Eid Festival for Laborers

Labor of Love – A play by play

After months of planning, the time had alas come to shake hands with our neighbors and say “Eid Mubarak!” This year we decided that on the first day of Eid we’d celebrate by heading to the Regency Labor Camp in Al Quoz, Dubai to give them a festival to remember!

Our team arrived early that day to start setting up the stage, lights, truss and chairs followed by sound checks and rehearsals for the performers. Despite the fact it’s summer in Dubai, and the event was outdoors, the volunteers plugged away in the heat without skipping a beat!

Once the technical rehearsals were over it was time to load-in the food and beverages. Tables were set up as the volunteers carried in boxes to bring to each station for distribution.

A buzz started to build as Bollywood music played from our speakers and the smell of karak chai and spices spread. Our emcee for the day, Rohit Jayakaran, made an announcement telling the men it was time for the festivities to begin and they started to line up.

Each man went from station to station. The first had fresh juices provided by Barakat – Fresh & Easy. The second stop was samosas and pakoras provided by Dubomedy. The third was yummy sticky rice from Tuwar al Madina Traditional Kitchen ending with karak chai provided by Cha Cha Chai.

After everyone was served and had a chance to eat, we started the show!

The program consisted of a Magic Show by Magicians in Black, a Beatbox set by Richie Lozada Hiranandani, Break Dance by CL Frostyle Trasmaño and crew, Music by Anupam Nair and band, contests and prizes all held together by the funny Rohit Jayakaran.

Everyone’s bellies were filled with great food, laughter and cheer! Being able to give back to these hard working men was a wonderful way to spend Eid!

Special thanks to Etihad Airways for providing two air tickets for two lucky winners to go home and visit! Many thanks to Alcatel Mobile for giving us two smart phones to use as competition giveaways. In addition, gratitude goes to Event Serve for providing 300+ chairs, Al Laith Scaffolding for much needed truss lifts, Stambroz for video, Gavin Allana for photography and all the volunteers for their time and passion! Without all of you this event wouldn’t have been such a success!

If you would like to get involved in further events please join our Volunteers Group. Stay tuned for more photos and footage on our Clowns Who Care main-page.

Eid Mubarak! May the spirit of giving back continue each and every day!

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World Refugee Day 2016

Being there at the camps, with the refugees
Sherouk Zakaria/Dubai

Source: Khaleej Times – June 20, 2016
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A poet once said, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”

Dubai-resident Nawar Ismail, whose name was changed for anonymity, would agree. Her family fled to Turkey in search of a better life when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011. Others remained internally displaced in Syria.

Nawar’s case has proven common as a survey by NRS International recently showed that 1 in 4 people living in the UAE have family or friends affected by a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.

Limited access to water and electricity obstructs communication between Nawar and her relatives.

Despite the hurdles, they still remain grateful for one thing: Survival. “They survived, and that is what matters,” she said.

The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide is approximately 60 million. One in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.

For refugee donation, contact

> Emirates Red Crescent

> Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF)

> Share The Meal initiative by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

 

The good news is, help is coming. The NRS International study showed that 73 per cent of UAE residents contributed to an international humanitarian cause in the past year, while 80 per cent are likely to continue their support in the coming year.

Rabha Saif Alam, Expert at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt, said the attention to refugee crisis “has significantly increased” with the number of conflicts affecting countries around the globe.

She added that a huge number of donations are from the UAE and GCC counties ranging from medicine, food, drugs to building hospitals and camps.

But the best solution, Alam pointed out, is encouraging the United Nations efforts to end conflicts that create crisis in the first place. “We can help, but we cannot solve a problem if we ignore its roots,” she said.
Volunteering tales

“I think I found my life’s passion,” said Dubai-based Deena Stevens of her volunteering experience. The 24-year-old was part of a group who worked on the Greek Island of Lesbos in December 2015. She helped at Stage 1, where they received 15 boats a day, each carrying 60-80 people.

“We never slept. Everyone got stressed and sick.”

But witnessing the death of a woman and her five-year-old child of hypothermia on a windy morning is what broke Stevens.

Volunteers blamed each other, and since Stevens was a graphic designer whose job was to raise awareness about hypothermia, she was not any different.

“I still see them in my dreams. When I walk into a cold air-conditioned building, I shiver as I remember the situation.”

As she came back to the UAE in March, Stevens took it upon herself to spread awareness through giving talks. She said helping refugees find houses instead of the horribly-conditioned tents is their ultimate need.

