Are We Allowed to Laugh?

Are We Allowed to Laugh?

By Tim Cunningham, CWB-USA Volunteer   I was invited to participate in a very last minute and end-of-year capacity building project with our friends in Turkey who are on their way to forming a new chapter of Clowns Without Borders in Turkey– Sınır Tanımayan Palyaçolar. I arrived the night of December 30th to Güray’s neighborhood, which had not had electricity for two days because of heavy winds. He walked me through the quiet streets of Kadıköy, the ancient neighborhood just on the Asian side of Istanbul. The streets were not quiet only because there was no power—this was a Friday night, the night before New Year’s Eve and we were in the bar district—people had just not been going out. Güray’s friend’s met us at a candlelit bar, one of the few that were open and immediately began cracking jokes about bombings, terror attacks and how no one came to Turkey anymore to visit. “So what’s wrong with you?” One asked me. At some point during our second beer the power came back on, the bar came to life with light and sound, but still, not many other people came in that night. The next day, Güray, Ecenur, Melike, and I met at his apartment to plan an afternoon show for a nearby hospital. Though strong performers, none of them had extensive experience working in hospitals. We planned and rehearsed for three hours and then, in costume, took a cab to the Siyami Ersek Hastanesi, a cardiac hospital. There we were first greeted by a cat that walked from the hospital lobby to rub up against my leg—for those...
18th Annual Portland Benefit for Clowns Without Borders

18th Annual Portland Benefit for Clowns Without Borders

18th Annual Portland Clowns Without Borders Benefit Show   The area’s top variety and circus performers put on an amazing, hilarious, family-friendly show to support a great cause. Friday, January 27th, 8:00 PM, doors at 7:00 pm. Family friendly! Beer, wine, pop, and snacks available. Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St. Tickets https://www.albertarosetheatre.com/ $25 Advance, $35 At the door, $15 Kids (12 & under) $50 Premium Seats (support CWB and sit in the front center section – advance only)   The Scoop: Clowns have a bad rep these days, but it doesn’t get us down because we know some of the best clowns around! They are performers who can make can make children and adults alike, laugh out loud with few words and a handful props. Good clowns create beauty in a difficult world. For more than 20 years, Clowns Without Borders USA has sent circus and theater professionals to war zones, refugee camps and crisis areas all over the world. And for 18 years the Northwest’s best circus artists, physical comedians, and variety acts have been coming together annually to create a thrilling evening of comedy and circus to support Clowns Without Borders USA. This year’s CWB-USA Benefit Show is no exception, featuring the area’s top acts, with live music by the Shoehorn Hat Band. Last year’s show sold out in advance, so get your tickets now. Featuring: Paulina Muñoz and Omri Geva come from separate backgrounds working with a variety of circuses and dance companies and have come together in the last year to create an aerial dance duo that displays extraordinary creativity and athleticism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qegqkSW8AGY...
Coming Full Circle: Our 100th Project

Coming Full Circle: Our 100th Project

  It’s a watershed moment for Clowns Without Borders USA. Our first undertaking of 2017 is also our 100th project since our organizations’s founding in 1995! Therefore it is fitting that we are returning to Chiapas, Mexico, where it all began for CWB-USA. Founder Moshe Cohen began making trips to this magical part of the world to serve the people of Chiapas in CWB-USA’s nascent days.   The indigenous community residing in Chiapas were oppressed in poverty and brutalized by the government of the time because of the land on which they live. The region where they reside and have for hundreds of years, is rich in minerals, water, and crops such coffee and cacao, but the indigenous people are among poorest and most marginalized in Mexico. Chiapas is a jewel, but the people and region have been taken advantage of by power, politics, and trade agreements. The Zapatista Revolution began in 1994 and was the locals way of saying, ‘we want autonomy.’ They succeeded in becoming autonomous, but at significant cost.   Rudi Galindo, a long-time volunteer, professional clown, and colleague of founder Moshe Cohen, is leading the team returning Chiapas this January for CWB-USA’s 100th project. Rudi has been traveling to share levity and moments joyful play, every year for nearly two decades. He is compelled to return and give the gift of laughter and to keep a promise.   Many years ago, on a trip to Chiapas, Rudi and another volunteer, David Lichtenstein, went to a displacement camp for the indigenous people seeking escape from recent massacres at the hands of the military. It was a wet...
How Clowns, Police, and Abraham Lincoln Intersect Social Reform

How Clowns, Police, and Abraham Lincoln Intersect Social Reform

By Guest Blogger Nadiya Atkinson   The conventional image of clowns is in the Big Top circus, wearing bright clothing and entertaining the crowd. Across the history of circus, clowns have had the central role in bringing fun and humor into the dangerous stunt shows. However, clowns have not only impacted the evolution of circus into the beloved art that it is today. Some have influenced society as well, from politics to social reform. Antanas Mockus was the mayor of the Bogotá, Colombia, for two terms. He is highly educated with a focus in mathematics and philosophy. During his two, two-year terms, he introduced innovative policy measures in Bogota, from voluntary taxes to cutting water usage by 40 percent solely through public education. However, he is most known for his popular initiative of replacing part of the police force with 420 mimes. Patrolling intersections, the mimes would embarrass pedestrians and drivers who broke the law, imitating their movements or loudly denouncing them with flamboyant hand gestures. Within the first month, drivers began to respect crosswalks, with pedestrians adhering to laws as well. Clowning does not only inspire laughter–it can inspire social change as well. Abraham Lincoln is well known across the world, inspiring books and movies, and is considered one of the greatest U.S Presidents in history. However, not many (except for circus nerds) know of Dan Rice, one of the household names during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Rice combined circus and humor with political commentary, and was incredibly popular, coining the sayings, “one horse show” and “greatest show,” and inspired the phrase “to jump on the bandwagon,” after asking...
Clowns, Standing Rock, and Tribal Connections

