Just Clowning around at the Orpahage visit…

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Dominican Republic – Orphanage Day- by Allyson J Grant a participant on Hero Holiday July 2008Joy and inspiration. These are the two words that I emphasized with our group today, our “Spirit Clowns”, as we readied ourselves for entering the orphanage.Apart from a few new brave souls, we as a group have worked together in the past creating compassion and clowning at the orphanage #1leadership in school-related events. However, we were slightly tentative about the emotional impact that this particular site would have on us. Knowing that all the children were mentally or physically disabled and that we had to be cognizant of the language barrier. We decided that we would enter “in clownito” (as my mentor had dubbed it), or in other words out of clown, to assess the situation, the needs of the children, and to get ourselves accustomed to what for the most of them was an entirely new element.I was not one of the first of our troupe off the buss and into the first room, but as I approached the door a handful of red eyes and wet faces were emerging overwhelmed and overcome with a resounding question about the sights: why? As we made our way through the various rooms of the new facility, the reactions became vast-some of us were carrying children in our arms, others were grasping for breath and comprehension, and all reactions were okay. Were they going to be able to- or WANT to- create the “spark of light” that is integral to this form of clown work? What would it take to go from feeling consumed with sorrow to giving the gift of love?We helped with the lunch feedings, and gathered to reconfirm the details: we were there to provide our spirit. Spirit clowning in this environment was new to us all, but the sound of giggles, the squeals of glee and theclowning at the orphanage #2 toothy grins were not. The unmistakable impact of our work fueled us right from the moment the children saw us re-enter donned in Red noses. We danced with some, sang with some, were gregarious and physical, or were tender and subtle with some, but we smiled with all.The red nose works as a remarkable tool-it allows the wearer to step into a realm of profound intimacy, connection and child-like wonder that we so often do not allow ourselves; but it also allows the viewer to accept love and laughter on a new level.Spirit clowns retreated at their own pace after we had been at it for quite a while, either being satisfied that they had given what they wanted, or were emotionally or physically exhausted and needed to re-charge. And all reasons were okay.As we collected, noses-off and sweat-laden in the sunlit and breezy room at the top of the stairs, we called out in unison, Buenos tardes. Amigos! “to the room of full of smiling faces, I descended wondering who received the biggest gift of joy and inspiration.**Spirit Clowning is a branch of Jest for Joy that promotes Education/Outreach opportunities in Red Nose. Spirit Clowns are non-professional performers who are facilitated by a professional clown-doctor to promote joy and inspiration through Red Nose work. Leadership students from JN Burnett Secondary School have had workshopping in the art of Spirit Clowning over the past 2 years, which was co-created with Kristi Molnar.Allyson J Grant is the Artistic Director of the newly developed organization Jest for Joy. Jest for Joy is a clown-doctoring program which focuses on prompting wellness of patients through wit, physical theatre and song. Clown doctors are not merely entertainers; they are professional performers are highly trained, and are an integral part of the health care team. For more information, please visit www. Jestforjoy.caFor more stories of the students of J.N. Burnett please visit their blog at

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 7th, 2008