Catch A Smile : Ramadan Acts of Kindness

Catch A Smile is an on-going campaign to perform random acts of kindness or “small gestures with great love” and brighten up the days of others. Public restroom attendants often go unnoticed and have a very difficult job.This Ramadan we would like to acknowledge, and thank, these hard working men and women by creating care-packages and passing them out. Smiles are contagious…let’s make sure they catch one!

How can you volunteer?

1- SIGN-UP! In a comment, on our Event Page, please sign-up for a Mall or Shopping Center in your area and clarify whether you’ll be taking on women’s or men’s rooms in the event we overlap.

2- CREATE! Make care-packages or gift bags. (see ideas below)

3- SURPRISE! Deliver them to the Mall/Shopping Center restrooms anytime between June 17-19.

4- INFORM! Let the group know your mission was accomplished by posting a comment on the Event Page!

5- ENCOURAGE! Try and get your friends and family involved in the project. Having male/female teams is helpful as you can do a lot in one Mall visit.

Note: Please do NOT take photos of the bathroom attendees and post them.

What are some ideas on things to put in the care-package?

Dates, snacks, chocolate, perfume/oils, dried food products, spices, health and beauty products, calling cards, dental care supplies, clothing items, towel, sun glasses, accessories, small stuffed animals. Be creative between mixing practical with fun.

gift bags

Catch a smile, not a cold

Catch a smile, not a cold
By Mina Liccione

This month we decided to do something a bit different for Catch A Smile Day!

I posted this message on my personal profile and was thrilled to receive a bunch of nominations.

Gooooood morning! Last week I was given a voucher for a manicure & pedicure at a really nice nail salon as well as a Glambox. It was such a nice gesture from the event organizer. When I got home I thought to myself “I have so much and am so blessed. I would rather give these gifts to a woman who could really use a smile.” Then I took the idea a step further. This month’s “Catch A Smile” – Random Acts of Kindness around the World Day is May 21 and the suggestion is to do something kind “for those who help others for a living.” I would like to put together awesome care-packages for some people and need your help. Can you please nominate women and men, in the Dubai area, whom work really hard to to take care of others and could use some cheering, appreciation and a surprise gift basket delivered to them? Please send your nomination including their name and why you think they deserve it to our Clowns Who Care Project Inbox or LOL@dubomedy.com. Thanks!!!

Twelve women were nominated by the public. Their stories ranged from dedicated pre-school teachers to a Greek humanitarian to a school teacher whose husband recently passed away to a female security guard who often goes unnoticed to a hardworking nurse who literally helps save lives for a living. We were very touched by all of the nominations and were honored to be able to bring a smile to their faces. Our gesture was very humble but you could tell it was greatly appreciated.

To round things out, and include men, we also surprised some members of the cleaning crew who work on the American University of Sharjah Campus and later headed to a small shopping center to hand out vouchers to hard working employees there.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate as well as those who nominated such deserving women. In addition we would like to extend our gratitude to Omar Al Gurg and Rabee Morra who helped us with our deliveries. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Once our hearts and eyes are wide open to kindness, you will see opportunities to help those in need on a regular basis. It doesn’t take much time or money, just the desire to spread some joy. Won’t you join the movement?

We love hearing your Catch A Smile stories! Here are a few we received this month to inspire and encourage you.

Lakshya Yoga ‘s Act of Kindness of this month: free yoga session for 60+ labourers!”

“My mother and I decided to prepare lunch meals for the staff of the store in our building. They always deliver to us, we thought we would deliver to them this time!”

The next Catch A Smile Day is scheduled for Wed, June 25. If you have an idea for June’s “good deed suggestion” let us know! For more information, click here: https://www.facebook.com/events/423899291049875/ 

Lakshya Yoga 's Act of Kindness of this month: free yoga session for 60+ labourers!

Lakshya Yoga ‘s Act of Kindness of this month: free yoga session for 60+ labourers!

Special delivery time!

Special delivery time!

