By Nadiya Atkinson
Approximately 51 percent of the world’s refugees are children, fleeing from war and poverty-stricken areas of the world. Often without a home or adult guidance, these displaced children are the most vulnerable group of people in the world lacking protection and a certainty in their future. Kolleen Kintz, one of our performers writes, “The children always seemed to be without shoes, whether by choice or lack of ownership, I was not always sure. They wore clothing that was clearly donated, with its American cartoon characters on the front. They had one outfit, a daily uniform. I’m sure their mothers washed the clothes often, but they always seemed dirty from the intense climate.”
“The children seem to be in a state of limbo, looking for something to do, something to play with. Mostly just waiting. I often wondered if it had to do with not being in their place of origin. If they had grown up with the water, did this arid, mountainous jungle see foreign to them? Perhaps their games had revolved around the water, and now they didn’t know how to play in the new environment.”
Facing the lack of monetary, nutritional, and emotional support, displaced children are at an inordinately high risk of trauma, physically and psychologically. Kolleen shares more insight by explaining what she witnessed within a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece: “Instead, the homes felt sterile in their plainness and uniform nature. These communities felt grey to me. They did not have the liveliness or color of a community. There was no gathering, no celebration, no sense of pride in one’s home. Instead, it seemed to be a place of waiting. Waiting for something to happen or something to change.”
Clowns Without Borders USA brings a bit of light and joy into the lives of displaced children and gives them hope and a brighter outlook on their lives and their future. Through clowning and circus, our performers create an atmosphere in which kids, regardless of language, ethnicity, or background, are able to feel supported, safe, and simply laugh. The old adage “Laughter is the best medicine” is certainly true, and CWB-USA has made it its mission to share the medicine with the parts of the world that need it the most.
As a kid, I had heard somewhere that every time you laugh, it adds an extra three years onto your life. My friends and I attempted to laugh as much as possible by telling each other horrendous jokes or tickling each other. There is more than a grain of truth in this laughing-to-be-healthier, as laughter has been proven to lower stress, reduce pain, and boost immunity to disease. There are even hospitals dedicated to treating life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, with simple laughter.
Although we may not offer the solution to conflicts or disasters, we are solution-focused in our approach and offer that which is a fundamental part of life – fun. Even after Clowns Without Borders leaves, the kids will still remember the clowns that came to play with them. However, one of the only ways that we can continue our work is with your help. Please take some time today to support CWB, be it by donating, volunteering, or simply spreading the news about us, because every child should have to chance to feel safe and laugh.