“When you try to cure a disease you can win or lose, when you take care of a person you can only win”
Clown therapy brings a smile to those in the hospital or in harsh environments; looking at that red nose, patients forget, if only for a moment, their sadness and fear.
This is was the goal of some of the Whanau volunteers (those who were specifically trained in clown therapy) during their stay in Zambia.
Thanks to the hospitality and trust offered by the pediatric staff of the Monze Hospital, volunteer clowns, with a strong desire to get involved, filled the pediatric ward with balloons, jokes, soap bubbles, music and hugs, coloring at the same time the clown’s hearts with strong emotions which will be difficult to erase.
This was a first for the Whanau clown volunteers to serve in an African hospital, where the conditions and environment are very different from the usual Italian context, and also a first for the patients since the clown character in the hospital context is a novelty.
“Just like the children we met, we were a bit timid, but at the same time curious … . but our reservations quickly vanished to make room for very deep empathic relationships”
“when we walked from the house, where we were guests, to the hospital where we would entertain the children, considering the novelty of the situation we were filled with a thousand questions: What will we do, how will we entertain them, what conditions should we expect? .. …then we saw the kids … and didn’t need to think anymore, we just launched into smiles, games and jokes”
Their small faces and curious looks invited us to come closer and play with them, involving parents and relatives in games, jokes and requests for balloons.
Despite the parents’ initial concerns and even displeasure, when they saw their children have fun and play with joy, they were really happy and willing to open up and talk.
When the volunteers returned in the following days, they often found newly recovered patients as well as parents of those there for longer stays who often confided that ” They were waiting for you”.
We then brought our clown activities to the streets (taxi stands, market stalls etc), where we were cheerfully greeted with incredulous looks and fantastic smiles.
The hospital atmosphere taught us that poverty does not mean sadness and that a smile, particularly that of a child, is a powerful, contagious and universal language.