Clowns, Standing Rock, and Tribal Connections

Demonstrators at Standing Rock have been protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota since early April of this year. The numbers of protesters and police at Standing Rock have grown substantially, as have tensions and arrests. Frigid temperatures and snow have also arrived in full, adding a new level of complexity to the intense situation. In September, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe held a rally of 500+ people to get the attention of the White House, which, combined with the well-organized protest and media coverage, may have helped. On Sunday, Federal officials announced they would not approve permits for construction of the pipeline in an area near scared burial rights and which would go underneath a dammed portion of the Missouri River. Furthermore, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would explore alternative routes for the pipeline by use of an Environmental Impact Statement. The following day, they denied a permit for construction of a critical section of the pipeline. Protesters, or “protectors” as some call themselves, had been ordered to leave their camp as of December 5. With the Army Corps of Engineer’s decision to deny the final easement to drill under the river, and DAPLs statement of intent to continue forward undeterred, and it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Several professional performers who also volunteer with Clowns Without Borders trekked out to Standing Rock and joined other demonstrators in solidarity. All went for various personal reasons, but their reports back to us indicate that the atmosphere of the protesters is one of fellowship and unity. One clown has this to say about...
Make Laughter Abundant for All on Giving Tuesday

Make Laughter Abundant for All on Giving Tuesday

The burdens of dealing with tragedy don’t always leave room for humor. When hardship is prolonged, we may not even realize that we lost the sense of joy, the desire for wonder, or the freedom to play. In places where many resources are scarce, Clowns Without Borders works to make laughter abundant. We hope you will take action and support this work. Gabi Winters recently volunteered for Project Kenya 2016, where she worked in the extreme environment of the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Camp population is closing in on 200,000 people, and more than half are minors. The camp residents are in a constant state of survival and uncertainty about their futures. Moments of laughter are scarce. Gabi learned very quickly that her interactions needed to make the audience feel safe. She built trust through affection and attentiveness, using every opportunity to connect with those around her. Through small moments of connections, and by keeping an open mind and an open heart, we see a great transformation. Clowns Without Borders frequently travels great distances to reach those in crisis. At its core, our work is to create small moments of laughter. I invite you to do the same. Take laughter with you. The world is changing. We can shape how it evolves. We can encourage curiosity, compassion, and courage. We can amplify kindness so that the disenfranchised are given a voice. Take laughter with you, and take a moment to share laughter with others. Join us now and support our mission. A small gift helps us share laughter with those in crisis; who are displaced and without a home. Laughter takes...

Fan Appreciation Giveaway!

Win a hoodie! Rules and Terms: One random winner will be selected from the entries on Instagram. Participation limited to the U.S. only. Winners are announced on the Flash Giveaway post. Winners will be notified within 24 hours of the end of the Flash Giveaway. Winners will be asked for a shipping address and requested shirt size via private e-mail message. Winners: please send your information to tamara@clownswithoutborders.org; do not make your shipping information public on the post. Clowns Without Borders will ship the prize to the shipping address, but ships only to addresses in the United States. Prizes will be shipped 14 to 21 days after the end of the Flash Giveaway. The Flash Giveaway duration is 24 hours. It begins Wednesday, November 2, 2016, at 12:00 pm EST and ends Thursday, November 3, 2016, at 12:00 pm EST. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook or Instagram. You understand that you are providing your information to the Clowns Without Borders Instagram profile and not to Instagram or Facebook. Thanks for following Clowns Without...
Clown Spotting

Clown Spotting

By Tamara Palmer & Selena McMahon   It’s difficult to compete against headlines such as, “Creepy Clown Sightings Cause a Frenzy.” When it comes to clowns, the recent disturbing events in the United States and elsewhere in the world, are what catches America’s clown spotting attention, and not the work of Clowns Without Borders USA (CWB USA). CWB USA offers performances and workshops to alleviate the suffering of all people in crisis, especially children, through laughter. Unfortunately, at CWB USA we frequently have to divert many of our conversations away from our mission and towards a discussion of coulrophobia. For as long as we can remember, our performing artists, staff, and board members have analyzed the fear of clowns that exists in contemporary American culture. We know it exists, but our experience and understanding of clowns are that they are authentic and intelligent artists who have a gift to connect with the raw emotions of the audience. Clowns undertake years of training including, physical theater, circus arts, creative performance, studies abroad, and the examination of philosophical and humanities texts. The red nose is an opportunity to conjoin with people. It helps establish a safe space where laughing at our human frailties and life’s ironies is encouraged and accepted. So what are the origins of the fear? Katie Rogers looked to Dr. Schlozman, a child psychiatrist, for a possible answer in her New York Times article. Dr. Schlozman says it’s the exaggerated features of the clown that sets off warning flags. Perhaps there is truth in this reasoning, but the article falls short of doing any justice to the possible...
A Poem for Clowns Without Borders

A Poem for Clowns Without Borders

Self acclaimed, “poet, performer, and sometimes clown,” Sophie Fenella writes eloquently about the endeavors of the Clowns Without Border volunteer clown and captures the essence of life in crisis. “We have to laugh,” because there is resilience in laughter. Like this poem? Leave a...
Where We Belong

Where We Belong

By Jemima Evans CWB USA Guest Blogger   My name is Jemima Evans, and I am a British citizen. Just a few months back, family, friends and myself were told to make a decision about belonging. In short, where did we belong, inside or outside the European border? We were to decide on Thursday 23rd June 2016. Brexit, as it is commonly known, is the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw and end its membership in the European Union. The U.K. held a referendum, and by a narrow decision, the nation decided to leave. What happened in Britain is common knowledge, but the short and long-term impacts are just beginning to unfold. Just a few weeks before the referendum, I made my way to a special exhibit. Call me by my name: Stories from Calais and beyond, features interactive art that tells the stories of those who have fled and arrived in Calais, France. It encourages viewers to imagine the terrifying and sometimes deadly experiences of those who have been forced into migration. As you walk, you will find yourself in a room filled with life jackets; life jackets that used to belong to people. People who didn’t make it across the border to safety. As well as individuals that may not have lost their life, but perhaps their sense of belonging, and because of horrible conflict, are now labeled, “refugees.” The exhibition also featured the Good Chance Calais theatre dome, which was built by Good Chance Theatre charity, on the south bank of the Calais Encampment. The dome offered created a space for refugees to sing, dance, play music,...

