Clowning the blues away!

A dose of laughterThe Humanitarian Clowns Abroad helped bring out a chuckle or two from the ailing children at CMC Vellore here on Wednesday— Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan

A dose of laughterThe Humanitarian Clowns Abroad helped bring out a chuckle or two from the ailing children at CMC Vellore here on Wednesday— Photo: D. Gopalakrishnan  

A child in the burns ward in the Christian Medical College Hospital here, who was suffering from pain when the nurse was attending to him, suddenly became calm, and cooperated with the nurse who was applying medicine on the injured part of the body.

The magic was the result of the laughter therapy given by a group of humanitarian clowns belonging to Humanitarian Clowns Abroad, who visited the ward as part of their month-long programme in and around Vellore, commencing on Wednesday. The programme involves interacting with patients, especially children in hospitals, and alleviating their pain and suffering through their humour therapy, visits to children’s homes and schools, and giving awareness talks on themes like education and health.

In the evening, the group numbering about 15 from Australia, Spain, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden and India visited the Rehabilitation Institute of the CMC in Bagayam here and entertained the patients. The sombre faces of the children in the paediatric ward of the Rehab Institute lit up as Tim Webster, social clown from Australia, wearing colourful dresses and a red nose entered the ward and entertained the kids. The patients in the occupational therapy ward of the institute were in for a pleasant surprise when a group of clowns in colourful and funny clothes entered the ward, danced and made humorous gestures with the patients.

Thirty-one-year-old Mr. Tim, who started the Humanitarian Clowns Abroad in Australia early this year, said that he got the motivation to start the organisation from his childhood experience of suffering from leukaemia, at the age of two. Though he was cured at the age of five, thanks to chemotherapy at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, he was struck by the fact that the mental agony of the patients was more because of the sombre atmosphere prevailing in the ward and the lack of any form of entertainment to them. It was Patch Adams, a clown-doctor (a medical doctor acting as a clown to entertain the patients) who started using laughter therapy and humour not only to alleviate the pain of the patients in the hospitals, but also to relieve the pain and suffering in the community in general.

“Today there are 70 countries using clowns in hospitals to provide the much needed mental relief to the patients”, said Mr. Tim.

George Tharyon, Professor and Head of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, CMC said that this is the first time that the CMC is having such humanitarian clowns to entertain the patients. “At a time when patients were expecting doctors and injections in the ward, the entry of the clowns and their performance was certainly a thrilling experience to them”, he said.

Emma Koshy, Project Director, Seb’s Project-India, Vellore which organised the programme for the Humanitarian Clowns Abroad, said that four Indian clowns, comprising three from Tamil Nadu and one from Kerala, were trained by the Humanitarian Clowns from Abroad in Vellore for the last two days, so that the local clowns could visit hospitals periodically to entertain the patients.

Santhosh, a mechanical engineer from Kerala, who clowned along with the visiting foreign clowns at the CMC, said that he could see that the sight of new colours brought smiles on the faces of the patients in an otherwise melancholic environment. M. Lenin, a postgraduate in social work from Chennai, said that the experience of clowning suited his humorous temperament. “This training programme will certainly help me learn about professional clowning”, he said.

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