Ode to female bathroom attendants

A humble ode to female bathroom attendants
By Mina Liccione 

Every month we randomly pick a day then offer a ‘good deed’ assignment that is meant to take place, around the world, on that same day to help create strong positive vibrations throughout the planet. Our year long campaign is called “Catch A Smile” and it encourages everyone to perform at least one random act of kindness each month. In many cases, those who receive a kind gesture will then pay it forward thus creating a waterfall effect of joy, kindness and generosity.

For the month of January we decided to keep the ‘good deed’ open labeling it “new year, new outlook.” Its intention was to push ourselves to the next level of awareness. Once we choose to see opportunities to help those in need it is difficult to not notice them. With this is mind, I went to the mall to watch a movie. Afterwards I went to the washroom and saw the female attendant looking very down and lonely. I spoke with her briefly and upon exiting said to myself “this is who I would like to make smile this month.”

CWC co-ordinator, Ayesha, and I proceeded to push the idea forward. We created hand-made cards, sorted out gifts for each of the female attendants as well as packed chocolate bars for male attendants we spotted in the hallway outside the washrooms. We chose two malls, Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Marina Mall, and went on a field trip to each washroom.

I slowly approached the first woman and said “Excuse me. We know you have a very hard job. We just wanted to say thank you and we hope you have a good day” while handing her a super soft and cuddly stuffed animal with a thank you note. Most of the women were genuinely stunned for the first three seconds then presented us with a huge smile. One woman was very excited and kept saying ‘thank you, thank you…may God bless you.” We were able to spot male attendants and they were very happy to receive sweets.

It was an extremely humbling experience for Ayesha and I. The smiles those women gave us were so genuine and beautiful….. and all we did was take a moment of our time to appreciate them. “Small gestures with great love” is the campaign’s motto. If you make a sincere offering or throw your smile, someone will catch it and hold it tight. I can only imagine what it must be like working in a bathroom, breathing that stale air all while cleaning up after people for 8 hours a day. I hope and pray that we all take a minute to acknowledge and converse with these women from now on. I certainly will.

Our next global “Catch A Smile” Day with be on Tuesday, February 25. Please join the movement and invite your family and friends to participate. Take one step closer to being the change you wish to see in this world. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/423899291049875/

Step 1 :: Making cards Step 2 :: Gathering gifts

Step 1 :: Making cards
Step 2 :: Gathering gifts

Step 3 :: Delivery time! Every womens bathroom in MOE and Marina Mall as well as the male attendants we spotted.

Step 3 :: Delivery time! Every womens bathroom in MOE and Marina Mall as well as the male attendants we spotted.

Friday Magazine Feature

 

The children clapped with glee as
the clowns performed their stream of comical antics, transforming the common room in Dubai’s Al Noor Training Centre for Special Needs into a haven of joy and laughter, its walls positively filled with the sounds of innocent joy.

As she moved around the room, every ridiculous movement purposeful, Mina Liccione peered out from her oversized glasses and cascading wig to take in the room. Through the use of nothing but raw talent and a little donated time, she had transformed an ordinary moment in the lives of the often-isolated into a joyous one. It was moments like this that confirmed she had taken the right path in life; the one that allowed her to use her abundant talent to put a smile on the most desolate of faces. For, from the start, she’s always believed that “laughter is the best medicine”.

Italian-American Mina, whose favourite
act is one she calls the ‘Audrey Hepburn move’ – is the co-founder of Dubomedy, an umbrella group of Dubai-based performance artists. Her partner, both professionally and by marriage, is Emirati Ali Al Sayed and together they formed the comedy collective in 2008. Since then they have successfully launched, among other things, the Comedy and Urban Arts School in the Middle East; the Dubai International Comedy Carnival; Funny Girls; and the much-loved Clowns Who Care project (CWC).

The CWC voluntary scheme, a niche charitable entertainment venture that brings laughter, smiles and comedy to those who most need it, was born from Mina’s past work across hospitals, homes for the elderly and paediatric wards of New York.

