Bring The Emergency Circus Back To Refugee Road


Thousands of refugees have been forced by circumstance to leave their homes in war torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq in search of a better life in Western Europe. Last November the Emergency Circus traveled 3,500 miles through 8 countries traveling alongside these refugees performing in stations, refugee camps, buses, trains and squares. We brought music, laughter, and empathy to countless masses in dire situations.

Well, since the last trip I knew I needed to go back. The extreme situation these humans have to face just breaks the hell out of my heart. After discovering how impactful this clown work could be to the situation, I just constantly ached to come back. I also wanted to do a better job of documenting my experience and showing the refugees in a positive light to the rest of the world.

This new rhetoric of xenophobia used for political power makes me utterly disgusted, like my eyes want to vomit screams or something. Being on the ground, listening to, clowning for, and being playful with Arabic people of all kinds has destroyed my tolerance for prejudice. It’s extremely stupid to hate Muslims for being Muslim, for example. So I have to use whatever privilege I have to attempt to better the situation.

It’s just so important to me to show these refugees as neighbors in need, not mysterious enemies. Hopefully, through showing the smiles of children and the warmth expressed by their parents, a few more fearful and confused people in my country will be able to see the similarities of our souls.

Counterplay, a conference on play in difficult situations in Denmark, invited me to be a keynote speaker earlier in April. I took the plane ticket as an opportunity to do another month and a half of work. I’m linking up with about 20 other clowns and performers from all over Europe to tour refugee camps and schools in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland. Linking up with local clowns is a great way to begin establishing regular clown missions in the area. We learned this from our last trip.

We’ll be visiting areas where the refugee situation has been complicated by terrorist attacks and camp closures like Calais, Brussels, Beirut, Istanbul and others. Since the last trip in November 2015, the situation has become much more difficult for refugees. Nationalism, xenophobia, racism and economic concerns have led many governments to close their borders. Last time we traveled alongside the refugees, getting a small taste of their experience while spreading as much joy and entertainment we could along the way.

This time we’ll be visiting places where they have been stuck, trapped with the inability to move forward or back. Aside from Denmark, our first stop is Lebanon, where we are joining forces with a local troupe called Clown Me In led by a clown who I worked with in Lesbos and previously in Lebanon. We are visiting mostly refugee schools near the border of Syria.

April 20 (see photo above): Sometimes I start to wonder why I work so hard booking, planning, raising funds, and traveling for days on end for $0 an hour. Then I have a day like today where 900 refugee kids go to their tents excited to dream about the circus that came to school today. So happy to team up with Sabine again and Clown Me In. This is the silly, sweaty, sunburnt life I wouldn’t trade for anything.

The project was so well received and so desperately needed that we’ve decided we must return, this time beginning at the Syrian border and sharing the entire journey with the refugees, not only to relieve stress and deliver joy through circus along the way, but also to understand and document the struggle of these humans during this massive migration.

In order to do so we need your support. In order to pay for travel, lodging, and food we have budgeted a conservative cost of $6,000. Please consider sharing this post and making a donation to the Emergency Circus. Every person who donates any amount will receive updates as we document the situation through the eyes of a circus through writing, video, and photography.

These are sweet, kind, middle class families who are risking their lives daily to escape extremely difficult situations they’ve been dealt. Often their children, mothers, or fathers die along the way. They aren’t always treated with kindness and the stress of loosing family members, jobs, and their homes can be extremely draining to their mental state. It is so heart warming and hopeful to see what a simple smile can do for their ability to continue on with hope. History is being created now and the Emergency Circus is committed to doing what we can to steer it in a positive direction. Please share and donate what you can. every bit helps. Thank you for your support.

To learn more about this work  click on this Clowns Without Borders Documentary by RT

Clay Mazing