A piercing noise breaks out among the still tents. The high pitched giggle bounces through the air, tickling the ears of passersby. It’s the most beautiful sound of all – a child’s laughter. Yet in refugee camps, it’s rarely heard. Many kids in these places have not only lost their homes and families, but their innocence too. So when performer Samantha Holdsworth dons her bright red nose and enters these camps, she isn’t just clowning around, but restoring joy to childhood.
Children make up half of the world’s refugee population. To bring them a dose of entertainment and respite, Holdsworth founded Clowns Without Borders UK. “If you take the fun away, then a child isn’t able to reach their full potential,” she says. Since the NPO’s inception in 2014, the group of 21 clowns have travelled to refugee camps and crisis zones in 14 countries, providing relief to kids in need. A good chuckle alleviates stress, anxiety and depression, and boosts the immune system. The release of endorphins is also crucial in the development of a child’s resilience, enabling them to better adapt in times of tragedy.
Whether performing for young asylum-seekers in Bangladesh or thousands of displaced families after Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Holdsworth and her team spark happiness everywhere they go. Through interactive play, they tackle issues children in humanitarian disasters might be facing. Topics like hygiene and girls’ rights are addressed, while fun activities and games are encouraged to bolster their audience’s emotional wellbeing. Creating opportunities for kids to be kids again, Holdsworth imbues them with the strength to navigate life’s adversity and afflictions. “Not everybody has to be a clown,” she says, “but we can all find reasons to make somebody else smile.”