Israeli medical clowns are trying to help ease the trauma of children caught up in Nepal’s devastating earthquake by healing psychological scars with laughter.
At the Israeli Defense Forces’ field hospital in Kathmandu, five clowns from the Dream Doctors Project blow bubbles and dance as children, many with broken legs and bandaged heads, laugh.
“It’s to play with the kids, it’s to give them joy and to break the atmosphere of fear and stress,” said “Dush,” one of the clowns.
The Dream Doctors team is in Nepal for nine days, entertaining mainly traumatized youngsters, but also some adults, scarred by the April 25 quake that killed more than 7,600 people across the Himalayan nation.
The clowns twist balloons into animals, surprise patients with flowers, hand out toys and play games with the delighted children as their parents look on smiling.
“We go inside the tents, we just make a lot of mess, and the doctors and the nurses, they know about the mess. And this is a kind of co-operation between the clowns and the medical staff, because they know that we can help them to communicate with the children,” said Dush.
“And there’s no language. I can speak with you in English, I can speak with people here in Hebrew, but with the children you can speak just in gibberish. Or we speak the clown language.”
Dream Doctors was established in 2002 and operates at 20 hospitals throughout Israel working in units ranging from intensive care to rehabilitation, according to its website.
The clowns are performing artists who have received medical and nursing training.
As well as working out of the field hospital, the clowns are visiting communities in some of the areas in Nepal worst hit by the quake.
“The purpose of their visit is to ease trauma effects and to reduce pain and anxiety among children and adults in communities and hospitals via their clowning skills,” read a statement from Israel’s embassy in Kathmandu.
At the pediatric section of the IDF camp, an AFP journalist watched as a young girl, her leg in a cast, clapped and smiled at the entertainment.
But some children appeared too traumatized by Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years to notice. Two heavily bandaged boys, one who had been trapped for five days in his home following the disaster, just stared impassively.