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You can keep up with the latest project developments from the people on the ground making them happen via the BWB Blog. We want to hear from you and welcome your comments.
PROJECTS BLOG 07/03/2009

Motomoto Mombasa- Kenyan Youth Thrive on Fire Dance

BWB is partnering with Will Ruddick in Mombasa, Kenya to support his amazing project that is transforming the lives of street children through learning the  art of spinning fire.  BWB will be collecting donations to purchase the necessary fire poi making resources needed that aren’t found in Kenya. Will is also looking for innovative ideas to address the unique challenges he faces, and please feel free to comment below.

Blog. August – 15 -2009

Survivors spun fire to the beats of drums.

We just had our first big public show at a ‘country fair’ called the Mombasa Show!
Two survivors spun fire to the beats of drums.
People were amazed.

Recently, Nemo Curiel another Peace Corps Volunteer from Tijuana California joined us and is currently working on synthesizing Capoiera and fire dance. He is transforming our practices and performances into a  beautiful community event where everyone can be involved in the performance through music and dance.

Since Nemo joined us and helped add the key element of local musicians, our practices and weekly shows are really starting to draw attention and become a fun community event.

We have been getting people interested in shipping wick and other poi material here to Kenya – but are realizing the shipping cost is rather large. The only thing we have yet to find in-country is Kevlar wick material. So if you want to support us in making this project grow you can also send us financial support.

  • Kerosene! is expensive. About 1 US dollar per litre – and we can go through 10 litres per night about 50 litres per week.
  • Wicks! We have yet to find a supply of Kevlar wick material and are currently using scrap cloth – which is expensive and burns up very fast. A cotton wick only last about 5 burns and costs about 10 US dollars to make. It is easy to go through one per night.
  • Teachers! We would love to host teachers, choreographers and burners to come out to Kenya and see what is up and help us figure out where it’s going.
  • Travel! We would love to travel around Kenya and Africa – into the deep villages and city slums and share something they have never seen.

To donate to this project, please go to and click on the Donate link. Please send us an email at to let us know you want your money to go to Kenya.  We hope to send our new Kenyan friends a care package before Burning Man this year

Blog July – 15 – 2009

Will Ruddick, Burner and Peace Corps Volunteers in Mombasa, Kenya, teaches street children Fire-Poi

Will Ruddick, Burner and Peace Corps Volunteer in Mombasa, Kenya, teaches street children Fire-Poi.

Will’s Story-

August is approaching and the playa is on the other side of the earth.
Utado what? (What are you going to do?)

-Fire Dance-
The danger of being burnt – makes you feel alive.
It demands focus and inspires creativity.
It is beautiful.

Here in Kenya, fire dance is giving peer educators an income, building their confidence and helping serve as a focal point when working with street children.

(Picture:) Two of my students. Yes – I’m the white guy in the middle. Yes – she does practice in her bui-bui (Muslim traditional garb) – we are working on a Muslim appropriate – fire resistant version . . . Lemme know if you have any ideas. Yes – those are dog leashes she is spinning around.

So . . Besides starting a mini-fire dance industry to support a peer counseling group (The Mombasa Youth Counseling Center MYCC) – my fire dance students and I have been going out and working with street children. We have teamed up with several groups around Mombasa to put on the first Street Children’s March and Festival in Mombasa.

What is really amazing so far, is that we have excited the street children enough to start forming singing, dancing, acrobatic and drama groups. They are also putting together testimonials and poetry for the event. So instead of sitting around, fighting and sniffing glue all day – they are working together a bit more and have something to look forward to.

This is also the first event in the city that has the sole purpose of spreading awareness to both the Mombasa public and the homeless. For the public we want them to get to know the homeless – no more giving 5-shillings and walking away – ask them their name dammit! And for the homeless – we want them to start working together, learn what opportunities are out there and have enough encouragement and support to go after them.

Street March Meeting

Street March Meeting

Challenges I would love your input on-
-Clothing: What can Muslims wear safely while fire dancing?
-Wicks: I have yet to find Kevlar or any large wicking material – other than wrapping denim with wire (which doesn’t go out …. and is a little dangerous).
-Safety: Suggestions for safety equipment would be appreciated. The street children love to set things on fire . . need for serious fire safety measures (there are homeless adults that watch over them, which I home to make into the fire marshals).
General: Sadly, the homeless live around piles of burning plastic and sniff glue all day.