Although having performed since the tender age of three, Mina’s calling to use art for good happened in 2001 when she was spotted in the musical Stomp in San Francisco. As the lead comedic role she was approached after the performance by one of her idols, the legendary Cirque de Soleil clown and actor, Jeff Raz. The man noted for advancing the renaissance of American circus suggested that Mina study at the Clown Conservatory, a leading circus school in the US. Offered a scholarship, Mina jumped at the chance and soon found herself attending circus and clown school by day while performing by night.

Part of the programme involved clowning in hospitals, special needs schools and in community centres – Mina’s first exposure to using comedic talent to help those in pain. “All my life until that point I had done comedy because I loved it and loved hearing people laugh,” she says. “But suddenly I realised as an artist you have a much more important responsibility, especially if you’re a comedian. At the end of the day it’s not about making money, or your ego, it’s the exact opposite, it’s about making somebody in pain smile. That’s why I’m a comedian.”

After finishing the course at the Clown Conservatory Mina, who also holds a BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College, an MFA in Experimental Performance Studies and Composition from the New College of California, worked as its dance teacher and choreographer. She also continued to hone her talent at helping people smile through challenging circumstances.

The 30-something-year-old, who this year was named first runner-up in Philly Arabia’s Most Inspiring Woman in the GCC award, was then offered a chance to move to Dubai early in 2008. She says that before leaving, she spent some time in New York City with her family including her great aunt, who was in a nursing home. “Visiting her was one of my saddest moments. Many patients at the nursing home were lonely and I knew I had to do something to change that.”

So during Christmas 2007, a time when
Mina felt patients would be at their loneliest, she decided to create a show, not only for her great aunt’s residential home but for 20 other senior citizen centres in the city.

The voluntary tour aimed to give the old and often-alone residents a moment to forget their circumstances and to laugh.

“I started writing jokes and tap dance routines,” she remembers. “The older generations really appreciate dance.
I modelled it after a talk show, with Audrey Heartburn as the host. I included an exercise segment so it wasn’t just entertainment. They loved it and after the show we would always stay and have one-on-one time with them, visit their rooms – just make sure they were heard.”

A meeting of minds in Dubai

When Mina arrived in Dubai early in 2008 much of her time was spent overcoming the daily hurdles of attempting to set up the country’s first local comedy community. “It was challenging,” she says, “because comedy is known to be vulgar, dirty and male orientated. It took time for people to understand that I wanted to do [clean] comedy and that it could be funny without being vulgar.”

Her struggle was eased to some extent just four months after arriving in the country. A chance encounter with a man who shared the same vision for a comedy community within the emirates meant the two could join forces to edge the country into position as a frontrunner in regional comedy. “The two of us together was such a great balance,” she says of herself, the expat woman, and her future husband Ali Al Sayed, the Emirati man. “It was exactly what
we were trying to achieve, our goal together was to bridge the gap and use comedy to bring
people of different religions and financial means together.”

With resounding success the couple have been tantamount in the comedy boom that has taken place in the UAE over the past few years and that achievement enabled them to turn their attention to art for a cause. Drawing on her previous experience in clowning in the community in the US, the pair decided to form the CWC. Initially they concentrated on sectors of the community they felt had the most need and were accessible.

Mina says, “It was very evident that there were many centres for children with special needs, and support groups, so we reached out to them.” Over the past five years CWC has visited, performed and led workshops at a host of centres for children and young adults, especially those with special needs.

Their primary focus to begin with was Dubai’s Al Noor Centre; Senses Residential and Day Care for Special Needs; Mawaheb from Beautiful People, and the Dubai Autism Centre where, with a group of volunteers, they began visits putting on comedic performances, actively engaging the children and spending one-on-one time with each individual.

“We build a relationship with them and we see progress,” Mina explains. “We use a three-step process. The first step involves us performing for them so they can laugh at us and feel comfortable. The second step is a workshop, where we teach things like comedy or circus skills. Often they don’t think they will be able to manage the task, but they do, and that gives them enormous confidence. The third step is individual interaction; I learnt from the beginning that this third part is a stage that really works.”

This last step involves developing social skills and the children are asked to tell a story or a joke or demonstrate a skill they have without fear of judgement or criticism. The technique boosts confidence as when children are the ones doing the teaching they realise they also have the power to offer something to others.

