Updated on December 20, 2017
The power of laughter
Charities and volunteers come in many different forms. Teachers, doctors, builders, … All of them always needed and always welcome. And then there are those who come to share something more simple … A smile. Last month, the Blue Planet Lodge hosted a group of very special guests from the Netherlands; an organisation known as CliniClowns. The CliniClowns specialize in entertaining children who find themselves in lesser circumstances and share their expertise with schools, refugee camps, hospitals, … We were very happy to receive them and welcome them to our own NGO!
Through our project, Quality of Life Nepal, we built a school providing education to the poorest in the village of Sarangkot. Even though we make sure the children have uniforms, toys, notebooks and anything else they would need to complete their education, there are other important needs a child will have that go beyond the material ones. Games, creative play, laughter, … These are the parts of education that are easily forgotten and yet essential to the development of a well-rounded personality as well as intelligence. This is why we were very happy to invite the CliniClowns to our little school and offer the children a different kind of stimulation. One with a focus on joy.
The children were sitting in a long row at the end of the playground not being sure what they were waiting to happen. They had never started their day like this before and would surely have been in class by now. Slowly in the distance, the sound of giggling and the squeaking of small toys and horns came closer. Then appeared a group of seven clowns dressed in vivid colours and a joyful smile. Some children shared this smile immediately. Others were not yet sure how they were supposed to react.
Initially, the clowns eased into a familiar atmosphere and encouraged the children to join them by playing some simple games. Soon after, they were organised in a big circle in the middle of which each clown would take a moment to introduce themselves and their special skill. Some would juggle, some would play instruments and sing. Others introduced the concept of physical comedy and slapstick, which was one in which the children delighted enormously.
If some of the kids were still unsure of who these weird creatures were, all reservations fell away as soon as they were no longer observing, but participating. In one of the best games that could engage the whole school at once, one of the clowns would hold up a picture of an animal. The children, on mass, were then to mimic this animal by sound and movement. There were roaring lions, soaring birds, and trumpeting elephants. This activity created the relaxed atmosphere that would prove to be fertile ground for a wonderful time of playing and of course, laughing.
The visit was concluded with an exchange of songs. The clowns performed a Dutch song translated into Nepali and then asked if the children would sing a song for them as well. An activity in which they rejoiced. Even some teachers were called to the front of the group to perform some of their favourite songs.
This visit had proven one thing to us, which is that the language of comedy and happiness is a universal one. If you can’t make yourself understood through words, you will through body language. Even if this is difficult to convey, there is nothing as contagious as a smile. The clowns knew how to read the children and knew how to respond to their reactions in order to create the desired results. This is what makes their work so effective in many different cultures and what has brought these children another step closer to making constructive and creative activities part of their everyday lives.
Thank you CliniClowns, for all the joy!