Clowns Without Borders UK


We deliver urgent emotional first aid to children when they need it most.

Humanitarian clown placing a finger on a laughing child's nose - in front a tent in a refugee camp

How it works.

We bring laughter and play into crisis settings characterised by uncertainty, displacement and loss. We are invited into these settings by partners on the ground to deliver safe, structured, joyful performances to children and their caregivers. 

We provide children with immediate, high-quality, sustainable opportunities for laughter and play and we achieve the greatest impact via our three-step approach.

Clowns Without Borders model diagram. Laughing children, playful performances, practical training, powerful partnerships

Our approach.

Beyond the delivery of our performances, our model is based on key principles which enable us and our partners to bring more joy into the lives of more children when they really need it.

A clown in a meditation post next to a laughing child - Romania

Playful Performances: 

Increasing a child’s access to laughter, joy, fun, wonder and play contributes to a sense of normalcy and provides rest, respite and relaxation. This helps a child in challenging times.

Practical Training: 

Children’s needs are better met when their culture and identity are celebrated. We support talented local artists to help co-develop and deliver our joyful activities.

Powerful Partnerships: 

Children can access more play opportunities when we advocate for the power of play. Using our evidence-based methodology we support others to deliver laughter and play in their unique contexts.

Our priorities.

Because laughter and play is about so much more than just being silly, we have four core priorities to maximise the therapeutic impact of our playful programmes.  

  • Safety and security
    Activities are emotionally and physically safe
  • Inclusion
    Activities are accessible for all children
  • Connection
    Positive bonds are formed between children
  • Learning
    Social-emotional learning is supported

When these priorities are observed children can experience positive group scenarios and a sense of belonging. It helps children to express their feelings, receive emotional support, try new things, make new friends and know they are not alone.

Local creative artists with members of the Clowns Without Borders team and a child - Kenya 2014

Our practices.

We take play very seriously. That’s why we prioritise these practices:


Our approach involves understanding and responding to the effects of trauma on a child’s emotions and behaviour. We create safe and supportive environments where children can heal and thrive. We champion trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment and cultural considerations in all our programmes. We are on a journey to embed trauma-informed principles across our whole organisation.


We are committed to putting children’s needs at the heart of everything we do – particularly through our UK-based child advisory board. This helps us identify and address issues that are important to them, incorporate their perspectives, and ultimately spread joy where it is needed most. Given the chance, all children are powerful agents of change. 


Our aim is to encourage artists to create and shape their longer-term humanitarian responses within their communities, either by establishing their own humanitarian clowning initiatives or working longer-term with NGO’s to deliver more laughter and play.

In terms of managing the stress levels of children, a very important part of what the clowns do is touch upon emotions that children have. Like feelings of loss, grief, anxiety, and fear, but they do it in a funny way and they make it lighter. It’s an expression of how the children feel but it’s made more bearable for them.

Lotte Claessens – Senior Specialist, Child Protection in Emergencies, Plan International


Every gift brings joy.

By supporting Clowns Without Borders, you’ll join an incredible group of people who believe in the rights of children and the power of play.

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