2016 is drawing to a close, but our volunteers finish out the year on another Clowns Without Borders USA project. A team of amazing artists were in Dallas, Texas, from November 6 to November 18, in partnership with Refugee Services of Texas (RST). The three-person team taught physical theater and circus to three different groups within the refugee community in Dallas. A second focus was to help adolescents and adults work through language barriers and connect through physical movement and play. Dallas is one of the cities in the United States that receives a high number of refugees. The majority of those arriving are from Syria and Congo.
During the daytime, the team hosted adult workshops at the community center where newly arrived folks take language classes. Also incorporated into these daytime workshops were recently arrived refugee youth, who are not yet be enrolled in school. After school, the clowns worked with the refugee youth at the RST neighborhoods of Victory Meadows and South Dallas. At both sites, we spent time with youth participants between the ages of 12-17, fulfilling a five-day workshop series. We were privileged to work with the same children throughout the duration of the workshop!
During their stay, the artists also offered ‘one-off’ workshops for other groups of refugee youth residing in Dallas, at a local middle school. We have identified expanding our domestic programming as one of our 2016 priorities and are excited about this opportunity!
Refugee children seek and need outlets to express themselves in whichever way they feel most comfortable. Since most of them have fairly low levels of English, verbal communication can be extremely frustrating as they carry on their day to day lives. Considering that many of the RST kids are expressive young people in their own languages, and from highly expressive cultures, you can only imagine how stifling it must be to lack the ability to communicate in English. They are always looking for new outlets through which they can channel their passions, interests, and voice. Clowns Without Borders was eager to offer their assistance!
Interested in learning more about the children and adults we met in this project? A good start is the Refugee Backgrounders. They offer crash courses on virtually every refugee population that we resettle and can be found here: http://www.culturalorientation.net/learning/backgrounders
The team includes CWB veteran David Lichtenstein, who has performed his comedy and tricks in 31 countries; Becky Baumwolf, founder/director of the Broken Box Mime Theater in New York; and Bekah Hammond, a top comedy juggler out of Boulder, Colorado.