Smiles and laughter in Tanzanian Refugee Camp

CWB paid a visit to Tanzania to bring some much needed laughter to refugee children


Fleeing violence in Burundi – Trapped in refugee camps in Tanzania

Over 180,000 Burundian refugees, over 50% of which are children, have fled into Tanzania seeking refuge.  These children living in desperate, overcrowded conditions, at risk of disease have witnessed extreme violence or have been separated from their parents.

Since the camps were established in April 2015, Plan International has been setting up safe spaces for children to continue their education and to play and have fun. Many of these children, supported by generous sponsors in Ireland, have been on the move for months, often without shelter and on their own.

Letting children be children again

Recently, we joined up with Clowns Without Borders to bring some smiles to the children in the camp and to help begin to heal the trauma caused by their escape Burundi.

On seeing the troupe of clowns enter their camp, a seven year old girls asked, “What’s the job of the clown?”

To let children (and even adults) be children again. To laugh, to smile, to chuckle and even sometimes to forget. To forget the bad things that have happened in their lives and think of happier times.

… shouted one of the clowns as he squirted the camp manager with water from his fake flower.

From covering crowds in confetti to performing hi-jinx stunts, creative activities and performances have the potential to bring children together and diminish cultural, religious and gender barriers.
Children who’ve experienced loss, displacement and stress need emotional support, positive social relations and a sense of hope for the future. In situations such as refugee camps, children are forced to grow up too fast. If their emotional needs are neglected it may hinder their development and result in mental health complications.
Clowns, while using entertainment and fun as part of their show, also use their performances and shows to convey public health messages, such as “clean water is key to beating diarrhoea”.
Taking a break in between performances, the clowns were the stars of the show.
Performances aim to bring communities together and make both children and adults smile and forget for a moment their stressful experiences.
Performances are designed to captivate communities so villagers get an opportunity to laugh and forget everyday stress. Each show reaches at least 2,000 refugees.
Clowns are quite a spectacle in communities and they draw keen interest from those passing by. This kind local even offered up a seat on his bike so this clown could get to her show in good time.