Clowns Without Borders Are Spreading Laughter By Entertaining Kids In War Zones

Comic relief is so underrated, and these clowns know it.

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

Maybe some people in the U.S. have forgotten recently, but the original purpose of the clown was to provide simple, easy-to-understand entertainment for people of all ages. As comedy started to change over the years, the clown was used to primarily amuse children.

Somewhere along the way, clowns regularly became creepy characters in media, and as of late, people have been dressing up as clowns in the United States to terrorize others on the street.

What’s worse is that while all of this is going on, millions of children around the world are in the process of fleeing the only home they’ve ever known while the world sits back and watches, mostly offering little to no aid.

That’s where Clowns Without Borders comes in. Though they don’t provide the typical relief to refugees, such as medical attention or clothes, they offer comic relief that is so rarely given but desperately needed in these challenging times.

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

The founder of the organization, Tortell Poltrona, first traveled to Croatia in 1993 to perform at a refugee camp and was skeptical about how he would be received. When 700 children showed up to the performance and he left them feeling jubilant, he started Clowns Without Borders so that this often-overlooked relief could continue for children.

There are now many chapters around the world that have joined forces to visit war-torn areas. Tim Cunningham, a professional actor and clown with the organization, told the University of Northern Colorado, 

“Part one of our mission is to share joy and laughter in zones of crisis around the world, wherever that crisis is. Part two of our mission is to advocate for the communities that we serve and work with.”

As advocates, they can better raise awareness of what each area’s situation is and how they are worthy of receiving help. When others around the world are not personally facing a crisis, it can be difficult to relate to the position they’re in and feel compelled to help. Studies have even indicated that people are less likely to feel empathetic for other people that don’t resemble themselves.

For CWB, prejudice nor language barriers get in the way of performing for people in need of a laugh. Laughter is universal, as is a form of entertainment that primarily uses bodily movement, such as clowning. Cunningham also explained that, 

“It’s not our place to define what a crisis is. It’s not our place to define what suffering is.”

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

Credit: Clowns Without Borders

They are also mindful of the cultural norms that are present in the areas they visit, considering they visit a variety of locales with very different requirements. They are even considerate of people’s fear of clowns, so they choose to not dress as conspicuously when they arrive so that no one is surprised and scared. Cunningham said,

“In remaining apolitical, we are welcomed in places that a lot of other groups aren’t able to go. If we hear [that any of our behaviors are] not appropriate, then we need to change.”

Just as it is not their place to define what a crisis is, it is not their place to define what is and is not appropriate to do in someone else’s country. This is why they are invited to so many places that most other organizations cannot enter. This may seem dangerous, but the performers do what they can to remain safe in hazardous areas.

“That really is the universal language, is laughter,” one student, Becky Rasch, said. “Instead of focusing on what’s going on around them, they get to laugh at this goofball over here.”

What are your thoughts on the benefits of comic relief? Please share, like, and comment on this article!

This article (Clowns Without Borders Are Spreading Laughter By Entertaining Kids In War Zones) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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