Currently collaborating with a camp and flying in to shoot documentaries, Stevens noted that getting involved in refugee crises is “addictive. It’s hard to break yourself away from it even when you’re overseas.”
Spread the cheer

Founders of Dubomedy comedy school Mina Liccione and her husband Ali Al Sayed echoed similar sentiments. Their volunteering project, Clowns Who Care, involves collecting needed supplies (blankets, powder milk, soccer balls, art and educational supplies for kids) and travelling to refugee camps in Syria and Jordan where they perform comedy shows and art workshops for a good cause. The couple is going again after Ramadan.

“People lived in tents made of rice bags in a small camp in Jordan,” Liccione said. “Yet, the kids could not stop playing and laughing. Their mothers served us food even when they had nothing.”

Al Sayed added that the lack of water and electricity, living under cracked ceilings that offered no protection during winter, and absence of education to kids were the hardest issues to come across.

“We have to know what they actually need. Ask the organisation you deal with about their needs before you donate,” he said.

While survival is critical in old camps in Jordan, bigger camps that fit thousands of refugees “definitely need access to educational programs,” said Liccione.

She added: “It is the most intense and unforgettable experience one can go through. You never watch the news the same way again because you saw reality.”

Speak trauma

Susan Smith, Mass Communication professor at the American University of Sharjah and cofounder of Speak Trauma, said her team is currently crowdfunding for a documentary and storytelling summer workshop at a school for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Speak Trauma involves helping refugees tell their own stories through documentaries since “talking about pain is the first step toward healing.”

“They need to speak out their own losses and tears instead of the exceptional stories portrayed in the media,” said Smith who will travel to Turkey in summer.

“Let’s reinforce the children because they are the future.”

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

Food Donation Drive for Laborers in honor of Dwayne

Food for the Soul
By Mina Liccione

A few months ago one of my mentors passed away. His name was Dwayne Calizo. He sang like an angel and had a selfless heart of gold. I first met him the day I applied for my Master’s degree program in San Francisco. I felt a bit uncertain walking into the building that day, questioning if it was the right school for me. Then, he just appeared with a huge grin, a sparkle in his eye and a warm hand shake. I instantly knew that someone very special and important to my journey was standing before me so I followed my improv’ training and said “yes, and!”

Without having him as a teacher, guide and mentor I most likely wouldn’t have gotten through those challenging years. He ended up co-directing my first solo show Della Pancia and helped me walk through my fear of singing… an emotional ballad… alone… while portraying a very dramatic role that also required me to cry on stage for the first time! He got me there.

After graduating I continued to work with him on other projects and our friendship continued to grow. One of the shows he produced was called Sunday’s Best. He would invite a number of Bay Area performers to take the stage and the audience could either pay for a ticket or bring 10 bagged lunches. Following the show the performers and audience would hand out the lunches to homeless men and women and then deliver the money to a charity organization/shelter as an anonymous donation.

dwayne

I remember him asking me if I would host a few of these shows. I trusted and believed in his vision and of course accepted. He gave his whole heart to every performance, every student, every friend and every cause he believed in. A true practitioner of art for a cause.

Upon moving to Dubai I founded the Clowns Who Care Project after having deeply rooted seeds planted from Jeff Raz (SFCC Director), Paoli Lacy (Clown Therapist), Big Apple Circus Hospital Care program, my father’s passion for charity that he instilled in his children and Dwayne.

To honor Dwayne, I humbly dedicated a recent Dance Concert that I directed to him. The concert ran two nights in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. One of the pieces, entitled Scars (ant-bullying dance for hope), was the one I knew he’d love the most. Why? Because the central topics were racism and bullying sparked by the Chapel Hill shootings and the raise in suicide rates in youth due to bullying. Dwayne always supported the outsiders, the hurt souls, the ones needing to develop… a voice.

To continue his love for charity and giving back, I also wanted to do something special for him this Ramadan. For those who may not know what Ramadan is, it’s a holy month observed by Muslims through fasting, prayer, charity, kindness and reflection.

Ramadan is always a beautiful time of giving and many people of lesser means across the world are fed a daily donated iftar. Iftar is the meal eaten by Muslims after breaking their fast at sunset during Ramadan.

In an effort to keep Ramadan’s intentions going in coming months we are collecting non-perishable food items to distribute to labor camps. I know Dwayne would love this.

