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Our history

The foundation of CWBSA was laid by the founder, Jamie Lachman, after a meeting with Moshe Cohen from Clowns Without Borders USA. This meeting resulted in an epic adventure of performance tours in Southern Africa, as well as the creation of Project Injabulo that focuses on children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. From 2004-2006, the work of CWBSA was generously supported through fundraising initiatives coordinated by the founder from US donors.

In 2007, CWBSA was officially registered as a non-profit organisation in South Africa. Support was provided from Clowns Without Borders Sweden to set up the new clown chapter. The organisation became part of a network of autonomous sister chapters that now exists in 15 countries. CWBSA, with CWB Brazil and India are the only organisations based in the Global South.  CWBSA has continued to grow to reach over 500 000 beneficiaries in Africa. In terms of resources, the team has grown from 2 to 15 professionals, as well as opening two offices in Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town.

CWBSA has worked tirelessly with innovative parenting initiatives, identifying the need to work in the context of the family, where children and adolescents are taken care of. Projects Injabulo and Sinovuyo Kids and Teens were developed to empower parents and caregivers in providing a protective environment to contribute to prevention of violence against children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over 14 years, these initiatives have been developed further through the academic work of the founder, collaboration with partners, as well as the content development and fieldwork of the CWBSA team.

Since 2016, CWBSA has been a member of an international collaboration known as the Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) Implementation Network with for example the University of Cape Town and University of Oxford. PLH is a suite of evidence-informed parenting interventions that use social learning and parent management training principles to reduce the risk of child maltreatment within families and improve parent-child relationships. CWBSA is the primary implementation partner responsible for the dissemination of two evidence-informed parent training interventions, PLH Young Children and PLH Adolescents, working in approximately 15 countries globally.

Clowns Without Borders International

Clowns Without Borders International began in Spain in 1993 when Tortell “Jauma” Poltrona, a professional Catalan clown from Spain was asked by the children at a school in Barcelona to go to the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia to perform for refugee children. 

The children in Barcelona raised the funds to send Tortell to Croatia after refugees in the Istrian Peninsula wrote them: “You know what we miss most? We miss laughter, to have fun, to enjoy ourselves.”

On that first project Tortell performed for 4.000 Children in Croatian refugee camps. Upon his return to Spain, Tortell founded “Payasos Sin Fronteras” (Clowns Without Borders Spain) as a means to provide psychological relief to children affected by crisis. The idea of clowning without borders quickly spread to France, Sweden, and Belgium as artists performed in the Balkans as well as the Middle East and Latin America.

Now, 20 years later, the Clowns Without Borders International Federation is made up of 14 Clowns Without Borders national chapter organizations.

Clowns Without Borders International (CWBI) chapters share a common mission: to offer joy and laughter to relieve the suffering of all persons, especially children, who live in areas of crisis including refugee camps, conflict zones and territories in situations of emergency.

CWBI is legally based in Spain and composed of 14 operational chapters throughout the world.

Code of Ethics

All the chapters of Clowns Without Borders International throughout the world adhere to the same Code of Ethics. These principles provide the artists with a commonly understood framework with regard to their conduct in the field:

  • Performances are the main activities of Clowns Without Borders. Other artistic activities may be undertaken.
  • The principle beneficiaries of Clowns Without Borders are children who live in crisis situations and their respective communities.
  • Clowns Without Borders interventions shall always be free for the audience and/or participants.
  • When performing the artists shall not discriminate against members of the public on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, age, religion, culture, social situation or any other differentiating category.
  • Participating artists shall be volunteers and they may be paid when performing for Clowns Without Borders within their own country. In countries where basic living needs are not provided for by this work and/or governmental support, the sections may provide the artist with a stipend.
  • Participating artists shall not use the humanitarian activities of Clowns Without Borders to promote their professional careers.
  • Participating artists shall not use Clowns Without Borders activities to impose personal points of view upon audiences. Artists will not attempt to educate the population, and shall refrain from proselytism of any type.
  • Participating artists shall take into account the sensibility of the public, as well as their culture and the delicate situation in which they are living, when choosing the contents of their performances and workshops.
  • Participating artists, when working with Clowns Without Borders projects, see and share difficult situations throughout the world. As Clowns Without Borders is not a political organization, if artists would like to give public testimonies of their experiences, they must always make it explicitly clear that Clowns Without Borders does not express any political views, nor takes any side in a conflict, and that the opinions given are a personal and are based on personal experiences.
  • As representatives of Clowns Without Borders in the field, during performances and when in contact with the public, participating artists shall remain clowns and performing artists, and this is our principal method of intervention.
  • The artists of Clowns Without Borders shall respect laws, norms and cultural customs in the countries that they visit.
  • In order to obtain economic support Clowns Without Borders shall remain attentive to the ethical values and to the respect for human rights of our sponsors and partners.
  • CWBSA is a drug-free organization. During the period of contract, the Independent Contractor shall refrain from the consumption, possession, or sale of any illegal substances. Smoking of tobacco and drinking alcohol is prohibited in the presence of children.
  • All artists (and facilitators) will also will abide to all of Clowns Without Borders South Africa’s specific organisational protocols including Safety, HIV/AIDS, Children’s Rights, and Code of Ethics.

“Come a global pandemic, come rain or shine…Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWBSA) continues to cause ripple effects with its work. Nothing stopped the CWBSA family from reaching the myriad of children and communities affected by the pandemic and beyond. We cannot say that COVID-19 did not throw a spanner in the works, especially as civil society navigated unchartered terrain in the digital space, but for CWBSA, we catapulted to new heights.”
– Neesha Fakir CWBSA Chairperson, 2020