Clowns Without Borders USA Condemns Creepy Clown Pranks

Dear Reader, On October 14, 2016, Clowns Without Borders USA issued a press release condemning the actions of the “creepy clowns.” What follows is the exact language of our press release. We are including the release as a blog post for the benefit of our community; for you to know our position on the issue and our appreciation for the clown community. You can view the original press release here or at any of the several hundred outlets who picked up our release. Thank you.   Clowns Without Borders USA Condemns Creepy Clown Pranks Clowns Without Borders USA (CWB-USA) condemns the actions of agents who are impersonating clowns to frighten others and the actions of those who are using distorted clown images to make fictitious threats and incite anxiety. The wave of negative and hurtful sentiments expressed against professional clowns pains our community. “While this phenomenon in the U.S. hasn’t affected our international programming, it certainly has affected the climate here at home. We honor and support our community of professional performing artists, who are experiencing prejudice because of this,” says Molly Rose Levine, Executive Director for CWB-USA. Furthermore, we are distraught by the reports of school closures, verbal harassments and physical altercations linked to creepy clowns in numerous states. The agitation these threats may have caused people saddens us and is in no way a reflection of the mission and work of our organization. The “Creepy Clowns” as they are now commonly referred to, are, in fact, not clowns. The term is a misnomer. The pretenders are disturbing figures who are pretending to be clowns and hiding their...
Top Clown Schools in the U.S.

Top Clown Schools in the U.S.

This blog is a resource for those who dream about clowning. We’ve listed some of the top clown schools in the U.S. If you’ve been considering seeking formal training we hope that these schools might inspire you. We receive many inquiries from talented, aspiring volunteers who don’t have a background in circus or clown, but are eager to get involved. It’s wonderful to hear from so many passionate people interested in learning more about the art of clown. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and we’re not experts about all of the wonderful physical theatre schools in the U.S. If you attended or know of a first-class program that you’d like us to share, leave us a comment on this blog.   Dell’Arte International Located in rural Blue Lake, California is Dell’Arte International, a school for theatre training, research, and performance of the actor-creator. Its School of Physical Theater teaches actors to develop their use of physical spaces, gestures, and movements and approach stage performance as poetic expression. Students are guided by instruction while continuously exploring and producing creative works. Physical theatre education is the core of Dell’Arte academic programming. It offers a professional training program, Master of Fine Arts advanced ensemble program, a summer intensive, and a study abroad to Bali. Dell’Arte was founded in 1971 by Carlo Mazzone-Clementi and Jane Hill who wanted to share the European traditions of physical theater training with North American artists and performers. The school is an internationally recognized institution. It is replete with studios, gymnastics/acro classrooms, mask construction area, costume shop, theatre, amphitheater, sound and video systems, as well...
What We Don’t Take Pictures Of

What We Don’t Take Pictures Of

By Naomi Shafer Clowns Without Borders Funds Development Officer   On August 28th, 2011, Hurricane Irene hit my hometown. The photographers arrived before the National Guard. As we walked with our neighbors to explore the damage – houses, roads, orchards disappeared by the river – strangers made the town a tourist destination. As we collected scattered belongings and organized shelter, social media gaped at the unlikeliness of a Hurricane in Vermont.   Vermont’s improbable circumstances made us a news coverage novelty. A terrible situation was made worse by the media’s snide comments and insensitivities. People in cities that were spared by Hurricane Irene joked, “what hurricane?” while we waited for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At best, we received pity. Five years later, the confusion of being portrayed as a joke and a victim still stings. Why am I telling you about this experience? Because now, more than ever, it’s important to take stock of how to talk about and show people in crisis. During every project, Clowns Without Borders could take pictures of tragedy. We could show you hunger, poverty, violence, or sickness. But instead, we show you laughter, community, and resilience. We want our pictures to demonstrate the connection between people, not the difference in our circumstances. In October of 2015, we had a team on the Greek island of Lesvos when four boats capsized in one night. That evening, the clowns — in their plain clothes — went to the northern harbor of Molyvos to help. Every survivor had lost someone that night. Sabine spent her night in the church-turned-emergency room, translating for the patients and...
Theatre of the Heart

Theatre of the Heart

When you love something, anything; people sense it. Love takes many forms. Rudi Galindo, clown, professional performer, and a Clowns Without Borders (CWB) volunteer since day one, is so full of love that it exudes from his wide, bright smile and fills the room. He found his passion long ago and it’s been filling him with love ever since. It is his devotion to theatre and the enduring connections he creates with audiences. Rudi has always had an ability to impact the audience. During performances, he aims for the audience’s hearts, then their ‘funny bones,’ and then their intellects. He is interested in exciting people by evoking emotions that sometimes lay latent. He calls it, “Theatre of the Heart.” Theatre of the Heart turns the traditional concept of performance on its head. To be theatrical is to put on a show, sometimes a fiction. But Rudi’s style of creativity invites the audience to be anything but fake. Whether the show makes you laugh, cry, or feel tenderness, the idea is to draw out the true senses of the heart and allow for a protective space to let those emotions be expressed without repercussion. When the community around you is experiencing and expressing at the same time, well, these moments become meaningful and striking. Rudi’s style of creative theatre has traveled with him as he has performed all over the United States, Europe, and Central America. His love for theatre and honest kinship with viewers endears him to the audiences of Clowns Without Borders projects. Rudi has communed in laughter with many, many people served by Clowns Without Borders. He...
Laughter Transforms Discrimination

