Branch­ing out

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

be able to man­age the task, but they do, and that gives them enor­mous con­fi­dence. The third step is in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ac­tion; I learnt from the be­gin­ning that this third part is a stage that re­ally works.”

This last step in­volves de­vel­op­ing so­cial skills and the chil­dren are asked to tell a story or a joke or demon­strate a skill they have without fear of judge­ment or crit­i­cism. The tech­nique boosts con­fi­dence as when chil­dren are the ones do­ing the teach­ing they re­alise they also have the power to of­fer some­thing to oth­ers. With the tag line “Art for a cause, not ap­plause. Us­ing laugh­ter as a tool to heal,” the CWC has suc­cess­fully branched out from cen­tre visits to pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional en­ter­tain­ment, tech­ni­cal and mar­ket­ing sup­port for fundrais­ers while also hold­ing spe­cial events in sup­port of hu­man­i­tar­ian projects. “We don’t touch money,” Mina ex­plains, “but we use our tal­ent at fundrais­ers. We do­nate our time, our ser­vices, en­ter­tain­ment… and we help to mar­ket char­i­ta­ble events.”

This sum­mer they took the CWC project even fur­ther, with their inau­gu­ral Clown­sWho Care Arts Camp. In July, over a week, a group of vol­un­teers vis­ited the Live It Up! home for res­cued chil­dren in Uganda, an or­phan­age that was set up by the Dubai branch of the US-based char­ity Live It Up Foun­da­tion. The 26 chil­dren in the home had been found liv­ing in one tiny room with a 72-year-old woman they af­fec­tion­ately called Jaja (grand­mother) who had taken them in off the streets de­spite hav­ing no money to look af­ter her­self.

The foun­da­tion placed all the chil­dren into tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion while rais­ing enough money via a se­ries of small events and fundrais­ers to move them into a new pur­pose­built or­phan­age. When CWC asked what they could do to help, the or­phan­age said they could pro­vide some en­ter­tain­ment over the sum­mer when the chil­dren were prone to be­com­ing a lit­tle bored.

CWC de­signed a project that in­volved seven core artis­tic el­e­ments – dance, drama, cir­cus skills, vis­ual arts, com­edy, rhythm and voice. “It was so ap­pre­ci­ated and so re­ward­ing,” Mina says. “Some of the kids at the be­gin­ning of the week wouldn’t par­tic­i­pate or speak at all, but by the end they were fully in­volved in a per­for­mance. We were so proud of them.”

Branch­ing out to other coun­tries in or­der to help those in need is some­thing that the CWC en­vis­ages do­ing more of. A re­turn trip to Uganda is planned for next year, but as well as vis­it­ing Live it Up!, the in­ten­tion is to in­clude other com­mu­ni­ties that are in dire need of as­sis­tance. “We want to reach out to kids who haven’t been res­cued,” Mina says. “We will al­ways go and visit the Live It Up! kids, but we also want to visit small or­phan­ages sur­viv­ing with no sup­port and re­lief cen­tres where peo­ple in the slums go to get food.”

The com­edy cru­saders also plan to take their medic­i­nal laugh­ter to some of the most mis­er­able places on earth. Their next trip will see them team up with char­ity Breath­ing Num­bers to visit the des­o­late Zaatari refugee camp on the Jor­da­nian bor­der with Syria. There they hope to per­form, en­gage and en­ter­tain the vast num­ber of chil­dren who have lost their child­hood, their hope and their fam­i­lies to a war they don’t un­der­stand.

“We can’t move a moun­tain,” Mina says, “but we can do a lit­tle bit. We’ve seen what we did in Africa, just putting on a show lets them for­get, lets them be kids. We get feed­back from the spe­cial needs cen­tres here that af­ter we leave the kids laugh for a whole day, so if that’s the re­sponse and we can make chil­dren smile, then let’s do it.”

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