Jonathon El­li­son:

How a Clown is bring­ing Wa­ter to Women

Stanstead Journal - - STANSTEAD JOURNAL - Rachel Gar­ber, North Hat­ley, Spe­cial Col­lab­o­ra­tion

North Hat­ley, Au­gust 22, 2016. “How to avoid be­ing at­tacked by wild, lit­tle girls when trav­el­ling in Africa,” is the tongue-in-cheek sub­ti­tle of the pre­sen­ta­tion that Jonathon El­li­son will be giv­ing in North Hat­ley next Sun­day. The ti­tle of his talk is “Clown’s Travel Log – Chap­ter 2.” And the trav­els in­volve drilling wells for women’s co­op­er­a­tives in Sene­gal, and mak­ing a film about his ex­pe­ri­ences and how they changed his life.

Put all those as­pects to­gether, and you’ve got a take on hu­man­i­tar­ian work in West Africa that will ex­er­cise your right brain. In his clown per­sona, El­li­son has es­tab­lished close ties with women and chil­dren in sev­eral women’s co­op­er­a­tives. Work­ing along­side them in their gar­dens and car­ry­ing wa­ter with them, he learned first­hand about their lives and needs. He says his work is “first and fore­most about lis­ten­ing to women.”

Those en­coun­ters led to a plan to drill wells for the women’s groups that would be close to their fields and gar­dens, and electrical pumps that would ease the work of pulling up wa­ter by hand. The first well has been com­pleted. It’s for a three-acre gar­den, run by al­most 150 women and girls, serv­ing a vil­lage of about 2000 peo­ple.

Other wells are fore­seen, de­pen­dent on fund­ing. El­li­son al­ready has sup­port from two or­ga­ni­za­tions and UUEstrie, the Uni­tar­ian Universalist Com­mu­nity in North Hat­ley. He is also seek­ing other sources. His project is called “Wa­ter for Women.”

And then he’s work­ing on a doc­u­men­tary film about his en­coun­ters with women in Sene­gal. He al­ready has video footage that he will share with his au­di­ence on Sun­day. He will also share his thoughts on how that process gets him closer to what he calls “the soul of hu­man­ity.” And then there’s the re­mark­able story of Queen Aline in Sene­gal, who stood up to the French army in 1942. And the present-day queen, not to men­tion the five-year-olds.

El­li­son hails from Ayer’s Cliff, and has a dis­tinc­tively cre­ative bent, first as a land­scape ar­chi­tect, then a clown, and now as a film­maker. He will be speak­ing at UUEstrie, 201 Main Street, North Hat­ley, at 10:30 a.m. on Sun­day, Au­gust 28. His talk is open to the pub­lic and ad­mis­sion is free. Do­na­tions will be ac­cepted for his project. For in­for­ma­tion, visit www. uuestrie.ca, Face­book UUEstrie, or con­tact info@uuestrie.ca or 819-842-4146.

Photo cour­tesy Jonathan El­li­son

Jonathon El­li­son as a clown with a group of young girls in Sene­gal.

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