengal.  Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas at 2050 metres, Darjeeling is famous for it’s tea and stunning views.  It is a much smaller city than Varanasi with the population at around 150,000.  There we will partner with The Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation.  They are one of PWB’s most recent partners, with the 2015 trip being the fifth project there. EWSCF provide a number of services to the young people that are trafficked into Darjeeling from the surrounding areas, including halfway houses, night shelters and outreach programmes. Due to Darjeeling’s geographical location it has become a centre for child trafficking from the surrounding South Asian countries.  I’m sure it will be a nice change of pace to end our tour in a more rural area teaching daily workshops and performing amongst the stunning vistas.

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Because we are all volunteers, we are individually responsible for all of our expenses to get to India and while we are there (my plane ticket alone seems to be around $1600, and I will be continuing to pay rent for my room in Portland while abroad).  We have also all committed to fundraising £500 for PWB each to help fund the tour.

Every year PWB takes out circus equipment to donate to the groups they work with.  They also replace, fix and leave what the children need to carry on practicing.
We will be living together in modest accommodations and walking or biking to the schools we will be teaching at.

I will be actively fundraising until I leave in January to help cover my £500 PWB donation as well as my personal expenses.
If you feel like donating to help me in this endeavor, you can send money via PayPal as a “gift” to
(I will also have a crowd-funding site up in the coming weeks.)

This may not seem like your standard vacation, but I can honestly tell you that I can’t imagine a more perfect way for me to experience India for my first time!

When I volunteered with Spark! Circus in 2013 it opened my eyes to how vastly different our lives our from other cultures around the world.  I was motivated and inspired by what I experienced and knew then that I would continue seeking opportunities to volunteer my time and talents to teach disadvantaged youths across the world.  The idea of visiting India came up several times on that trip… but I was waiting for a larger purpose to justify the travel.  This is IT!  I’ve found my purpose and get to explore India NOT as a tourist, but as an active teacher and performer for social circus!


Touring with SPARK! Circus in Thailand 2013

Teaching staff spinning to children living in a Burmese refugee camp 2013

Teaching staff spinning to children living in a Burmese refugee camp 2013

Where do I go from HERE you ask?
Well… Before I leave for India there are several things I need to figure out and organize.  Firstly, I need to fundraise my £500 donation to PWB and buy my plane ticket.  I also need to figure out which vaccines I need and which ones I want to get.  I need to register for my visa, get travel insurance for my gear including my laptop which I plan to bring to keep YOU ALL informed, and get a water purifier (necessary for sure, but who are we kidding?? It’s pretty likely I’ll end up sick at some point).

I truly believe in the transformational powers of the circus arts for children.  They help develop higher self esteem, hand-eye coordination, social skills, and a sense of playful exploration among many other benefits.  I’m joining this tour and going on this adventure no matter what! but I could really use your help and support to make the process easier.  If you support the goals of Performers Without Borders and are able to donate I really appreciate it.  Every little bit helps and together we can make a life-changing impact on these kids lives.
Even the simple act of reposting and sharing this blog will help spread the word of this amazing project.

Check out this video to see what Performers Without Borders did in 2015!



♠♠  Tyler Spades  ♠♠