Posted by: Shanie Matthews | July 14, 2010

Clowns Without Borders Spreading Joy to Children Around the World

Imagine a moment when you were sad, lonely, or frightened as a child. Now combine those feelings with living in a war torn, destitute area on the planet. It would be difficult to find joy and laughter. But what if a person dressed as a clown with the sole purpose of bringing laughter showed up in the picture.

How many children would that impact? How many lives would forever be changed for the better because of the fun factor brought by a clown.

Clowns Without Borders is doing exactly that…changing the lives of youth in unhappy situations around the globe. This inspirational non-profit is literally bringing joy to thousands throughout the world.

photo courtesy of Clowns Without Borders

Clowns Without Borders is a band of humorous performers making it their mission to bring smiles to the faces of those that need it most…the children of desperate and dire situations. Like those youngsters growing up in Haiti, Guatemala, or Burma.

I was able to get a moment of time with one of the founders of Clowns Without Borders and active humor provider, Moshe Cohen. Extremely busy and rushing off to his next set of joy creation, his answers were brief but thought provoking. Here is what he had to say…

SM: What inspired you to become a clown?

MC: I discovered that I was funny as a performer and that inspired me. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a clown, I like to think of it more as clowning, as a verb, as an action, something I do.

SM: As an original member of the Clowns Without Borders movement, what were key factors in it moving from a dream to the amazing organization that it is today?

MC: I don’t think it was ever a dream, it has always been a reality. It was a response to an enthusiastic reception, and the understanding that followed of the appreciation for bringing reasons for laughter and joyous expression in places of crisis.

SM: What inspired you to help develop the United States division of Clowns Without Borders?

MC: As I was involved in the movement, and the only person from the US doing shows, I discussed with Spain (Tortell Poltrona founded Payasos Sin Fronteras in 1993) about being their representative in the United States. That morphed a year later into starting the US chapter.

SM: Having been in the business for over 25 years now, have you seen any of the children that you helped in the beginning of your career as adults?

MC: A few here in California, however if you are talking about CWB, not directly.

SM: Please share a particular story that helped you believe in the power of collaboration.

MC: The most immediate is the work that I did last year in Myanmar (Burma).

There were artists from France, Belgium, Sweden (including an Australian who lives in Sweden) , myself from the US, and from Myanmar. Three shows were created to tour the delta area where the Nargis cyclone hit in 2008 creating a devastation on the order of the recent earthquake in Haiti. There was great collaboration in that each show involved Myanmar and Western artsists. The show I was involved in was with Kalle and Dave (SW-Aust.) and three Myanmar artists: May, Teto and Emié. We created our show in a day and a half, and performed it about 20 times over three weeks.

photo courtesy of Clowns Without Borders

SM: What have the children taught you?

MC: A lot! Humility, patience, never give up!

SM: In addition to donations, you also accept “In-Kind” offerings. Have you had any interesting (off-the-wall, but very beneficial) gifts?

MC: I just picked up some juggling equipment destined for Haiti from the Renegades in Santa Cruz. They are showing us how to make juggling clubs with simple dowels and 1 liter coke bottles and a few screws and tape. They have supplied us with the dowels and the hardware, and we plan to build the clubs with the kids from Foyer Lakay in Port au Prince, some of whom are already excellent jugglers.

SM: How do the clowns create their acts?

MC: Ohhh, sooo many ways.

SM: What is your favorite aspect to collaboration?

MC: The synergistic energies that swirl, the sense of enthusiasm it generates amongst participants, and the occasional sense of harmony when things are working just right.

SM: What is your vision for the future of Clowns Without Borders?

MC: I am liking what is happening in the increased communication and collaboration internationally between the various Clowns Without Borders chapters. That has been my vision for a long time and it is slowly being realized. Of course, ideally, as Tortell says, “Clowns without Borders would disappear because there are no more wars.”

Thank you Moshe Cohen and the others involved with Clowns Without Borders for spreading joy around the world.



  1. Dear Sir/Madam,

    while browsing through your very exciting and nice
    website we realised that the children and young people of our Basic Education,Vocational Training, Social Enterprise and Community Sports for Development Programmes could benefit alot from your organisation.

    United Action for Children is a child and youth
    centered organisation operating in the South West
    Region of Cameroon.Its mission is to develop a
    caring and sustaining society for children and young
    people through innovative programmes.Among our other
    programmes,UAC is using the power of football through
    its Sports for Development Programme to mobilise
    children and young people living in rural areas
    channel their energy towards productive initiatves and live a healthy life through sports.We also organise health campaigns and environmental education/ sanitation through sports in schools and villages. It also mobilises young people become actors of development in their respective communities.Apart from the Sports Programme,we also run an elementary
    education programme for orphans and vulnerable
    children.Under this we operate and run a
    nursery/primary school with an enrolment of 615
    children.We also run a Vocational Training Centre in
    woodwork,painting,electricity,cookery,sewing and
    computer for rural based and street children.It has a
    current enrolment of 280 young people.We train for self employment.Our school is in need of school supplies,computers, didactic materials, books for the libraries,clothes for AIDS Orphans,benches,tables, Sports equipment, carpentary machines/tools, electrical/building construction tools , chairs, household, TV sets, sewing machines and books carpentry tools among many others.

    UAC is the current implimenting partner of FIFA
    Football for Hope Movement in Cameroon.UAC is also a
    member of the Streetfootballworld Network and its
    representative in Cameroon .

    Our main reason of writing you is to see in what way
    we can develop a partnership with your
    organisation in order to exchange ideas,conceive and execute joint projects. We also want a partner or partners who may support our volunteer programme by sending volunteers on permanent bases.We do receive volunteers individually or as groups.

    More information about UAC and its activities can be
    got from

    We really lookforward to hearing from you.

    Accept our kindest regards

    Orock Thomas

    • Hi Orock,

      Thank you for your message. Please expect a reply from me via email from me shortly to discuss collaboration further.

      Kind Regards,

      Shanie Matthews

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