Laughter Transforms Discrimination

By Nadiya Atkinson Clowns Without Borders USA Guest Blogger   Language surrounds us. Contemporary rhetoric is constantly utilized, from conversations to the media, to debates, to institutions, to water-cooler chats, to political discourse, and to novels. It is a necessary part of our society, as society progresses through the diversity of opinions on topics. It allows individuals to hear multiple sides to one issue and change public opinion on others. However, recent studies, (http://nber.org/papers/w22423), have portrayed rising polarization in political rhetoric in the past few decades. Some persuasive rhetoric often champions social divisions or violence against certain minorities and populations. Such language affects not only adults, but children as well, who hear the opinions of their parents, teachers, classmates, media, etc., and base their actions off of what they hear. An infamous experiment was made in 1968 by Jane Elliot, a third-grade school teacher in Riceville, Iowa, in which she separated the class based on eye color – blue or brown – and proceeded to tell the students that one eye color was better, and demeaned those who had the alternate eye color. The students quickly caught on and began to discriminate against the students who didn’t have their eye color, regardless if they had previously been friends. Learning materials and more about the experiments are located at http://janeelliott.com. Children are extremely sensitive and open, as they learn by examples given to them by adults. If social behavior promotes the inferiority of some individuals, kids will learn that those people are inferior, regardless of whether it is true or not. If society portrays minority groups as inhuman and violent,...
Look Away From Fear and Towards Education

Look Away From Fear and Towards Education

By Molly Rose Levine   As someone with friends and colleagues scattered around the world, the fallout of violence and disruption hits close to home, no matter where that happens to be: Juba; Beirut; Nice; Baghdad; Athens; Aleppo; Paris. After the attack on the Istanbul airport last month, my heart clenched in my throat as I waited to hear if any community member had been traveling through the airport. I breathed a sigh of relief: another tragedy dodged. Little did I know that a few weeks later we would still be changing plans to accommodate violence in the region. South Sudan had been experiencing a period of peace since a treaty signed in August 2015, but unfortunately experienced violent clashes at the beginning of July. Together with our partners at INTERSOS and Save the Children Juba, we made the call to postpone our project. Without a safety/evacuation plan from our partners and support from the Consulate, we will not send our artists into active conflict areas. In the end, we could not assure the safety of our team in the event of increasing clashes. This decision was difficult after so much time and energy was put into the project. I wrote a blog which explains more about the situation in South Sudan. Read it here. Three days before our artistic team planned to travel to Turkey; the failed military coup happened. We waited for the aftermath, hoping against hope that in three days the situation would be stable. By the time we needed to make the call, we did not have enough information to move forward, and so we...
New Education Program: Take Laughter With You

New Education Program: Take Laughter With You

By Naomi Shafer   What do Albany, NY, Dallas, TX, Burlington, VT, and Boise, ID all have in common? Craft Beer? Bears? Nope (well, maybe): Each is a designated Refugee Resettlement City. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is a result of The Refugee Act of 1980, a piece of legislation that sought to standardize resettlement programs for all refugees admitted to the United States. Though certain states have specialized services for refugees, in each county, and possibly each classroom in the United States, there are refugees, children of refugees, grandchildren of refugees, and great-grandchildren of refugees. This past year, “refugee resettlement” has become an explosive topic, too often one colored by xenophobia and fear. While many Americans trace their lineage back to their ancestors’ home countries – countries frequently fled due to famine and violence – Nationalism seems to trump empathy in the current discussion of refugees. The United States is traditionally thought of as a melting pot, a country for the homeless, but our borders are tightening. Those borders are not only at Customs control but also in our minds. Clowns Without Borders is launching a domestic education program, called “Take Laughter With You.” The message is simple: Wherever you go, Take Laughter With You. We cannot fly to Turkey or South Sudan. We lack the security clearance to return to the Moria camp in Lesvos. We can make a change at home. We can work with children in the United States, just like we work with children in refugee camps, to build community and start cross-cultural conversations. We see young people as powerful change agents. On our...
A Case for Clowns: Ebola

A Case for Clowns: Ebola

A Case for the Clowns: Ebola Why Clowns Without Borders Works   By Tim Cunningham   Tortell pirouettes quickly and the microphone swings around behind him; it has a life of its own. The centrifugal force of the windscreen pulls the instrument around his arms and legs, making his clown blazer flop poetic in the wind. The crowd’s eyes are wide with surprise when he catches the mic just before it hits him in the face—Tortell’s eyes matching the eyes of the 100 children and families in the audience. His relief, their laughter. He has just spent the first 10 minutes of the show warming up the audience, a master street artist who draws the crowd in as he sets the stage. It is more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, pushing 105 even. The audience and clowns from Spain stand in the shadow of a two-story colonial building with stone archways and wooden doors. Its tile portico is cool to the bare feet of some of the audience, the West African designs deflect the heat of the pounding sun. It is about three in the afternoon, Tortell and his clowns have already performed two shows in Freetown and now they are presenting their final show of the day before heading further east. This is the first day of Clowns Without Borders shows in Sierra Leone since the Ebola epidemic began in late 2013. It is now early 2015, February. This is also the first Clowns Without Borders show that I have ever seen as an audience member. This is the first time I’ve seen healthy children and families play, dance...
South Sudan Dares To Live

