14 April 2010: Clowns are bringing smiles to children affected by the earthquake in Haiti thanks to a new Plan partnership with Clowns Without Borders. Plan Haiti’s Kristie van de Wetering reports.
For an hour out of the day they could forget that their school had been destroyed and many of their friends and family members are no longer with them. Forget that they are hungry and scared. Forget that they are dealing with far more than a child should ever have to deal with.
For an hour they could be children - smiling, laughing, inquisitive children, with infectious giggles, bright eyes, and unable to stand still in one place, almost shaking with excitement. What was the occasion? The clowns had come to town! Clowns Without Borders, that is.
Emotional first aid
Children are often the worst hit in disasters. Relief materials such as food, water, sanitation and shelter make lifelines in emergency situations. However, a comprehensive response must also address the emotional and psychosocial needs of people, especially the most vulnerable.
One of the objectives of Plan Haiti’s earthquake response programme is to strengthen the capacities of families, communities and authorities to protect children and adolescents against all forms of abuse. This includes the provision of emotional first aid, or psychosocial support.
As the result of a Plan Haiti partnership with the USA branch of Clowns Without Borders, 3 clowns – Sarah, Heddy and Joe – spent 2 weeks in Haiti, dividing their time between Jacmel and surrounding communities and Croix-des-Bouquets. They performed over 20 shows for more than 6,000 children, youth, and adults.
Try as they might, the children could just not figure it out. No matter how many times Sarah pulled the disappearing handkerchief out of another child’s ear, they were astonished every time.
Don’t be afraid
The hour ended too quickly for their liking. To be sure those smiles will fade as they return to the reality that is now their lives. But the message of the clowns was clear: “You do not need to be afraid. Life goes on, you will survive this!”
The shows have been so successful that Clowns Without Borders has agreed to come back to Haiti in June to perform more shows in more communities.