Branching out

With the tag line “Art for a cause, not applause. Using laughter as a tool to heal,” the CWC has successfully branched out from centre visits to providing professional entertainment, technical and marketing support for fundraisers while also holding special events in support of humanitarian projects. “We don’t touch money,” Mina explains, “but we use our talent at fundraisers. We donate our time, our services, entertainment… and we help to market charitable events.”

This summer they took the CWC project even further, with their inaugural Clowns Who Care Arts Camp. In July, over a week, a group of volunteers visited the Live It Up! home for rescued children in Uganda, an orphanage that was set up by the Dubai branch of the US-based charity Live It Up Foundation. The 26 children in the home had been found living in one tiny room with a 72-year-old woman they affectionately called Jaja (grandmother) who had taken them in off the streets despite having no money to look after herself.

The foundation placed all the children into temporary accommodation while raising enough money via a series of small events and fundraisers to move them into a new purpose-built orphanage. When CWC asked what they could do to help, the orphanage said they could provide some entertainment over the summer when the children were prone to becoming a
little bored.

CWC designed a project that involved seven core artistic elements – dance, drama, circus skills, visual arts, comedy, rhythm and voice. “It was so appreciated and so rewarding,” Mina says. “Some of the kids at the beginning of the week wouldn’t participate or speak at all, but by the end they were fully involved in a performance. We were so proud of them.”

Branching out to other countries in order to help those in need is something that the CWC envisages doing more of. A return trip to Uganda is planned for next year, but as well as visiting Live it Up!, the intention is to include other communities that are in dire need of assistance. “We want to reach out to kids who haven’t been rescued,” Mina says. “We will always go and visit the Live It Up! kids, but we also want to visit small orphanages surviving with no support and relief centres where people in the slums go to get food.”

“We can’t move a mountain,” Mina says, “but we can do a little bit. We’ve seen what we did in Africa, just putting on a show lets them forget, lets them be kids. We get feedback from the special needs centres here that after we leave the kids laugh for a whole day, so if that’s the response and we can make children smile, then let’s do it.”

Making a Difference

Who: Mina Liccione and Ali Al Sayed
What: Clowns Who Care project
Where: UAE, USA and Uganda
How: A voluntary initiative that works towards putting a smile on the faces of young and old, especially those who have special needs

– See more at: http://fridaymagazine.ae/making-difference/meet-the-uae-s-comedy-crusaders-1.1256412?anchor=poll#sthash.9WqdgOgc.dpuf

Catch A Smile October: Stories of inspiration

Sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who took time to perform a random act of kindness as part of our first “Catch A Smile” day. We received tons of messages and emails reporting good deeds and joy that was spread on October 23. Each and every one of you has inspired us greatly and we wanted to share some of the stories with you.

Our next “Catch A Smile” day will be Tuesday, November 26. This date is very close to the USA Thanksgiving so we can start the spirit of giving early this year! The good deed of the month will be to PERFORM A RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR… whether it be your next door neighbor, someone in your neighborhood, someone who works at the store close to your home, same office building…. anyone “near by”. Sometimes we are physically very close to people yet mentally very distant. Let’s bring some happiness to our neighborhoods and place of work  Please click “attending” (https://www.facebook.com/events/423899291049875/) and invite your friends to join in the “small acts with great love” movement! Together, we can help make this world a happier and more joyous place simple because its the right thing to do.

Just a few of the random acts of kindness performed….

From Peter in Colorado, USA:

I just added quarters to all the parking meters! No parking tickets today!

From Ellen in England:

I was driving pretty much all day on 23rd (up and down a couple of loooooooong motorways) and I stopped for a quick Costa at a service station. It struck me how a) YOUNG the serving team were and then b) how rammed and harrassed they looked too. Till roll running out, a never ending queue and complicated orders etc.

When it got to my turn, the girl apologised for the wait and asked for my order. I paused, smiled at her and said ‘pretty hectic today for you guys, huh?’ She smiled back an nodded emphatically “YES – it has been busier but it’s pretty hectic.”

“Well you’re doing an awesome job. You can take your time with my order too, I’m in no rush – a soya, decaf latte please.”