South Sudan Dares To Live

By Molly Rose Levine   Yesterday was a sad day. I woke up to an email that I never want to get. Our partners in South Sudan letting us know that the situation in Juba has devolved violently. Our partners are on lockdown, travel blocks are in place for most travel to South Sudan, and some aid organizations are evacuating their staff. INTERSOS and Save the Children Juba can no longer guarantee a safety and evacuation plan for our artists, and it is not advisable that we plan on sharing programming in the next few weeks. Even if the situation calms down, it can change again in an instant. It’s a risk that we take when working in active conflict zones. When we confirm a project, we work under the assumption that that’s not going to happen- but this time, the assumption became reality. South Sudan is only five years old. South Sudan officially voted to leave Sudan in 2011, and the current conflicts are a piece of a civil war that has been a conflict on some level since 2013. It is between the Government of South Sudan, led by President Salva Kiir, and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, led by former Vice President Riek Machar. It is also an ethnic war, between the Dinka people and the Nuer people. This racial tension spills over into civilian casualties as well and is a significant driving factor of internal displacement. There was a peace agreement in August of 2015 that brought high hopes for many, and the clashes this month are something that many hoped would not...
Social Circus

Social Circus

By Nadiya Atkinson Clowns Without Borders USA Guest Blogger   Grinning from ear to ear, the two children attempt to balance one plate on their individual sticks. Not an easy feat for anyone, let alone two kids from an impoverished area in Nicaragua. The pair works together and manages to stabilize the plate, smiles lighting up their dirty, excited faces. The joy is palpable, and not uncommon in CWB’s travels across the world. Social circus, a movement that Clowns Without Borders, Cirque du Soleil, and other organizations have been embracing for some years, is the utilization of circus to teach kids in at-risk areas new skills and to improve their confidence and emotional health. Social circus is commonly used to foster change intervention, specifically in the personal and social development of those involved in the program. In Lebanon, CWB used social circus principles and play to teach school kids to avoid explosive materials. Bombs and mines line the Syrian-Lebanon border. These “explosive remnants of war” have caused the death of many children. In Haiti, CWB shared songs and smiles with youth living in refugee camps still in place after the Haiti earthquake of 2010. In Kenya, CWB partnered with UNHCR to teach workshops, offering new variety and access to different skills for the refugees in residence. In South Sudan, CWB led the kids in Juba in classes, encouraging the various tribes to communicate together and have the children learn new skills that they then showed their community. In the Philippines, CWB taught instructors aspects of performance and circus. The instructors utilized their new abilities to support the mental health...
Serious Comic Business

Serious Comic Business

Serious Comic Business   We came, we played, we shared work and built community. The Clowns Without Borders International General Assembly for 2016 has come to a close, but not before accomplishing some serious comic business. Clowns, board members, and leadership from across the planet joined for three days of meetings and workshops to take care of several important goals for the year. CWB-USA representatives Sarah Liane Foster and Molly Rose Levine attended the gathering held near Dublin, Ireland.   The General Assembly (GA) fills a room with comedians and artists who support a serious mission: Bring laughter where it’s needed most for healing and psychosocial relief. Discussions and debates, sometimes intense, all lead to critical operational decisions for the chapters that make up the federation of Clowns Without Borders International (CWBI).   The essential agreements are substantially enhanced by the value of working with multiple cultures, in one location, for one purpose. Sharing decisions with other cultures is the ultimate collaboration exercise. Each member needs to activate their cultural intelligence to build and sustain relationships, fostering trust that creates confidence in decision-making.     The collaborative essence championed at the GA extends during CWB projects. Artist volunteers embody it.   This year the GA approved the Emergency Response Protocol. Now, in an emerging disaster, CWBI has a method for how we can work together to react swiftly and efficiently. We will share logistical resources between all of the chapters. A working group is charged to oversee this protocol when the next disaster strikes. We have never tried to work this closely as an international federation, and it’s exciting...
Never Lose Your Clown

Never Lose Your Clown

Never Lose Your Clown: Reflections by Circus Performer and Clowns Without Borders Volunteer, A. Giovanni Zoppe Circumstance can profoundly propel the paths we walk. Circus defined the path of Clowns Without Borders volunteer, Giovanni Zoppe, of Zoppe, an Italian family circus since 1842. Giovanni was born into a circus family. His entrance into the world was in the parking lot outside the studio of WGW, where his father, Alberto, was performing his animal fantasy act for Bozo The Clown. Ever since Giovanni has been learning and perfecting his circus skills and performing across four continents. From Giovanni’s perspective, the difference between circus performer and the clown is that there is no difference. You learn all the skills of the trade when you grow up within the circus, and as you get older, you focus on your unique talent. Giovanni’s is bareback riding on horses, where he engages in spectacular and sometimes dangerous stunts. Whatever is happening in the show, Giovanni never loses his clown. The clown character does everything in the circus, and all skills channel through the clown for the performance. In February of 2016, Giovanni joined his first Clowns Without Borders project to El Salvador. Five artists and one logistician spent two weeks in the country. El Salvador suffers extreme violence. As violence increases, children’s access to basic human needs such as access to schools, essential health benefits, and safety has been significantly challenged. The team spent two days building the show they would share with people in various parts of the nation. After all, they had just met. The beauty of the show is that words...
CWBI