Thanks for your support!


Help Will keep the fire burning in Kenya, getting youth off the street!  Click here to donate.


17 Responses to “Motomoto Mombasa- Kenyan Youth Thrive on Fire Dance”

  1. Ken Armfield says:

    Very cool. Here are some thoughts, based upon my 9 years of fire spinning:

    1) Just doing two handed poi is good for personal development – – I suspect that it helps unite the left and right hemispheres of the brain?

    2) Of the three serious burns (second or third degree burns covering several square inches of flesh) that I know of among local fire folks here, they have all occurred because there was not a safety spotter available. In addition to the basic safety aspect, helping these people learn to spot for eachother can perhaps be a bonding, supportive exercise and practice in pro-active action and cooperation for their greater good?…something like that…

    3) Is there perhaps a socially acceptable way to make the girl’s/women’s clothing more safe by cinching it tighter at the wrists, waist, ankles?

    4) Maybe demonstrate with fabric to the kids just how flammable or not their clothing is…when I teach classes I do this. I also tip over a lit half-gallong of fuel in a parking lot to demonstrate how out-of-control a tipped fuel can is, in order to impress upon the students that they need to be very careful.

    Best Wishes,
    Ken Armfield
    4 time burner.

  2. Moloch (Kevin) says:

    I just had a massive burn, with several sq. inches of third degree burn.
    Did not have a safety. 🙁
    Been to the Man once.
    This is awesome, I wanna live in a world where everyone spins poi <3

  3. Samantha says:

    you could wrap your poi w/ old towels rather than denim. you can put it out fairly easily

  4. Tommy Brown says:

    Will…this is awesome! Giving these people a skill that they can have fun with, make a few extra dollars, and gain self respect is really a great thing. I’d love to help with this! My partner Cammie and I are pro fire performers, but would LOVE to give our time, energy, and skills to a project like this. What can we do to help?

  5. Will Ruddick says:

    Hey All!

    Wow – I am really excited to see all these responses!

    I just had my first student light up! No Burns. He was sooo excited.

    Ken – I love your thoughts. I am really working on making it almost like a 12 step program with the street kids. It gives them something cool and exciting to focus on — and they don’t get to progress to fire until … they are off drugs and showing commitment to practices, and can do a performance without fire, show fire saftey …

    I try to scare the crap out of them about the danger of fire — the parking lot demo sounds great – thanks!

    Kevin – Heal up! I am not so much worried about burns — as secondary infections …. Lemme know if you have any advice.

    Samantha – Having trouble finding demin anyway – and just made my first monkey fist – cloth poi…. they were super! …. but I am not really great at making my knot tight.

    Tommy – et all. Thanks!

    Right now most of my students are just beginning to twirl around wires with water bottles attached – but they are really excited! We are doing a march on september 5th along with a talent show …. just getting the children excited and motivated has been wonderful.

    … There is an old abandoned (burnt down) department store that the children sleep in. We are doing our first fire performance there next week! I have a dream about making that building into something run by the street children – – – I could imagine it being some crazy art sculpture – street childrens home – fire dance plaza – cacophony orchestra!

    Moto = fire
    Motomoto = sweet excitement!


  6. O-ryan says:

    Hey Will, fucking fantastic idea! I’m in Brisbane Australia right now and pretty closely connected with the fire spinning crew here; in particular there’s a shop called Threeworlds that might be interested in supporting. Do you have any project literature that I can give out to people who might want to donate? If you don’t have any written up, would you like some?

    I run a nonprofit called the Monastery of the Arts of Peace that’s really all about supporting exactly these projects. What do you need, brother? Can probably get you some kevlar at least.

    Love and magic,


  7. O-ryan says:

    Hey bro, got you some wick. Nice big bag full, slightly burned but still well more than good. Still have some interested people too. Where can I send it to? Anyone looked into logistics of airmailing fire equipment?

    love love love


  8. Will Ruddick says:

    Hey all! Woot! – I have been running around with my head off. . .

    Ok. . I just confirmed the best way to send stuff here to Kenya.
    It is via DHL . . . but I can’t put it here on the website (cuz it has my phone number in it).
    Please email me at… willruddick (at ) ….and I can give it to you.

