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Healing Delhi with humour: Medical 'clownselors' bring smiles to pediatric patients

Clownseling, a brainchild of Sheetal Agarwal, is a blend of clown and counselling, in which volunteers dress up as clowns and visit children hospitals

October 02, 2022 05:56 pm | Updated 05:56 pm IST - New Delhi

Clownselors is the brainchild of Sheetal Agarwal, a native of Hisar in Haryana, who started medical clowning in July 2016 in the national capital.

Clownselors is the brainchild of Sheetal Agarwal, a native of Hisar in Haryana, who started medical clowning in July 2016 in the national capital. | Photo Credit: Facebook/@HumansOfBombay

Singing rhymes and dancing, they walk through the wards of a children's hospital in the national capital every week, while patients, their parents and caregivers cheer and clap.

They are the 'medical clownselors', a group of volunteers who dress up as clowns, and they visit the wards of Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya in Geeta Colony in east Delhi every Saturday.

Coming from different walks of life, they make all-out efforts to spread joy in the pensive and at times intimidating environs of the hospital.

They call themselves 'medical clownselors', a blend of clown and counsellor.

They come to this pediatric hospital on Saturdays and engage with ailing kids, their loved ones and nursing staff through their humourous acts.

Clownselors is the brainchild of Sheetal Agarwal, a native of Hisar in Haryana, who started medical clowning in July 2016 in the national capital.

"My obsession with smiles led me on this journey. I met Dhara in Ahmedabad in one of the retreats where she introduced herself as a medical clown. I was intrigued, came back and searched for what is it.

"I found the whole concept fascinating and wanted to experience the joy of sharing smiles with the ones who need it the most. No one was doing this in Delhi and I really wanted to. That's how Clownselors Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation) was born," Agarwal told PTI.

We were lucky to start our work with Delhi's Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya as it is a hospital for children.

"Since the first clowning, we have had experiences where parents shed tears of happiness seeing their child smile or eat after many days. The response has been overwhelming," said Agarwal.

Clownselors visit hospitals, old-age homes, schools and corporate offices for stress management.

"When we make children laugh with our funny acts, it helps in increasing their immunity as well," said Abhishek Bansal, who works with a private firm in Noida and engages in medical clowning at the hospital on Saturdays.

Echoing similar views, Komal Touranni, a Delhi University student and a mediclowner, said medical clowning also acts as a distraction therapy for patients.

Medical clowning bridges the gap between providing care for physical health and mental health in hospital settings, according to the clownselors.

Not just for the kids being treated in the hospital, but for their guardians and nursing staff, medical clowning comes as a huge relief as it helps in reducing stress and anxiety, Sarthak Gandhi, another mediclowner, noted.

"It feels good to watch them (clownselors) perform," said Ms. Anita, a patient's mother.

It helps lighten the mood as people are generally in stress in hospital, she added.

"These volunteers come to this hospital every Saturday and make people laugh by their act," Gurjeet, a nurse at the hospital, said.

Another medical clowner Simran Juneja expressed happiness in being part of this initiative.

"I have been a clownselor for the past over three years. I find that this therapy seems to be working on the patients," Ms. Juneja said.

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