By Jessie Maguire
The first thing that came to mind when I interviewed John Connell was that this is one of the coolest and most worthwhile organizations I’ve come across during my 5 years in Bolivia.
Why do People Want to Volunteer in Bolivia So Much?
I sat down and began to think about what drives volunteers to come to Cochabamba. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. With 60% of the population living in poverty, it’s no wonder it attracts hordes of volunteers every year to work at its NGOs and smaller foundations. And what better way to lend a hand than to work with children and young people in Bolivia to build a better future for them and their families?
I know many young Westerners who’ve struggled to choose the perfect organization before they travel down to South America. Like you might be, they’re thinking, “I want to work with an awesome project and actively get involved in a project that is really helping people.”
Why Performing Life Inc. Is Such a Favorite
What about a cool project like this one, which is busily working away to aid the 800,000 children that live and work on the streets of Bolivia? What would it be like for you, as a volunteer, working with them? Ask any of the 25 volunteers that have worked with John and his team at Performing Life Inc. every year since it was founded, helping out with their awesome Circus Arts Program, Music Program, Bracelet Microfinance Program or supporting their cause at one of their offices around Cochabamba. See here for a video with more info about their amazing programs.
An NGO Born Out of Passion and Fun – John’s Story
John began his journey when he was 16. He came to Bolivia to visit his girlfriend (who just happened to be Goni’s granddaughter!), and he’s lived here ever since. With little Spanish and little money at the beginning, he decided to earn his keep juggling at traffic lights. Within a short time, he was making enough to move into his own place.
After spending a couple of months working alongside street kids washing windshields for pennies, he realized that the street kids could earn more money in less time by juggling and entertaining their audience. And what could be more fun?!
He started teaching them how to do basic performing arts – everything that had grown out of his passion for performing arts. This idea grew organically into Performing Life, Inc., which has now helped thousands of children learn new skills and get into school. John and his team also help Bolivian children stay healthy by providing them with a healthy meal after each class, and fund their dental treatment.
They celebrate the children’s birthdays, help them save money so their families can find housing, start a small businesses – even go to university in the States, like Escarlet.
Escarlet’s Amazing Journey
Want real proof of the efficiency of the program? What about Escarlet, who met John at the traffic lights by Plaza Colon in Cochabamba when she was 8. When her father fell sick when she was young, her family couldn’t make ends meet.
She and her brother started learning how to juggle, and finally had enough to eat. They both continued to learn and now teach at Performing Life Inc. They are experts in fire breathing, poi, tightrope, aerobatics and juggling while on a unicycle.
Escarlet is learning English and she will be studying Economics in Idaho very soon thanks to crowdsourcing campaigns and her vision to create a better future for herself when she returns.
Here is more about her story.
Many of the children who’ve had the chance to work with Performing Life Inc. are happier and healthier as a result. Here is some great footage of some of the children that have benefited in Cochabamba. The hip hop music after the 3rd minute was created by some of the children from the music program.
Cirque Du Soleil Is Also Backing Performing Life Inc.
Performing Life Inc. has become a favorite among volunteers coming to Cochabamba. It was also selected by Cirque du Soleil to benefit from their TORUK – The first flight performance in Denver and Chicago in 2015.
Don’t Miss Out
Do you like working with children? If you’re interesting in getting involved in Performing Life Inc.’s work, Sustainable Bolivia is one of the organizations that send them volunteers. Ready for some fulfilling work in Bolivia? Check out Performing Life Inc.’s Facebook page here. And of course, you can arrange everything else with Sustainable Bolivia by contacting us here.
Interviews with John Connell and Escarlet Karina Coca Ardaya. All images provided by Performing Life Inc.