Clowns Without Borders began in Spain in 1993 when refugee children, from the Yugoslav Wars of 1991-1995 from the Istrian Peninsula, wrote to Catalan children: “You know what we miss most? We miss laughter, to have fun, to enjoy ourselves.” So the Spanish children asked Tortell Paltrona to travel there with a troupe and they went [in 1993] by car. The children in Barcelona raised funds to pay for the project.
Founder of Clowns Without Borders Tortell Paltrona
“When we started, it might have seemed like a joke to some people. An NGO with clowns in the middle of a war! It was surreal. At first we wondered what we were doing, but after the first experience it was such a powerful and emotional feeling. There was a very warm welcome and the visit was very helpful for the children”. (Tortell)
Tortell founded Clowns Without Borders to offer humor as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma.
What followed was a wave of performers and shows traveling to the ex-Yugoslavia region from Spain. Soon Clowns Without Borders organisations sprang up in France, Sweden and the USA. The CWB movement expanded into other areas of conflict, from the Western Sahara, to Israel/Palestine, to Columbia and other countries throughout Central America. By the year 2000, over one hundred expeditions had been launched.
In Ireland, Jonathan Gunning, having first been on a project with Clowns Without Borders USA, co-founded with Colm O’Grady, Clowns Without Borders Ireland in 2007.
CWB Around the World
Clowns Without Borders blossomed from there and have now chapters in fifteen countries (Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States). We are working together in shared projects and shared destinations.
2018 figures at a glance
In 2018, CWB chapters organized:
– 101 projects in 52 countries,
– over 1 283 shows for more than 283 680 children and adults attended CWB shows,
– 945 workshops were conducted with the participation of 21,351 people
Download the full International Clowns without Borders Report, 2018, here.