The relief on her face was perfect. I could see the calmness take over her as she ‘relaxed’ a little with my order, lovingly preparing my latte. She thanked me and we parted ways.

I hope that brief ‘ease up’ helped her day.

Looking forward to next month…!

From Tony and Patty in Upstate New York:

Momma Patty helped one of her clients whose husband is very ill. Their washing machine was broken down and she took their clothes home and did the washing and drying.

From Megan in the Middle East:

I had a very busy day as I was in the middle of my move from house to house. We went to the mall for take-out and I bought a candy rose and gave it to a lady sitting on a bench. She looked at me like I was mad but I just smiled and walked on. Later, when I was finished my groceries I saw her sitting there still looking at it in astonishment, trying to understand how come it landed up in her hands.

From Sheryl in Illinois, USA:

What a joy to participate in the Catch A Smile campaign. A group of 14 diners *(plus myself)* met for dinner this evening… I had asked the manager to simply let everyone in our party believe they were getting their own checks, but to have the total tallied and I would cover the gathering. Funny, while they had gone out for a smoke I wrapped up the bill, and when the group returned to our table they stood around chatting for the longest time. Finally, one of the group asked our waiter to please bring their checks so they could leave. I loved the look on their faces when the waiter announced that their bills had been paid in full. Joy, joy, joy! Love, love, love! Thank you for initiating the opportunity to bless others, Mina Liccione. Love and admire you!!!

 From Layal in the UAE:

Surprised our receptionist with a banana cake that says thanks for dealing with us!

 From Ayesha in Dubai:

Saw this RTA inspector about to give a car a fine, quickly ran over and said it was my car and told him “I am gonna pay for it.” He smiled and walked away & I paid for the parking. LOL hope the car owner wakes up on time in the morning! I left him a note telling him about Catch A Smile and that he should join us!

From Leila in Abu Dhabi:

This morning I sent a flower bouquet with a nice note to an old woman who lives in our building.

From Nico in Greece:

Today I bought a homeless man lunch and he enjoyed it!

From Mina in Sharjah:

Today I was teaching at AUS so I had to plan my random acts of kindness around campus. A student inspired the first act- leaving dirhams on a few different vending machines in the Arts & Science buildings with post-its saying “have a snack on us!” or “free water! take a dirham and enjoy” LOL!

The second act was geared towards a specific group of employees who work at the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus. I don’t know them but I see them every now and then when I enter the student center. Every time I have seen them there is a lonnnng line and they are working hard to move fast and get the orders right all with a smile. Today, I thought it would be nice to gift them some sweets & a container of chocolates and let them know they are appreciated. They were pretty surprised at first but then very happy.

From Jose in Mexico City:

My sister and I cooked lots of food for the homeless men on the main street. We brought trays of food with plates for them to have.

From Safwan in the UAE:

I was watching the #Milan_Barca match and having some sheesha with the guys. So what I did was I paid for the table next to us, and asked the cashier to call me later and tell me about their reaction. He just did a while ago, and – according to him – they were surprised and insisted to know who did it and why, because – according to them – it is not something that happens every day. But they were happy about it .

I told my friends about this event, and they’ll all try to do something.

From Mitali in India:

So I blessed my pregnant neighbour with a glass of apple milkshake. Does this count as an act of kindness as she ain’t a stranger to me? I hope so. And this is just the beginning. Many more acts of random kindness to follow esp with strangers

From Kat in California, USA:

I was inspired by this today! We went to a pumpkin patch that just opened today. There was another group of people there that wanted to go into the corn maze ($5 each) but nobody had cash and the onsite ATM didn’t work yet. The place was not equipped yet to take credit/ debit cards yet either. Anyway, the group was preparing to leave so i paid for them to do the corn maze. They were completely surprised and grateful.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to tell them about this event! I wish that I had. Next time!

From Hanan on a train:

MY random act of kindness took place ont he train. This lady was standing up and I just got up and let her sit down. The lady looked confused and rather shocked and then was like : Thank you….! and I just smiled at her. It feels good to do things like this. We should do it every day rather than just one.