Items needed:

+ Rice bags
+ Dates
+ Cooking oil/vegetable oil
+ Bombay Mix
+ Soda: cans of Coke, Pepsi, Mirinda, 7Up
+ Indian or Pakistani pickles
+ Juice boxes
+ Chips: Box of individually wrapped bags
+ Dried pulses: chick peas, dal, beans etc.
+ Mixed nuts/peanuts
+ Tea
+ Powdered Milk
+ Spices: turmeric, chili, black pepper, curry, salt, cardamom, cloves etc.
+ Flour
+ Sugar
+ Additional non-perishable items such as canned food, noodles, soups…

For those in the UAE wishing to take part in the food drive, items can be dropped off at 1 Lake Plaza – Office1407, Cluster T in Jumeriah Lake Towers Sunday, July 12 – Thursday, July 17 from 12:00 pm- 5:30 pm. For evening timings please email us at LOL@Dubomedy.com.

May you rest in peace Dwayne. Thank you for the inspiration and believing in me even when I didn’t.

camp 5

CWC Party Xtravaganza

Everyone left happier
By Mina Liccione

On April 28, 2014 we organized our first annual Clowns Who Care Party Xtravaganza. We knew it was going to be fun but had no idea just how MUCH fun! The party was set to start at 2:00 pm and at 1:33 pm entered a big group children with special needs and their families. In this day and age of “fashionably late” it was much more fashionable to be early! Mashallah these families were in need of a good laugh.

Fifteen minutes later a bus arrived with another big group of guests. Ten minutes later another wave came in. Hundreds of guests came all dressed up and ready to party.

Upon their arrival our “hello team” instantly greeted everyone, gave them a gift bag and made sure to make them smile. When they entered the room they were surprised with a number of activities including balloon twisters, a craft table where they could make their own hand-held clown puppet and a photo booth prepped with all kinds of funny props.

Then came lunch. TIME Hotel not only sponsored the venue but were kind enough to also provide an array of finger-foods, beverages and desserts that kept coming! In addition, Barakat sponsored fresh fruit juices and our friend Yasemin brought many boxes of donuts for all to enjoy.

Once their bellies were full of food they were ready for some entertainment. I don’t think they were expecting a full show but boy did we give them one! The show comprised of a number of diverse dance numbers, live music, improv comedy, stand-up and a very special performance by our new friend James.

James sent us a message saying:

“hi are you still looking for performances for Friday I have special needs but I don’t let that stop me from singing its my pation!!!” 

How could we not say YES?! James took the stage and sang his heart out as did our other friend, young Ali, whom has down’s syndrome. The crowd went wild with cheer and inspiration.

The Xtravaganza concluded with a dance party. Stress was relieved, spirits were raised, calories were burned, hearts were filled. I have said it before and I will say it again. If you haven’t partied with kids with special needs you haven’t really partied. AND if you haven’t been hugged by a person with special needs, you are truly missing out! The unconditional love, gratitude, honesty and PURITY of the soul is unlike anything else.

I would like to personally thank a lot of people who made this party not only happen but a HUGE success. Thank you to our core CWC team Ayesha, Abel and Ali for your endless support and tireless hard work. Thank you Meena and Gulshan of SFS group for spreading the word and inspiring me everyday. Thank you TIME Hotels for your massive generosity in sponsoring the venue, food and helping us with transportation for the families in Ajman and Sharjah. Your entire team were nothing but kind and helpful. Thank you Action Care for leading such a wonderful craft table. Thank you Slava Noor and the UAE Goodwill Photographers for capturing such precious memories. Thank you to all the performers who rocked the stage! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show. Thank you to the volunteers who came early to help set-up, put up decorations and later played with and helped the kids to ensure they all had a fantastic experience. Thank you to my AUS students who jumped on board and took on any task that was asked of them with a huge smile, including twisting balloons!

My heart is still extremely humbled by the joy that filled the hall. I learned one important lesson, that these types of events need to happen MORE OFTEN. There are a number of smaller circles but not enough times when all the different UAE groups can come together and celebrate, make new friends, get support and simply LAUGH! We have decided to try and make the Xtravaganza a bi-annual event, rather than annual, in hopes of keeping the waterfall flowing and bridging those gaps.

If you would like to get involved, let us know! Like our page http://www.facebook.com/clownswhocare and send us a message of interest. We have a few more events happening between now and summer as well as our on-going monthly “Catch A Smile” Day where people from around the world perform random acts of kindness in hopes of inspiring others to do the same and creating a ripple effect of kindness.

Photo credit: Ayesha Fernandes, CWC Project Manager

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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.