Yes it’s a law in Argentina that Children’s Hospitals must employ clowns. I’m posting here to link the reader to this great article (on the Next City website written by M. Sophia Newman. It’s about the clowns in South America and their impact on public health. What piqued my interest is the point of view offered by Alfonso Silva-Santisteban, a doctor with personal clowning experiences with BolaRoja, the Peruvian hospital clown organization. He talks about the impact of reaching people through a horizontal approach, how to engage with the public where they are at in the moment.
In terms of clowning, you might describe that as a quieter, European approach-improvising injecting humor into what is happening as opposed to a larger than life, loud, potentially obnoxious approach that imposes ones idea of fun, funny animated entertainment approach….not that hospital clowns are always quiet, just that they are very sensitive to what makes sense in their environment at the moment—something truly required in a hospital setting…and a quality that by and large tends to bring deeper laughter to the table.
Here’s a quote from the article:
What does clowning add to the workshops?
The philosophy of clowning or one of the main things you should do when you are clowning is that, first, you are who you are, and you are there to offer what you have. And then you lose fear … of ridicule, and then you always establish a horizontal link to whoever you have in front, right? You always start from where the people [are]. You read your audience. And that is how you engage with a community, especially if they are disenfranchised, especially if you don’t know them, especially if you are foreign and you want to do some work.
So for me, it makes a lot of sense to use those values, besides using them when doing clowning, to use them in the work of public health. One of the things you always see is this kind of vertical, hierarchical imposition, programs that sometimes look like charity, that have very short-minded goals, you know? And then people say, this hasn’t worked as we want it to. In this case, it’s more of a process-type perspective, engaging with people with whom you want to establish common goals. So clowning is a very good facilitator of that type of relationship.