Every year, Patch Adams leads volunteers to the world’s most distressed regions to engage in an unexpected form of social and medical activism: clowning. You may recognize Adams’s name from the 1995 Robin Williams classic film Patch Adams, in which the comedian memorialized Adams’ use of humor in holistic healing. Like his character in the movie, Adams and his band of merry clowns really do visit hospitals and schools around the world, bringing laughter to people suffering from illness and oppression.
Adams started the program in 1985 with a trip to the Soviet Union, and has continued operating it through his Gesundheit Institute. In May 2015, Adams led 29 clowns—including a child psychologist, two flight attendants, a nurse, a building contractor, an art curator, and a Russian entrepreneur—to 16 orphanages and hospitals across Armenia. Photojournalist Oksana Yushko and photographer Arthur Bondar joined them on their journey, capturing these photos of the clowns at work: