Spreading joy through medical clowning

Clown care or hospital clowning is a therapy involving visits by specially trained clowns to help lift patients’ moods with a positive power of hope and humour. ­Additionally, the sessions also lift up the spirits of the staff and the patients’ family. ‘Clown doctors’ attend specifically to the psycho-social needs of the hospitalised, using techniques such as music, storytelling, magic, and other clowning skills. The objective is to distract the patient from pain and frightening medical procedures, anxiety, loneliness and boredom.

Rotaractors donning the role of ‘clown doctors’ visit an old age home.

Rotaract Club of Spohia College for Women, Mumbai, RID 3141, ­organised a medical clowning programme, in association with Clownselors, a Delhi-based non-profit organisation. A team of seven Rotaractors, led by community service directors Mariam Mapari and Shannon Monteiro, and guided by three clown doctors and the organisation’s founder Sheetal Agarwal, visited four venues —
Radhika Old Age Home, Saddhaai Hospital, DG Special School and Kumbharpada — over four days.

A Rotaractor helps a child solve a crossword puzzle, as part of the event ‘Shiksha’.

Dressed as jesters, the team engaged the elderly at the Radhika Old Age Home in Bhayandar, ­Mumbai, with nursery rhymes and interactive activities, bringing smiles on their wrinkled faces. Despite hearing heartrending stories, the team maintained high spirits, playing games, and dancing with the residents. A tea break offered a chance to connect with those with limited mobility. The event concluded with the elderly expressing appreciation and gifting roses, leaving the team deeply moved.

At the second location, Siddhaai Hospital, Virar, the team extended joy to all individual admitted, regardless of age. At the DC ­Special School, Virar, “we had some touching moments interacting with students with disabilities,” says club president Maryam Aarbi. At the next venue — Khumparpada in Virar —  the Rotaractors and the clown doctors walked through the streets, lifting the spirits of the local community.

Beyond spreading joy, the laughter therapy activities have tangible health benefits, contributing to the regulation of blood pressure, reduction in sugar levels, and alleviation of stress. The physical movements involved in these activities promote body fitness, showcasing a holistic approach to wellbeing.

‘Clown doctors’ entertaining an elderly person.

Says Maryam: “The project left a profound impact on all of us. It made us aware about various social, economic and mental issues. We realised how blessed we are to be able to enjoy good physical and mental health. The experience instilled in all of us a commitment to uplift everyone and cherish life’s moments.”

The club has been active with service projects promoting education and spreading environment consciousness. An inter-school quiz programme was conducted under the project ­Shiksha and the Rotaractors engaged the students in various activities that emphasised on the love for learning. In another endeavour, the club members collected sparingly-used clothes from the neighbourhood, washed, sanitised, sorted them according to size and gender, and distributed them to children from less privileged homes at the Grant Road Station.

A child examining a dress at the ‘Sas-tainance’ event.

“We all got involved in this project we named Sas-tainance to denote our sassy yet sustainable effort. ­Sas-tainance exemplified the power of collective action and the potential for small yet impactful changes to make a significant difference,” said the club president.

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