How Did BWB Begin?


Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed to the Gulf Coast to help survivors rebuild their devastated communities. While the rest of the world’s attention was focused on New Orleans, the small group decided to head towards Biloxi, which had been hit just as hard but was receiving little help. The group named themselves the Temple to Temple Crew since many of the volunteers had built the Temple at Burning Man.

As the volunteer numbers grew, they focused their initial efforts on rebuilding a destroyed Vietnamese temple. After several months and a job well done, they moved to another needy Mississippi community, Pearlington, to continue to work hard — gifting their time — to help those in need.  And a new name, Burners Without Borders, was born.

Over the course of eight months, BWB volunteers gifted over $1 million dollars worth of reconstruction and debris removal to the residents of Mississippi due to the donation of a brand new front loader and excavator.  BWB was the only volunteer group on the Gulf Coast to receive a donation of heavy machinery, which enabled them to put Pearlington three years ahead of the relief effort in their region.

But, we did more than just clear people’s homes, we started burning sculptures made from the debris we gathered while doing our work. Soon, the community began bringing their own sculptures and many experienced a powerful, cathartic moment as they were finding the courage together to let go of the past and rebuild their futures.

After Katrina-From Disaster Response to Civic Engagement

After witnessing the incredible creativity that the Burning Man community brought to Katrina, Tom Price and Carmen Mauk returned to San Francisco with a desire to continue to grow BWB beyond the scope of natural disasters. They wondered what would be possible if  the kind of participation and creativity they experienced in Katrina could be turned into our every day lives in communities around the world.

As a first step in encouraging community participation, they decided to host a beach cleanup at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, on May 5th. By engaging  the Burning Man network and former Katrina volunteers, this cleanup spread to five countries  and the first annual Cinqo de Playa cleanup was born. This program ran for seven years and continued to grow to more than twenty cities around the world.



Posted in: History