Are there any requirements to join a clown trip?
Condition number one is the ability to perform professionally as a clown or artist. Almost all of them have been working in the field for many years, or have been on a part-time basis.
In addition there is a great sensitivity and professional preparation for the cultural conditions in the country, as well as the special crisis situation. It makes a big difference whether you play in a corner of the world where war has just raged, or if you’re after a tsunami. And in a Romani camp in Romania or an orphanage, things are different.
Then you should be able to deal professionally with the suffering and be able to not lose focus on the actual task. A sad person can not play.
In addition, it is also physically challenging. A stable state of health is a must.
And finally, as a personality, you should bring great respect and compassion for others. A clown may play the naive booby. But being naive does not mean being disrespectful. Naïve is not stupid or childish, but connected and open and equipped with an overflowing heart.
We prepare ourselves for months on the trips – and that’s always been necessary when we’re there. These trips are certainly neither a vacation nor an adventure – it is a humanitarian effort that requires no less from the participants than from any other helper in crisis areas.
Who are the donors and where do the funds for the travel come from?
We are with about 150 members a small club. Of course, the membership fees are not enough for the trips. It is not uncommon for the clowns to add their own resources to the journey. But Gross comes via donations.
Amazingly, they are often quite unplanned – eg the staff of a comic book publisher sends us an amount for the Christmas party, which they have collected there. A company donates us the complete travel expenses for a specific crisis area. A club of business people invites us to talk and thank you with a donation. Sometimes really large amounts of people enter, which we did not know before. Then someone sets up a donation pig in his shop or sells clown noses for us at a flea market event. It is really very unusual and not comparable to the typical fundraising of many other NGOs.
How do people in crisis areas react to clowns?
This quote comes from an aid organization from the refugee camp Za’atari / Jordan, where our Swedish partner organization has carried out projects – it shows how the clowns work. We have had such or similar experiences too many times, our camp team in Syria was told by the camp residents that they saw the children laughing for the first time in a year. Often we were told by our partners that we could impress the experience and the world of experience of the children lasting. The long-lasting effect becomes visible when children still know the clown names and reenact parts of the show after one year – we were able to observe this reaction of the children in different places around the world.
We reflect a world of joy and freedom for the children, this image is understood ad hoc not only by the children but also the adults. Reacting with laughter and humor helps people in crisis areas not only to anchor their traumatic experiences, and to strengthen the group feeling again.
Would not food and medication make more sense than clowns?
We often get asked that question – why we send clowns to crisis areas and not food and medicine. But the experiences from our travels, the conversations with children and their supervisors on site have taught us something different:
We humans just do not work that way. Milk & medicine, that’s not enough for life, even as a baby we want more from our mothers than that – or we would wither away to a Kaspar Hauser.
Anita Fricker talks about our first trip to Romania: “After our show I talked to a 16-year-old girl who herself grew up in the orphanage in Romania. I also asked her if she thought that was nonsensical, that instead of help we would come here with our show. What she has answered to my question, I will never forget: When you grow up like me – then every beautiful memory counts! ”
A Middle East journalist told us how quickly self-esteem is lost to people with traumas in the camps. You lose yourself, you give up. You stop eating, even when there is food. Because it is not just the care you have lost, but the people you loved. Homeland. The hope. All this goes far beyond eating and drinking. Then when the clowns play a show … these are resources, moments to fall back on.
How do you do it with the language?
Our language is mainly gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and is complemented by music, the fantasy language Gromolo, and a few bits of vernacular and English. In the respective national language, we learn in the first place of 1-5 to count, say hello and goodbye. Then there is what we catch during the tour.
How do you process the experience?
After the travels, we have final meetings and, if necessary, supervisions, as well as discussions with colleagues. It does not leave anyone cold, as we are like all the helpers in crisis areas. But our internal network, the contact with colleagues – especially those who already have experience – catches you there as well. Each trip also has a godfather under the experienced clowns who oversees the team. This often helps to prepare for what we see and experience in advance.
And then – while we see the suffering, but above all, we experience this moment of joy, the children who go out completely, tears laughing and that alone is also a strong counterweight to the depressing moments.
How does a team form?
There are always experienced and new together, this mixture has proven itself. We have a team leader and at home in Germany, a longtime clown takes over the sponsorship – he is then the umbilical cord home, the counselor and in crisis situations, he can help organize.
Teams are almost always made up of people who already know each other well; often the team leader also selects the individual if he thinks they fit together well. At clown workshops, for example, we get to know new people and sometimes we approach them specifically. The joint rehearsals and preparations for the show and the journey, often for months, of course then weld us together. In any case, a travel team always involves people who understand their artisan skills and at the same time are clearly resilient.
Where is the journey going?
n 2014, the clowns won a scholarship from the Start Social Competition and in the process professionalized the internal administration of the association. Further measures included a new appearance on the Internet, the establishment of a pro-bono network of volunteer supporters and the development of a fundraising strategy.
At the moment it is clear that we want to appear more and more in Germany for people from crisis areas, in the context of events that bring the refugees together with the local population – precisely because the xenophobic tendencies in Germany have increased at the moment. For this purpose there will be multiplier workshops and more intensive lectures; not only to build a club life here in Germany, but also to provide know-how to world-wide helpers and to expand their resources in dealing with children in crisis areas.
Every benefit is fun. And work. And that's fun, too.
It's even more fun when we have helpers. Also young artists, clowns, musicians etc., who like to help. Maybe also on stage. Everybody starts somewhere. How it works? Just contact us. We welcome all those who help with or contribute ideas.