Iftar and Story-telling Evening

We organized a very special Iftar for the wonderful residents, and staff, of the SENSES Center for children with special needs on Sunday, July 20.

The event began with a traditional potluck iftar followed by a performance entitled Arabian Story Hour. The show consisted of comical tales and a new rendition of the classic clown routine Pea Soup performed by Mona, Ray and Omar and directed by Mina.

Everyone had a wonderful time and we thank the many volunteers who donated their time, energy and delicious dishes. In addition, we would like to express our gratitude to Barakat for sponsoring fresh juices and fruit salads.

All the remaining dry food, snacks and juice boxes were left for SENSES Center to use. The extra rice, meat, yogurt and donuts were delivered, and distributed, to a near by Labor Camp in Al Barsha. Many smiles were created that night!

To stay in the loop, please like our page: www.facebook.com/clownswhocare or join our mailing list by sending an email to LOL@dubomedy.com. Regular events will resume in September.

Photos by Abel Fernandes and Ayesha Fernandes. To see the full album click HERE.

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Operation: Joy to Sahab

Operation: Joy to Sahab

Dates: June 19-23
Location: Sahab, Jordan
Clowns Who Care Team: Ali, Sol, Omar, Mai, Hasna, Zayd, Piia, Sara and Mina.
Ground team: Headed by Catherine, Elyssa and Majed.
Amman Volunteers: Olive, Susan, Ollie and others.

Sahab Reflections
By Mina Liccione

My husband, Ali Al Sayed, and I have been wanting to do some work in the Syrian Refugee camps for a while now but the timings never seemed to work out. This year we decided we MUST make it happen. We couldn’t sit back and not help these kids. As comedians, it’s our JOB to bring laughter to the masses…especially those in need. We blocked out calendar days for our mission and no matter what other events came up we politely declined. We decided to name the project “Operation: Joy to Sahab” because it expressed our objective transparently. Our intentions were simple, to bring joy, love, art, hope and support to the families residing in the Sahab Syrian Refugee Camp.

We were told that the camp was a tented community 60 miles north of Amman acting as a home to an estimated 300 Syrian refugee families. Initially we were informed that there were approximately 150 kids but in a few weeks’ time the number jumped to 270+. We were surprised to learn how quickly the number of refugees was growing on a daily basis.

The week prior to our departure was spent finalizing details, redesigning the program to fit the larger number of kids, meeting with our team of volunteers and dividing items for packing. Al Gurg Stationary was generous enough to donate all the art supplies. From markers and pencils to sketch pads and colored paper to glue sticks… and everything in between. We are very grateful for their kindness and support.

In addition, as individuals, we collected monies from friends and family in order to be able to buy much needed supplies for the camp. Our goal was to be able to provide a supply of dates, per family, for the duration of the Holy month of Ramadan as well as distribute fresh fruit, juice and snacks to all of the kids on both activity days. Upon asking Catherine (from the NGO we were in contact with) what else the camp needed, she informed us that baby formula, diapers, vitamin fortified powder milk were at the top of the list. That, in turn, became our focus. One of our volunteers, Mai, was very active in helping find resources in Jordan including a company who agreed to offer baby supplies at cost.

On Thursday, June 19th  our team of 6 adults and 4 youth flew to Amman, Jordan. The first two days were spent shopping for supplies, organizing materials, creating recycled instruments, rehearsing and preparing for our activity days on-site. Then the big day came. It was time to head to the Sahab Camp!

The following morning we packed up three SUV’s and hit the road. A little over an hour later we arrived to the site. The camp was not in good condition. There were some tents made out of old rice bags sewn together and others using trash bags as windows. There was garbage everywhere. You could see the heat rising from the sand. Then a little head appeared. A young boy peaking from behind a thick sheet that was being used as a doorway. He slowly walked outside staring at us as our SUV drove in. I remember wondering if he was going to smile. I waved, and he waved back…. But no smile just yet.

Then we parked the cars and slowly got out. Within moments there were kids walking towards us. Waving. Smiling. Wanting to hold our hands. Their hair was dirty and their little faces were tanned from the sun. Almost cracking. Their eyes penetrated deep as if they could see right through us. They were happy we were there. They knew we were coming. They were curious to see who we were just as we were to meet them. A minute later smiles appeared like a beautiful sunrise. The clapping and cheering was contagious. We knew it was going to be a great day.

