The Clowns Who Care Project
The “Clowns Who Care” Project is a volunteer initiative whose sole purpose is to bring joy, love, light, awareness and support to centers for children and adults with special needs, senior centers, charity organisations and hospitals.
Back in 2002 I was awarded a scholarship to attend the Clown Conservatory of San Francisco and as part of the certified program we studied clown therapy and produced a full clowning in community tour of centers for children and adults with special needs, hospitals and senior homes. I immediately knew that I wanted to continue this type of work no matter where my life took me.
Then one day, while in New York, I went to visit my great Aunt Joan at the senior center she was residing in and was so deeply saddened by the loneliness I saw and felt in most of the residents that I wanted to help cheer them up, bring love and light to them for the holidays.
I went home and started working on a character geared towards seniors with new songs, jokes, choreography and comedy segments that they would appreciate. That one show turned into a tour of almost 20 Senior Centers in New York State. It was the most meaningful time of my life.
Upon moving to Dubai I knew I wanted to continue this work.
I launched Dubomedy Arts on April 1, 2008 and quickly partnered with the man who would become my husband, Ali Al Sayed.
Once the comedy school and local creative platform started running I told him about the clowning in community outreach I had done previously and he agreed that we should continue it in the UAE. We called it The Clowns Who Care Project.
As there aren’t many senior centers here we began to focus more on children and young adults, especially those with special needs.
Over the past five years we have visited, performed and lead workshops at Senses Residential and Day Care for Special Needs, the Dubai Autism Center, the Al Noor Center, Mawaheb for Beautiful People Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Events, Special Families Support’ Group events and the Abu Dhabi Hospital.
We also provide free professional entertainment, produce events in support of and help create awareness for numerous charities, including our first annual Funny Girls Go Pink, all female stand-up comedy show, in support of breast cancer awareness, which was held on October 29, 2012.
We have a number of upcoming events and visits lined up including a trip to Uganda at the beginning of April, where we will perform and lead workshops for the children residing in the Live It Up! Orphanage for rescued children. Our intention is to not only perform and celebrate their anniversary, but also to train them as well as their teachers and leave circus equipment and comedy lesson plans so that they can continue the work we started.
People often ask me what happens during one of our visits to a center.
Our visits consist of a performance, a group activity and individual attention. The performance allows the residents to laugh, de-stress and feel comfortable around us.
Following the performance is a physical group activity, such as a dance, music or a workshop where we teach things like comedy or circus skills.
This portion is crucial because it acts as physical exercise, which increases circulation and decreases tension. Sweating also release toxins as the brain releases endorphins, which fight depression. Also, learning a new skill boosts confidence.
The last stage of the visit is one-on-one interaction. This is important in helping with their social skills.
We ask each of them to tell us a story or teach us a joke or skill they have. Being able to teach another person increases their self-esteem and they in-turn realise they have something to teach and offer others.
We believe in tiny miracles and that simply listening and playing without judgment is crucial.