Clownselors help put smiles on ailing children’s faces

Concept of medical clowning considers mental aspects of well-being along with physical recovery; sees happiness as facilitator

November 14, 2018 01:45 am | Updated 11:45 am IST - NEW DELHI

The group interacts with patients of a government hospital for children in Geeta Colony.

The group interacts with patients of a government hospital for children in Geeta Colony.

Medical clowning has been brought alive in Delhi by a group of people who call themselves Clownselors . It is a group of volunteers who go to children’s hospitals, orphanages, mental homes and old age homes, dressed as clowns, to bring happiness.

A sociologist by training, Sheetal Agarwal, started the group with five volunteers in Delhi in 2016. It has now grown to a team of about 150 volunteers who come together on weekends to spread smiles.

“I came across the concept of medical clowning during a visit to Ahmedabad. I found that there was no person or organisation practising it in Delhi and eventually thought of starting my own group of volunteers. We call ourselves Clownselors , as we use the techniques that a clown uses to help people in a therapeutic way,” Ms. Agarwal said.

The group interacts primarily with the patients of Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya, a government hospital for children in Geeta Colony. “We are not theatre artists, but we dress like clowns and entertain these kids using some of the techniques used by theatre clowns like the falling act, playing with balloons and balls,” Ms. Agarwal added.

The practice is basically for paediatric patients, however, they also conduct icebreaker sessions with the hospital staff.

“We meet unresponsive children whose parents tell us that they either have not eaten or have not even smiled for a while. We have been able to make these children respond, which is the best feeling. We get very motivated when the parents talk to us about the impact we were able to make on these children,” said Ekta Sansi, a volunteer at Clownselors.

Medical Clowning is a concept that was first practised by Hunter Doherty Patch Adams. The concept considers mental aspects of well-being along with the physical recovery. It shifts the one-minded attention that today’s medical system has on physical symptoms and considers happiness to be a facilitator in physical recovery.

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