In South Sudan, clowns drown out the sounds of guns with laughter

Years of fighting in South Sudan has forced millions to flee their homes, and seek safety in United Nations camps. As Grant McDonald reports, one humanitarian group is trying to bring a little laughter to those who have left everything behind.

It might be difficult to believe that you can still bring a smile to the face of a child living in a United Nations protection site in South Sudan.

But that’s precisely what Clowns Without Borders is doing there.

It’s a non-profit that works to “offer joy and laughter to relieve the suffering of all persons,” particularly children living in crisis areas such as refugee camps or conflict zones.

And now it’s doing that in the East African country that has been rattled by a civil war that erupted in 2013, killing tens of thousands of people and edging the country toward a famine.

With war raging around them, Clowns Without Borders has entertained people through circus-oriented performances that have included volunteer jugglers, acrobats and jokers.

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“The only thing that goes through my mind is just to see the more smiles, hear the most laughter and see these little faces light up,” performer Annabel Morgan told Global News.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau says Canada looking to do more to help South Sudan famine

Many of the children watching these performances might not understand the complexities of the civil war, or why they can’t go home — but they do understand laughter.

And while Clowns Without Borders isn’t delivering necessities like food, water or health care, it has managed to dispense plenty of joy.

“It was very good, I wish they could come more often,” said Michael, a boy who saw a performance at a protection site.

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Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), which is focused on ensuring site residents have access to food and water, said Clowns Without Borders can help to heal trauma.

“It is like a psycho-social support,” he said.

These clowns may not stop the civil war. But they have shown that the sounds of gunfire can sometimes be drowned out by laughter.