Day 1 was scheduled for the girls. Day 2 was scheduled for the boys. Each day we split the kids into groups based upon their ages and had them rotate between creative activities.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Ali and I led the performing arts tent. We danced, played theater games, taught them clown routines, make music out of recycled instruments, sang and of course, LAUGHED! We were thrilled to see how much the kids, girls and boys, loved the workshops. After each game or exercise they would shout “Again! Again!” The beauty of performing arts is that it’s physical which allows them to release stress, relieve anxiety and pent up energy. In addition, it allowed them to just PLAY and be kids! They didn’t want the session to end, nor did our additional volunteers who assisted and joined in.

The Art Tent was led by our dear friend and colleague, Sol. She designed a lesson plan that included three art projects per workshop. Projects included decorating hearts for someone they love, making jewelry and masks out of pipe cleaners, drawings and much more. Additional team members and ground volunteers aided to ensure the kids got more personal attention.

Another important factor was getting to meet the teachers. Two of the regular camp teachers attended all of our workshops. They were able to learn new teaching techniques to hopefully be able to apply to their lessons. The male teacher asked many questions and was very inspired by the lessons. We were happy to be able to leave all the left over art supplies and instruments with them so that they can continue the work started.

We also met a gentleman who lived in the tent right next door to the school we were leading performing arts in. He enjoyed watching all of the classes over the two days we were there. He would come into the tent between classes and bring us a pot of tea. He had such little and yet he insisted he show us hospitality. He had a young baby girl, about one year old. Mashallah she was gorgeous. She smiled, clapped along to the music and desperately wanted to stand on her own two feet. Her father told us that she is the only daughter, of three, who survived. He also told us that she is small for her age because his wife isn’t able to breast feed her. Our hearts grew heavy as we tried not to cry. Her name was Amal, which means ‘hope.’

After the daily workshops were complete we then handed out the food. Handing out food in an organized manner was quite challenging but the ground team has a system in place that we abided by. It could’ve easily became extremely chaotic but we managed to keep the cues in order as if it were an assembly line. Every kid received a banana, juice box and chocolate pie. We were particularly conscious of making sure we gave the kids fresh fruit because that is not something they receive very often as most of their food is dry supplies.

We were all emotional after that first day but also MOTIVATED. Our lessons for the boys were different from the girls so we made sure to take time to switch gears and prepare for our second day. I have to say, the girls had just as much energy as the boys did. Both groups were as aggressive as the other as well. On the flip side, both groups were also very tentative when needed to be and equally loved the creative workshops.

It was extremely difficult to pack up and leave. Ali and I decided after day 1 that we wanted to build a bridge program that allowed us to return on a more regular basis. Not only do we want to keep the arts education growing for the children but we also want to help train their teachers and potentially offer classes for the Moms as well.

On behalf of our entire team, I say that it was truly an honor to get to work with these children and meet these brave men and women. We were deeply moved and will continue to help improve the well being of Syrian refugees. To learn more about how YOU can get involved please visit Mercy Corps’ website: http://www.mercycorps.org/jordan

Images by Omar Al Gurg

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This photo is by: Zayd Lahham

This photo is by: Zayd Lahham

Prayers to Palestine

On Friday, July 11, our co-founder Ali Al Sayed had the great honor of hosting Palestine Children’s Relief Fund’s Annual Fundraising Iftar in Dubai. We have humbly supported PCRF over the years through performing at their Gala and putting together a show for some of the young patients flown in from Palestine to get treatment as well as organized a small ‘comedy for a cause’ benefit show in their honor. Though this weekend’s event, in particular, got us even more emotional and passionate about their organization.

With everything that is happening in Palestine right now we all feel powerless, sad, angry and hurt. We desperately want to help but don’t know how. We pray everyday for the violence to stop. But can we be doing more to help?

For those looking for an organization to support & donate funds to during this terrible time we recommend Palestine Children’s Relief Fund PCRF. They have been around for over 20 years, are completely transparent, have offices and doctors on the ground in Gaza. Our directors, many of our friends and volunteers have personally worked with them. To learn more or to make a donation visit their site: http://www.pcrf.net/

For those who can’t afford to make a donation. You can help spread the word about the TRUTH as well as reputable organizations taking action by means of social media. You can also help organize a fundraising event or campaign in collaboration with PCRF and/or the many other groups with long standing track records.

“It’s not about religon. It’s not about nationality. It’s about HUMANITY.”

PCRF's Fundraining Iftar 2014

PCRF’s Fundraining Iftar 2014