Last month, Palestine refugee students from select UNRWA schools in the West Bank enjoyed a clown show performance by the Danish organization, ‘Clowns 4 Care’. At the performance, some 2,500 children cheered with delight, with smiles spreading across their faces. Some could not contain their excitement and shuffled ever closer, eager to be near the clowns who stood before them.
Clowns 4 Care, whose main goal is to protect the rights of children, brings much-needed fun to people, especially children, in areas of crisis around the world, including refugee camps and conflict zones. UNRWA helped to arrange for the clowns to perform in its schools and an UNRWA hospital and play with young Palestine refugee patients and students.
A particularly exciting performance took place in UNRWA schools in Jalazone refugee camp, near Ramallah. The Danish Representative to the Palestinian Authority, Anders Tang Friborg, and the UNRWA Deputy Director for Programmes, Meg Audette, were both in attendance, with the Deputy Director in full clown costume to help promote the effort and underscore the value that UNRWA places on education.
Speaking at the performance, Ms. Audette said, “Today’s event was a part of a week-long visit by Clowns 4 Care, made possible with support from the Danish government. Caring clowning is a well-recognized psychosocial activity with lasting benefits for children and caregivers. UNRWA appreciates the support of Clowns 4 Care and other clowning groups as it creates a fun interaction opportunity for students, teachers, and staff alike."
“Those clowns simply aim to bring joy and happiness to children living in refugee camps,” said Anders Tang Friborg. “We express our admiration for clowns who work voluntarily and spend their time in making children happy.”
Seven-year-old Tuleen Majdi, and UNRWA student from Jalazone refugee camp, expressed her feelings after participating in one of the Clowns 4 Care performances. “I am very happy to have participated in the Clowns’ performance,” she said. “They gave us an opportunity to play a variety of different games!”
In refugee camps, children are often forced to grow up too fast. If their emotional needs are neglected, their development can be hindered, and the implications for their mental health are numerous. As such, UNRWA selected schools located in areas of the West Bank where unrest, settler violence and access issues are particularly prevalent – these factors combine to deny these students the opportunities they need to play and have fun like their peers elsewhere. Children in these areas were targeted by UNRWA because they have experienced violence and psychological stress first hand and are often in need of emotional support, positive social interactions and a sense of hope for the future.