Clowning Around in Refugee Camps



Clowns_GreeceWhile many organizations focus on immediate needs during a crisis — food, water and shelter — one group aims to share joy, laughter and fun with affected populations of all ages. Clowns Without Borders, an American based organization, has been visiting refugee camps and conflict zones since 1995 to put on performances and ensure that people, especially children, are able to find happiness even in incredibly difficult situations. Since its foundation, CWB-USA has become a chapter of Clowns Without Borders International.

CWB-USA was founded by Moshe Cohen in 1995 after he was inspired by the work of Tortell Poltrona, a clown from Spain that visited and performed for families living in a Croatian refugee camp after being displaced by the Yugoslav Wars.[1] Since then, volunteer clowns and performers have been traveling around the world, spreading joy and laughter among affected populations. Volunteers have visited and performed in countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Kenya, Iraq, Haiti and more.

Recently, efforts have been focused on visiting those living in Syrian refugee camps to help spread joy and laughter to the hundreds of thousands of adults and children alike that have been forced out of their homes. CWB-USA only travels to locations where they have been extended invitations to, and right now, their laughter is needed in refugee camps.


Working with Refugees in Greece


In October 2015, CWB-USA travelled to refugee camps on the northern island of Lesbos, Greece to perform for people negatively affected by the current conflict in Syria. Refugees fleeing from other war-torn countries throughout the Middle East, such as Iraq, have also landed in these camps.

Three volunteers and one logistics coordinator traveled between camps, and performed “small group interactions, shows, songs, and magic tricks with children and families.”[2] Audiences were comprised of those waiting to travel out of the camps and into Athens, where they can begin to resettle and reestablish their lives. You can watch a video about their work in Greece here.


Working with Refugees in Turkey


Clowns_1In November and December 2015, CWB-USA also traveled to Turkey to visit and perform for refugees living in camps near the Syrian-Turkish border. For this trip, CWB-USA was able to work with philanthropist Benjamin Croft, the Founder of World Business and Executive Coaches Summit, and his partner, Sofija Trajcevska.[3] The two partnered with three American clowns and three Turkish clowns, which allowed for more local opportunities and performances. According to CWB-USA’s website, this trip included 8 unique shows that reached roughly 2,650 people.

All of the performers with CWB-USA are volunteers — they do not get paid. However, they are all professionals in their field. They use a variety of mediums, from juggling to magic shows, acrobatics to crowd participation, dancing and more — to ensure that crowds are entertained.

You can follow CWB-USA on Facebook, and three different chapters (USA, Ireland and the United Kingdom) on Twitter. You can watch a video about the organization here.





Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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