Clowns Without Borders UK

Clown In My Pocket

children standing in a field

As lockdown in Moria Refugee Camp, Greece is extended, technology offers a way to support children and make sure laughter is always close by.

children standing in a field

Life in Lockdown in Moria

Mahtab speaks passionately about the challenges she and her friends face, not just in lockdown, but every day in Moria Refugee camp in Greece. Her confidence and determination makes it easy to forget she is just 16 years old. Forced to flee Afghanistan because of conflict, Mahtab knows she and young people and children are missing out on so much, especially the benefits of school.

“There aren’t any hobbies for children. The families are going to worry about them. In Moria, they must stay for a long time. But there isn’t a school that’s good and useful for children”.

Mahtab is part of a self-organised school, Wave of Hope, run by refugees for refugees. She volunteers to help children learn English. Restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 have made life harder for her and everyone in Moria.

Clowns Without Borders UK first met the team at Wave of Hope in December and again in January. They recognised the importance of the grassroots organisation and the essential work they do. The temporary school gives children structure and hope for the future. When lockdown hit, it was important to find ways to continue to support the incredible young people they work with. Samantha Holdsworth, Director of Clowns Without Borders said,

“Moria is no place for children to grow up. COVID-19 has meant we are not able to travel but that doesn’t mean we can stop working. Children in the camp in Lesvos need lightness and laughter like never before”.

Data restriction and lack of connectivity means Clowns Without Borders UK is piloting a bold new way of working. Adapting their Learning Through Laughter curriculum, they are sharing games and songs through WhatsApp with Wave of Hope. This is a way to support the dreams of the children to learn English. It’s also a chance to bring joyful, physical activities into the lives of the children at the camp.

Annabel Morgan is a clown and facilitator developing activities for the project. She said,

“The team in Moria tell us what they need help with and we work out how to do that in the most playful way possible. It’s a really collaborative way of working”.

The Bigger Picture

The Moria Camp and its surroundings are extremely challenging. Medicine Sans Frontiers describe it as a “horrific and inhumane” place. Constructed for 3,100 people there is now a population of more than 20,000 men, women and children. According to the UNHCR, 42% of the 20,000 migrants in and around Moria are under 18, and nearly half of those are under 12.

Many of the children have fled war and violence and many are traumatised. Most face uncertainty, anxiety and daily boredom. There are few safe places where children can play.

Without the opportunity to laugh, play and experience some ‘normal’ childhood activities there is little hope of children healing. Whilst Clowns Without Borders UK can’t provide the long-term psychological care required in the most extreme cases, remote working is a way to promote respite and help to reduce the stress and boredom children face.