CWBI

Clowns Without Borders International (CWBI) Convenes! On May 23 to 26, 2016 the annual General Assembly for Clowns Without Borders International (CWBI) convenes in Ireland, outside Dublin at the Peace and Reconciliation Center. Representatives from each of the twelve chapters will come together during this exciting time. CWB-USA representatives are Sarah Liane Foster, International Representative, and Molly Rose Levine, Executive Director. While the annual meeting is an opportunity to connect professionally and make important plans for our future collaboration, it is also a family reunion of sorts. Artists and long standing members of Clowns Without Borders from across Europe and beyond pour in, and it’s a joyful event where the diverse, eccentric, charismatic group spill out of kitchens and gathers in giant round table discussions.   The fact that we’re all a bunch of clowns infuses our formal gathering with endless joy, and it is in this meeting that we see how much the value of laughter and positivity enhances any circumstance. Relationships are formed and ideas are given room to flourish. Past failures are celebrated and learned from for future success. Creativity and the shared values of love, laughter and service, adds a level of bonding and closeness that is rarely seen at professional events. A magic trick here, a cookie offered there, a song of peace shared over dinner. The clown world is inherently one of magic and joy. Forging New Partnerships CWBI was formed 5 years ago to help coordinate efforts among the chapters. CWBI establishes partnerships and support systems that will get more artists where they need to be – bringing laughter and joy to...
FUN-Raising

FUN-Raising

By Kolleen Kintz On Saturday, April 30th, from 1-5pm in the afternoon, about 25 friends, new and old, gathered in Baltimore, MD, for an afternoon to remember. The event was called Spring Fling with the Clowns! The mission was simple: have FUN! Baltimore resident, Alessandra Torres, graciously opened her beautiful home, providing a perfect atmosphere for community members to come together and celebrate Clowns Without Borders.   I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alessandra, who like Lucy Shelby (a Brooklyn resident who recently hosted a similar event in NY), is one of the incredible people opening their home and their heart to the clowns. These events, which are much more FUN-raisers, than FUND-raisers, provide an opportunity for CWB volunteers to foster meaningful and long-lasting relationships with new faces in the community. Not to mention, a chance for residents to show off their gorgeous homes.   My name is Kolleen Kintz, I have been a volunteer with CWB since 2011. There is nothing I love more than bringing together people I love for some GOOD TIMES. Unfortunately, my narrow Baltimore townhouse doesn’t fit more than a handful of those people at a time. I have an abundance of energy and ideas, but limited space to host. I needed a space where people could bask in the sunshine and enjoy having fun in the casual comfort of a home. Alessandra’s space did just that, setting the stage for a very successful Spring Fling! The spacious backyard allowed room for parachute games, hula hoop competitions, bubble parades, dance parties, and even a BOUNCY HOUSE! Guests made their own party...
To Clown, or Not to Clown

To Clown, or Not to Clown

By Jemima Evans Clowns Without Borders USA Guest Blogger   Why clowning? Imagine: A dusty refugee camp, people everywhere. People are crying, sleeping, and trying to get on with daily life. As if that is even possible. You are tired. You are not sure what is normal anymore. Life has been unkind and now you are waiting. You sit outside a dusty tent, surrounded yet alone. All the time you are waiting. Waiting intently for the unknown. Now envisage a soft red nose, a beaming smile, a man in a bright red striped shirt. You watch as he moves his body into peculiar and distorted forms. He laughs and you laugh with him. You feel a sense of warmth; hope even. Now put the two together. Seems bizarre, ridiculous even. But perhaps this juxtaposition is just what those people need. Why Clowning? Why not a version of Hamlet? As a performer, our priority is our audience, therefore first we must immerse ourselves into their world. How else can we expect them to join ours? We need to paint a picture that is relatable and takes on a universal language. For this, mime and physical theatre can be perfect. Our bodies are our tools. The children mirror our movements. Do we let them mirror our battle wounds too? I can only hope not. Clowns Without Borders focuses on ‘laughter, play and community cohesion’. It spotlights the young and creates a nurturing environment for adolescence. Of course, live performance can take many forms, including clowning: what is important is to take those civilians, soldiers, survivors into a new world, even if, for just a...
Finding a Place for Displaced Children

Finding a Place for Displaced Children

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,...
Restorative Narrative-Clown Style

Restorative Narrative-Clown Style

I don’t know if if surviving in today’s world is more difficult than in decades and centuries past. The determination is dependent on how you define ‘survival.’ One thing is certain: Globalization has impacted the world at every level and has changed how we survive, how we interact, and how we respond. We can choose to respond with positivity and restorative narrative.   There is no shortage of dire disasters and impending gloom in the news. The news articulates important stories and crises that our global society needs to know. We need to maintain awareness of how actions cause reactions, who needs help, and who is helping.   The World may be suffering but there are enough artists in the world to help alleviate the suffering.   Clowns Without Borders chooses hope, objective reality, and shared community building. We choose Restorative Narratives. We didn’t coin the term – ivoh did, but we really like what it stands for and what it means in the global context.   Clowns Without Borders seeks restorative narrative of the world by offering Resilience Through Laughter and to advocate for those in crisis and conflict by sharing Education Through Awareness. Founder of Clowns Without Borders, Tortell Poltrona, says that we need to be doing this work until CWB no longer needs to exist. Agreed. It starts with the invitation for us to come somewhere. We research to understand the needs of the NGO’s and populations being served. We find and bring in the local artists, or theater companies, or schools, or local grassroots groups and help everyone work together, with mentorship, compassion, caring, and...
Resilience through Laughter with Refugees

Resilience through Laughter with Refugees

The global refugee crisis continues in 2016 and so does the response from Clowns Without Borders. We closely monitor the situation and hope for a peaceful resolution that addresses the problem at its core while compassionately respecting the lives of those directly involved. In February of this year, with the sponsorship of Clowns Without Borders Sweden, we sent a troupe of clown performers to the Greek island of Lesvos. Those involved witnessed daily, the heroism of refugees and asylum seekers. We also saw the profound dedication of scores of volunteer aid workers and Greek citizens.   During the second half of 2016 Clowns Without Borders troupes will return to several countries that have hosted refugee populations for a long time: Turkey, Kenya, Greece, and Lebanon. We go to share Resilience Through Laughter and offer moments of levity to children and families in crisis. Humor is medicine and psycho-social relief benefits refugees and the aid workers charged to help them.   More details will emerge in the coming months. We’ll announce the projects as soon as the dates are set. In the meantime, keep the humanity in your hearts and smiles on your faces! Your smile may change somebody’s day – maybe even yours!  To learn about Clowns Without Borders previous projects, click the link to visit the project pages for Turkey, Greece, Kenya, and Lebanon....
A Clown’s Perspective on Volunteering

