Clowns Without Borders UK


Play is powerful.

A child makes a strong arm pose, surrounded by others, during a performance

The right to play.

Play is vital to a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development and overall well-being. 

Whilst food, water and shelter are necessary for material needs to be made, the revitalising power of play supports the respite, recovery and development of a child – emotionally, physically and psychologically. 

This is recognised in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which creates a specific right for all children to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to their age (Article 31). 

A lack of recognition of the significance of play in a crisis setting means that a child’s right to play is often neglected. However, when children are deprived of play, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Play is a child’s right, whatever their circumstances.

A distant crowd of brightly coloured humanitarian clowns with a children in front of UNHCR tents and other temporary accomodation after turkey-Syrai earthquake 2023

We know that play is powerful.

When children are feeling unsettled or have an abundance of strong feelings, play can help them identify and express those feelings. Having the opportunity to play can help them to feel safer, calmer and empowered. 

Thoughtfully designed play opportunities can alleviate children’s levels of stress and strengthen their coping skills far into adult life. Playful activities can support healthy childhood development and other core skills like self-awareness, friendship building and self-regulation as well as bringing emotional respite and joy. 

When children are affected by disaster and displacement, that’s when they need play the most.

The good news is that, even in the most challenging places, laughter and play can change a child’s life, providing respite and beginning a journey towards recovery. 

We know from experience that the impact on a parent seeing their child laugh for the first time in weeks can be exceptionally powerful. Likewise, the impact on a child seeing their parent finally smile and relax during a crisis can create a much-needed sense of safety and normality.

A room full of children and caregivers happily watching a performance

Read about our impact.

Sending clowns into crisis settings means creating safe, joyful spaces for children displaced from their homes. Learn more about our urgent response, community engagement and ongoing work.

This training is very important, useful and necessary. It’s already having a positive impact. The children are more engaged and want to play more.

NGO worker and workshop participant

The greatest impact.

We choose to operate in areas where we can make the greatest impact by collaborating with local and international organisations that align with our values. This makes each partnership different. Our partnerships include UNICEF, UNHCR, Oxfam, Plan International and Save the Children.

Our most important partnership of all is with children themselves. We are committed to listening to and including them in everything we do and receive regular input from our child-led, UK-based advisory board. This helps us identify and address issues that are important to them, incorporate their ideas, and ultimately spread joy where it is needed most.

Save the Children
Plan International
UNHCR logo
Three school children writing and drawing

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