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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs About What We Do

Do people in refugee camps really need clowns? What about medicine and food?

Just as food, safety, and shelter are necessary rights, so too are hope, laughter, and freedom of expression. One of the reasons we work with community partners is to make sure our program is not coming before basic needs are being met.

What types of displacement are there?

UNHCR breaks displacement into the following categories : asylum-seekers, refugees, internally displaced people, and stateless people (which can include indigenous people). Another key category of displaced people are “people experiencing protracted displacement,” which is displacement that has lasted for more than 5 years.

What types of displacement does CWB respond to?

CWB responds to all types of displacement. We perform for refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people, migrants, and indigenous people. Additionally, we perform for communities who are not displaced, but who are in the process of surviving a crisis (such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or political instability).

What causes displacement?

Displacement is caused by human and environmental factors. A few examples of environmental factors are drought, hurricane, famine, or earthquake. Examples of human factors are war, political instability or persecution, economic instability, and gang violence. CWB does not discriminate based on the type of displacement. No matter what has led to displacement, children are never responsible for it.

How does CWB – USA define “crisis”?

Crisis can be an ambiguous term. For example, CWB – USA has worked in refugee camps, in shelters rapidly constructed after natural disasters, and in safe homes for women and children. We do not discriminate over which type of suffering deserves more attention. If a community says, “we are in crisis and we would like clowns,” we do everything we can to respond.

How does CWB decide where to go?

CWB goes where invited. We work with community partners to evaluate if we’ll truly meet the needs of our audiences. We’ve seen clowning have a positive impact in many situations, but respect that some communities might not want us to visit.

How can my organization collaborate with you?

We are always looking for new partnerships and collaborations. Each of our programs has at least one partner. Sometimes, these are large NGOs, such as Terre des Hommes, PLAN International, Save the Children, or UNICEF. We also partner with grassroots and community organizations such as Clown Me In, Diyar Theatre, and CaliClown. To learn more, go to our Partner Page.

Can CWB do a presentation, give a talk or put on a workshop at my organization?

YES! Please contact naomi@clownswithoutborders.org with inquiries about fees and availability for performances, presentations, and workshops. You can also view our Work With Us page!

Is CWB connected to Doctors Without Borders?

No. Clowns Without Borders is not in any way affiliated with Doctors Without Borders (but we have partnered with them on tours!). Doctors Without Borders is a registered trademark of Médecins Sans Frontières International.

Are donations tax-deductible?

Yes. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law, as Clowns Without Borders, Inc is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit. EIN Tax ID is 20-4102508.

Check donations may be mailed to PO Box 1353, Bozeman, MT 59771. Check out our Donate page for more.


FAQs About Our Clowns

Why don’t CWB clowns wear makeup or wigs?

CWB is part of a contemporary circus movement with minimal makeup. The goal is to emphasize the clown’s recognizable humanity. Often CWB performers will wear a red nose and use minimal make-up to highlight their eyes, lips and cheeks. Since we are often performing in close proximity to our audiences, more makeup could be overwhelming.

Are your audiences ever afraid of clowns?

Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is often connected to cultural references (like It!) and to excessive makeup hiding the performer’s face. One of the reasons we don’t wear full makeup is because we never want our audience to be afraid or to not be able to see the performer’s natural features. Throughout Latin America, where we have many programs, clowns and street performers are a beloved and common part of the culture.

Is there anywhere you won’t perform?

Due to the devastating history of Orphanage Trafficking (children being trafficked and sold to orphanages to support voluntourism programs), we rarely work in orphanages.


FAQs for Folks Who Want to Perform

I’m a clown. Can I perform with you?

That depends. What type of clown are you? Clowns Without Borders (CWB) artists are contemporary circus performers who work in ensemble. The clown qualities we treasure are vulnerability, authenticity, and presence. We work with artist who use non-verbal storytelling, physical comedy, and circus skills. Face-painting, rainbow wigs and balloon-twisting are lots of fun, but not what we do. See our featured artist page to learn more.

Who pays an artist’s travel expenses?

CWB covers 100% of artists’ travel expenses, and pays a modest per diem. This is one of the reasons why casting is so selective. Casting is based on skill, not an artist’s ability to fundraise. There is no option to pay to participate.

How much does it cost to go on a CWB tour?

Artists do not pay to participate. There is no pay-to-play option. The only way to go on a CWB tour is to go through the casting process, beginning with the application. This is how we maintain the highest performance standards.

To learn more about the types of artists we hire, look here at our featured artists. To apply to join us, check out our application page.

Can I pay to participate?

No. CWB is not a voluntourism program. We exist thanks to generous donors who love what we do. However, only professional artists are hired to work with us.

Where do your artists come from?

Our artists come from all over the world. We believe audiences benefit from seeing performers who share their national identity, language, and cultural history. To this end, we strive to create teams that reflect the diversity of our audiences and our world. Whenever possible, we cast artists from the country or region where we are performing.