A Clown’s Perspective on Volunteering

Written by Kolleen Kintz In 2012, after 8 months volunteering my time for Clowns Without Border’s social media and fundraising, I got the call I’d been hoping for and would be going into the field on my first project. I would be leaving for Indonesia in just a few short weeks. Holy cow! After I got off the phone with Tim Cunningham, executive director at this time, my excitement was skyrocketing! This was my chance: to make a difference, to be a strong contributor to my team, to be a representative of Clowns Without Borders. It was all happening!!! Shortly thereafter, the high wore off, worry set in, and my confidence began to plummet. Was I experienced enough? Would I be able to pull my weight? Would my team like me? Would my audiences like me? And, the question of all questions, would I be funny? My eyes started scanning the room, my juggling balls gathering dust in the corner, my costume pieces seeming incomplete, my 30-day handstand challenge severely lacking validation stickers. Oh no! Maybe I was going to let everyone down? My momentum came to a screeching halt and I began to panic.   I remember talking with Tim later the next week, assuring him (but more myself) that I had a comprehensive plan in action. My juggling was really coming along. I had been learning new songs on my guitar. I had been drilling acrobatics until my muscles ached. I was going to be ready for this! Tim, in the most perfectly-Tim way, said, “Cool Kolleen, that sounds great! It’s good to practice these things, but...
Discovering the Universal Language of Play

Discovering the Universal Language of Play

Kali Quinn travelled to Guatelmala and El Salvador as a Clowns Without Borders volunteer in 2010. She has since been teaching, performing, creating theater with people across the US, and recently she recently released a new book called I am Compassionate Creativity. Through 111 stories from her life that look at her relationship to strangers, elders, grief, love, medicine, technology and play, she shares 111 values of Compassionate Creativity. The value of this story, “Discovering the Universal Language of Play,” relates her experience with CWB:  “When electing to travel with Clowns Without Borders, you enter into places ravaged by natural disaster or torn to pieces by war. Traveling down these roads, you see such hardship repeated upon the faces of the people. Homeless, hungry, hurt. Such grief affecting all people. A devastation and loss so much more vast and real than would ever be reported in the news. How could you, now witnessing it firsthand, ever have the words to explain this to someone who wasn’t there? How would you even start? How could you possibly find a way to get onto the next plane home and move on to have a conversation about anything else other than this? So you get out of your vehicle and walk down the streets. You realize that the city or town might have been destroyed and many of its inhabitants might be missing, but at the same time there are people, individuals, there. Alive. Standing on the line between life and death, a sense of community can’t help but linger in the air. A mother feeds a child. Two men lift up...

17th Annual Portland Clowns Without Borders Benefit Show

It’s that time of year again … Time for the area’s top variety and circus performers put on an amazing, hilarious, family-friendly show to support a great cause – The Annual Clowns Without Borders Benifit Show! Now in it’s 17th year, and this time in the gorgeous Alberta Rose Theater, this show is bound to be an amazing evening you won’t want to miss. Friday, February 5, 2016, at 7:30pm (doors at 6:30) At the Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta Street, Portland, Oregon We expect to sell out – get your tickets early! http://bit.ly/1IOV3Uy $22 Advance $28 At the door $12 Kids (12 & under) $40 Premium Seats (support CWB and sit in the front center section – advance only) Join our incredible cast of characters for a fundraising event benefiting the international clowning group Clowns Without Borders. Featuring: Patrick McGuire of Cirque du Soleil Shersten Finley, Hayley Holland, Erica Wright, and Larke Schuldberg of Night Flight Strongwoman Tera Zarra of Imago Cowboy Comedian Leapin’ Louie of Wanderlust Circus Rhys Thomas, Sarah Liane Foster, Michael O’Neil, Angel Ocasio And many other fantastic performers you may know and will definitely love! Portland’s annual Clowns Without Borders Benefit Show comes to the Alberta Rose Theater this year with an incredible line-up, including astounding feats of juggling, wondrous aerial acrobatics, top-notch physical comedy, and live music. Juggling by Patrick McGuire of Cirque du Soleil, aerial straps by Shersten Finley of Night Flight, the comic lasso stylings of Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein, and much more! All proceeds of this circus vaudeville extravaganza go to benefit Clowns Without Borders-USA, which sends professional performers to...

#ClownsRBenevolent

A world with clowns is a world of social conscience. Many of us who are with Clowns Without Borders (CWB) enjoy a good suspense or horror movie. Tis the season for spookiness. However, we’ve certainly noticed that modern pop culture has a fixation with clowns as evil, malevolent, or damaged. You’ve likely seen a few of the usual suspects: It, Poltergeist, American Horror Story. Even before Hollywood began maligning the clown reputation, Charles Dickens penned about an unsavory clown in his work, The Pickwick Papers. Clown Compassion The clowns that volunteer with Clowns Without Borders are humanitarians. They have undergone years of training, developing their skills and engaging in humane interactions. Our adept clowns use creativity, transparency, and openness to connect with people and create special moments where laughter can bridge past pain and journey towards resolution. They are not the caricatures slathered with scary-looking make-up, as frequently seen on television. Our clowns are highly trained professionals who apply their talents for one of the most important humanitarian causes – helping children who are suffering as a result of crisis, catastrophe, or war. Our clowns are individuals who come together as a group and cross borders to relieve suffering with non-violence (Satha-Anand, 2001). For them, it’s always ‘We’ before ‘Me.’ Look, we’re not complaining and we’re not telling anyone to stop making horror flicks that involve clowns. However, we want to make sure that you are aware of the incredibly positive and meaningful work that Clowns Without Borders conducts, versus the dark deeds of clown characters played by actors on television. Oh, The Humor-anity! Humor helps children adjust to...

