‘Our need for joy is greater than ever’: Clowns Without Borders

A charity that uses clowns to bring laughter and respite to displaced children has won the inaugural Kindness Awards

They say comedy is a serious business and that’s certainly the case for Clowns Without Borders UK, which helps spread laughter among children in refugee camps, conflict zones and disaster areas – vital work that has seen it win the first ever Kindness Awards.

The new award was founded by skincare brand, Simple, in partnership with Positive News, as a way of bringing more attention to organisations that are spreading kindness in the world. Clowns Without Borders has been declared the winner following a public vote and will receive a £7,000 donation from Simple.

“The timing of this couldn’t be better because the climate we’re operating in is very uncertain,” said Samantha Holdsworth, the charity’s director. “It’s a gift from the clown gods.”

Clowns Without Borders works with professional artists to create shows that encourage children living through crises to laugh, dance and play. Until recently the charity was working in Moira refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where 20,000 people live in dire conditions. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the organisation to put its performances on hold.

“Circumstances are difficult right now and we know that the first cases of coronavirus are in Lesbos,” said Holdsworth. “After [the pandemic] there’s going to be such a need to provide something light and joyful. People are going to need some form of psychosocial relief.”

The prize money will allow Holdsworth’s team to “hit the ground running” with performances as soon as it’s safe to do so, she added.

Clowns Without Borders will livestream clown workshops online for children living in lockdown

In response to coronavirus, Clowns Without Borders is going to livestream clown workshops online for children living in lockdown, so they can learn how to put on their own shows at home.

“The idea is to provide a clown activity or trick every day so that after three or four weeks, children will be able to create their own clown show in their living room, which they could film and send to grandparents or friends,” said Holdsworth. “I like the idea of hundreds of children being little joy makers with their clown shows. These are serious times so our need for laughter, humour and joy is greater than ever.”

Simple shortlisted six organisations for the inaugural Kindness Awards, which were drawn from stories published by Positive News, before putting the winner to a public vote. The five runners up were: City to Sea, Magic Me, London National Park City, Springster and SayYesMore.

“In the Simple competition, voters chose to support the most vulnerable children – refugees – with the aim to bring a smile on their face,” said Magali Giupponi, Simple’s global brand director. “Which is exactly what Simple is about – being kind does not have to be serious. In times of crisis, kindness is even more needed, and humour can help be stronger in the face of adversity.”

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