With suitcases full of balloons, red noses and musical instruments, Rubén Río, Beatriz Garrido, Enrique Méndez and Javier Ariza, members of Spanish humanitarian organization Payasos Sin Fronteras, or Clowns Without Borders, brought smiles and laughter to children across the West Bank.
In May and June 2014, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) helped arrange for the friendly clowns to perform in remote West Bank areas, where poor infrastructure, settler violence and access issues combine to deny children the opportunities they need to play like other kids.
The clowns played in the schools and kindergartens of Bedouin communities to the south of Hebron as part of a 16-performance tour of the West Bank. The crowds reached into the hundreds, who laughed and cheered as the clowns performed their act, even dropping a few balls on purpose. Other stops include Jericho, Kalandia, Qalqiliya and Jenin.
A particularly exciting performance took place in the Bedouin community of Um Al Khayr. The clowns began by getting the children to respond back to their calls in Arabic, which got the audience cheering. Many of the children shuffled closer and closer to the performers, eager to be near the clowns. “I enjoyed the performance of clowns”, says Anwar Shuaib, a resident. “I want to thank UNRWA for bringing clowns here.”
Clowns Without Borders believes in the importance of laughter and sends professional clowns across the globe to perform for children affected by conflict. Performer Quique Méndez says, “It is a wonderful experience for children. We love the Palestinian children and we want them to laugh. We believe that their conditions are different from the conditions of other children around the world. It is also important for us to be with children here. We do this voluntarily and our work goes from our hearts to the children.”