a different side of Israel

Medical Clowns

Being sick in hospital can definitely be a drag, especially if you’re a kid. An American organization called Compassionate Clown Alley is training youngsters, as well as the not-so-young in the art of clowning for places such as hospitals, orphanages, and even old age homes. The clowns, all volunteers, range in age from mere teenagers to young adults in their 20’s. They are also assisted by physicians who dress up themselves as clowns to bring a bit of cheer to kids with cancer and other serious diseases, as well as those who are places like orphanages and who won’t be with their own families during the upcoming Hanukah festival.

The American organization was originally established in New York in 2002 by Dr. Neal Goldberg. In addition to spreading cheer in both private and public hospitals in America, the organization sends a group to Israel every Hanukah to put on shows and pass out donated gifts.

The program has a dual purpose in that it not only helps bring some cheer to help people get well, but it serves as a great character builder for the ones who train to be performing clowns. The group who performs in Israel call themselves Lev HaLeytzan (heart of a clown) and will perform in such locations as the Sheba Children’s Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, and the Hadassah Medical Center. They also will make appearances at other facilities including three orphanages.

Children are especially in need of this kind of service, as those in chronic medical facilities are often frightened and lonely. A local group of medical clowns, known as “Dream Doctors”, was started at the theatrical department of the University of Haifa. Headed by Dr. Adi Citron, the program’s aims are to help ease the trauma of sick patients by creating distractions to get their minds off their pain and suffering. Laughing has been found to be one of the best “medicines” and helps people either recover quicker or adjust better to their situation.

The American Lev Haleytzan group will be distributing more than $60,000 worth of toys and other gifts, all donated by a fund called the Ossie Memorial Toy Fund. As being a medical clown requires some training in respects to dealing with sick people, Dr. Goldberg, himself a clinical psychologist, orients the volunteers as to what to expect when performing at hospitals and other facilities.

Medical clowning is even becoming accepted as a profession in its own, and more interest is being given by medical and other students who donate their time to help put smiles on the faces of sick patients. Psychologists have found that children laugh much more often then adults, which makes their work easier with kids.

1 Comment

  1. What an awesome idea! When I grow up, I am going to be working with Hospice patients, they really are so easy to Love. And so appreciative of touch, just like kids!

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