CWB Membership Drive!

April 1st Kicks off CWB’s Annual Membership Drive! Click here to read more about the Membership Drive Top 3 Reasons to Become a Member! 1) We have super cool new merchandise, as thank-you gifts for our members!  2) Members receive monthly updates from CWB-USA; be the first to find out about upcoming projects and events! 3) We love donations big and small, every bit counts! $10 buys 10 CWB clown noses for kids in our workshops at St. PJ’s Children’s Home. $25 feeds a team of clowns for two days in Colombia. $50 fuels the jeep to transport our clowns for a week of rural shows in Haiti....

Send in the Clowns Documentary Screening

Send in the Clowns! Come one, come all to see Send in the Clowns, directed by Sam Lee. This documentary focuses on Clowns Without Borders-USA during their time in Haiti. WHEN: Friday, March 20th, 2015 @ 6:15pm WHERE: Tribeca Cinemas (New York, NY) TICKETS: http://rated.sr/tribeca/ Running Time is 82 minutes, followed by a Q&A CLICK HERE TO SEE THE...

Come Run with US! Miles of Smiles 2014

Run, Smile, Fundraise and Join our Journey! This year, CWB will log over 70,000 miles as our clowns travel to projects around the world and right here in our own back yard.  To celebrate this ever increasing odometer and to honor the hard work our volunteers give, for free, to this organization, we are running to raise funds.  And we want you to join us!!!! In years past, Tim Cunningham ran over 1,000 miles barefoot to raise over $10,000 for CWB-USA.  Many other runners have joined him in races from Washington, DC to San Francisco. Please consider taking your running habits out into the street and joining us–all to support CWB-USA. Here is how you can join: 1) Agree to run a race this year, any length, and commit to fundraising for CWB-USA while you are running.  Email Tim (tim@clownswithoutborders.org) and he will equip you with the fundraising tools you need.  You will also be featured on this page! 2) Sign up and run the Richmond Marathon on November 15th, 2014 with our team! We will fundraise together with you to share smiles around the world! 3) Donate!  Pledge to donate $1.00 per mile for our marathon run on Nov 15th.  You can give $26.20 directly to support the work of CWB.  Or go crazy and donate $2.00 per mile ($52.40) or even $5.00 ($131). Get creative with your math.  You can Donate here. Who is on the Miles of Smiles Team? Name and Event Kolleen Kintz, Richmond Marathon Nov 15 Bobby Kintz, Richmond Marathon Nov 15 Chad Thorne, Richmond Marathon Nov 15 Tim Cunningham, Richmond Marathon Nov...

3rd Annual Black Ties Red Noses

An Elegant Night of Nonsense Serving to Benefit Clowns Without Borders USA Close your eyes and imagine this: you’re sitting in a gorgeous courtyard in downtown D.C., but under the trees, the city feels hours away. You’re dressed to the nines, but with a twist, perhaps an outrageous bow-tie or a red nose–whatever your fancy. You’re dining on a delicious 3-course meal and sipping the finest beer or wine. Above you, in a style most becoming, wondrous creatures dazzle and delight on aerial apparatuses. It’s like a dream, a night at the circus, and with a happy grin you meander inside for some comedy and coffee. After you’ve had your fill of belly laughs and delicious dessert you waltz home in the moonlight, feeling like anything is possible. And indeed, you have made a great many things possible this evening. By attending this fabulous event you have helped bring smiles to children around the world. You have helped send a professional volunteer performer to a place like Haiti, Colombia, or the Philippines; where our clowns recently performed for over 13,000 children and their families in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. We are a grassroots organization and your donation makes this work possible. Click here to read this wonderful article about CWB in The Huffington Post. LIMITED PLATES! CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR TICKET TODAY! What’s that? You’d love to attend, but are out of town or otherwise engaged? Why not share this invitation with a friend in the DC area, so they might have the time of their life. Don’t let the word stop here. Shout it from the rooftops, from the highest mountains,...

Haiti 2010: Earthquake Response

February 12, 2010: A letter from Tim Cunningham (CWB USA Board President) When the tragic events of January 12th demolished Haiti, Clowns Without Borders began to receive phone calls and emails asking “How do I help?” and “What will Clowns Without Borders do?” We suggested that our supporters donate to ‘first responder’ organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontières and Partners in Health. All the while we have been organizing our clown volunteers to be prepared to go to Haiti to provide the ‘secondary support’ of laughter and psychosocial health through play. Not wanting to get in the way of the important and immediate relief efforts so greatly needed, we felt it was important to wait patiently for our partners to send out the call for support from the clowns. Bring in the Clowns. Recently we have been approached by numerous aid organizations seeking help to bring a spirit of laughter, joy and small moments of emotional relief to those affected by the earthquake. Our sister organization, Payasos Sin Fronteras (PSF) in Spain is sending their first group of volunteer artists to meet some those needs next week. CWB has been invited to join PSF starting in March. We will send volunteer artists from the USA to partner with Spanish clowns in Jacmel, Les Cayes and around Port au Prince. In late March CWB will send medical clowns with a team from Boston to the northern city of Cap Haitian to perform and provide support at makeshift tent clinics that are serving thousands of displaced and injured children from Port au Prince. This is just the beginning. In the past,...