The independent international group Clowns Without Borders (CWB) and UNHCR partnered to bring laughter and happiness to refugee children at Tongogara Refugee Camp and the Chipinge District communities as a prelude to commemorations marking World Refugee Day, which will take place on June 20th.
Clowns Without Borders was created in 1993 to deal with the suffering caused by the war in the former Yugoslavia, especially for children. They are professional clowns or circus artists who volunteer their time and talent. From April 28 to May 6, three artists from the Spanish brand of CWB performed daily shows in the refugee camp and primary schools in various Chipinge District towns.
“The importance of bringing happiness amongst children and forgetting the tensions in their lives for even a short time is crucial for building their resilience. Bringing a smile to a kid is a wonderful gift,” says UNHCR Representative in Zimbabwe, Abdoulaye Barry.
The clowns offer an opportunity for parents and children to smile. Both laughed and applauded during the one-hour shows packed with music, magic tricks, acrobatics, dance, slapstick comedy and, of course, plenty of opportunities for the children to get involved in the fun.
For a few hours, everybody forgets their problems.
Donald B. Lehn, one of the three clowns that came to Zimbabwe, was “surprised by the sociability skills of the children in Tongogara Refugee Camp and their capacity to learn the keys of how to enjoy the show. There are places you go where children don’t know how to react. They get so excited that it’s challenging to do the show. But these kids are very quick to pick up our games, laugh, understand the subtleties in our humour, and value the expressions of skills that we share.”
The aid organization has worked with UNHCR in many countries with refugees, including Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Colombia, Jordan, Syria, Ukraine, Lebanon and Greece. Over the years, CWB’s performances have brought healing, emotional support, laughter and community involvement.