No, the name of the refugee camp wasn’t “Walk-about”. We did a clown walk-about in Choucha, the biggest refugee camp in Tunisia in 2011. Most of the refugees at this camp were sub-Saharan Africans who had been living in Libya and were fleeing the turmoil in that country. Soon after the refugee camps opened, we connected with a group called the “Volunteer Task Force”. When I wasn’t in clown costume, I wore the identifying bright yellow t-shirt and baseball cap that everyone on the task force was wearing.
I didn’t clown around all the time. I also did crafts with the children and women. Everyone loved having something to do with their hands! Even the young men at the camps wanted to participate in doing the crafts. People get a sense of accomplishment when they finish a project.
While at the refugee camps, we were always aware that we were in a foreign country in a fairly volatile place. We were never supposed to go anywhere alone; we went in small groups. I always had at least one friend with me, preferably my husband, when I was clowning as a sort of bodyguard.
I don’t have a picture of it, but the first time I showed up at the camp in clown costume, we hadn’t even gotten out of the car and we were surrounded! The road was completely blocked as people engulfed the car! I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into! My first thought was to ask the driver to put the car in reverse and get back to town! Good thing all those people were in the road or we all would have missed out on a lot of fun!
Things calmed down and we were able to walk around the camp. The kids (and adults) were happy to see a clown in real life. A first for most of them! I had a few small tricks on hand, plus balloons animals and stickers.
This was one of those times that we stopped by the kitchen tent to say hello to the hard-working cooks.
I hope Mimi the Clown is a memory the refugees don’t want to forget, from a time that they may not want to remember.
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