    In terms of literature – I am working on something right now – and will let you know as soon as it is ready. In the mean time – check out my blog for snippets and more pictures

    … I am really excited about getting some kevlar wicks! The kanga poi (cotton) are really only lasting about 2 burns … and are relatively expensive.

    flames grace,


  9. Deema Dabis says:

    Dear Will,

    This project sounds soo amazing! I am currently writing a grant to get funding to do a similar project in Palestine! Was wondering if you have any advice about how you went about doing this? How you found your students? What about fire fuel? It’s a bit difficult to find good fire fuel here in Palestine! And anymore advice on good clothing, creating fire equipment and any sorts of challenges or unexpected things that came up in your process!!

    Thanks so much and look forward to hearing back from you!

  10. rob says:


    I have friends who do outreach circus in Kenya; lets circus

    I think they’d be very happy to talk to BWB about how to work together in Kenya, and could probably help with some of the issues you describe above.

    Incidentally, I will be going out to india with performers without borders – – for 5 months in October, and it’d be great to have some links to BWB, I think….



  11. Euge says:

    Hey Will,

    Great job with the stuff and junk.

    Tip about making a nice tight monkey fist: Use a vary large allen wrench (one of those hex, L shaped dealies) to tighten the knot once it’s made. If you get one with a ball end on the long segment it makes it really easy to slide the tool in between the bits of the knot, and then by putting the segment of rope you intend to tighten in the elbow of the L shape you get a lot of leverage to twist the rope and thus pulling it harder then you could, even with pliers. In this manner you can just follow the rope round and round the knot, tightening it from begging to end.

    Good luck,


  12. Will Ruddick says:

    Hey All,

    How I started:
    I had a free plane ticket from the Peace Corps – language training, cultural integration and some small funding to start off with (about $200 a month). I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten all that without the Peace Corps. But now that I am here I could imagine setting other people up to do the same. Hosting burners who want to be here for a short time or start their own programs.

    Right now – I’m using a lot of the buzz around fire dancing and drumming to start ‘take back the night’ events to bring light into dark places where rapes and murder are common place.

    Grant writing?: The way I started was simply going out on the street and making poi out of junk. We had enough money to buy kerosene (parafin) once a week – and are looking at increasing that funding though asking friends for donations and doing performances.
    How you found your students?: I just started practicing were the street children live and where they do and sell drugs.
    What about fire fuel? What do people light lamps with there?
    Clothing?: Denim jeans for me …. still working on a denim covering for Muslim women.

    Wrapping cotton in chicken wire has been working pretty well – but only lasts around 2 burns…. Fire dance equipment makers often have scrap that they throw away (send it to meeee 🙂 )

    Rob: Circus! I would love to chat with them please send them my email …. also has a circus program in Nairobi. Clowns without borders is also in Kenya.

    Euge: ahhhh!? .. is it possible for you to put a video on youtube?

  13. Dan says:

    Using kerosene will not have the fire hazards that you US burners are used to with colemans so although fire safety should of course be emphasised it wont need to be so hardcore as stateside. A tipped tin of kero is pretty hard to light.

    Will: when you get your kevlar just use a layer of it on the outside of the cotton, wrap it so the cotton isn’t exposed, without oxygen the cotton wont burn.
    It will make your kevlar go further.

    Molton is a theatre fabric that is inherantly fire resistant. Wont fuel a fire, just crumbles eventually. It’s also used in some furniture uphostery.
    It’s pretty thin so could be sown as a headwrap or Burqa.
    Not sure of it’s availability in Kenya. Denims pretty good and probably much easier for you to get there.

    Good luck with your project mate.


  14. This is one noteworthy project. All of us fire dancers are proud of you!

  15. Will Ruddick says:

    Wrapping Kevlar around cotton …. sweet idea!



  16. Meghan says:

    In your post you said that the supplies for spinning fire were not available in Kenya. I’m not sure where they are getting their supplies, but in neighboring Tanzania, and out on Zanzibar, spinning poi is a favorite past time, and is included in the professional acrobatic acts that they use as crowd pleasers. At least this was the case last time I was there in 2006. In fact, they are quite good! There may be a local supplier where you can get materials for spinning poi.

    Good luck and good job with your noteworthy project!

  17. valerie pili says:

    just came across this blog…am in mombasa n i would love to help,offer a helping hand where i can because am super tourched by your efforts to take young pple off the street in such a creative way. Keep up the good work.Sadly am not a fire expert. BLESSINGS.