Mina Liccione, mastermind behind the Catch A Smile project by Clowns Who Care, tells Holly Sands what it’s all about.
A volunteer initiative aiming to bring ‘joy, love light, awareness and support’ to the city’s special needs and senior centres, charity organisations and hospitals, Clowns Who Care was one of the first projects launched by Dubai’s Dubomedy Arts. Recently, Clowns Who Care launched its Catch A Smile campaign, which aims to take the group’s work even further. Here, Dubomedy Arts founder Mina Liccione talks about the organisation, and how you can get involved.
What exactly does Clowns Who Care do?
People often ask me what happens during one of our visits to a centre. Our visits consist of a performance, a group activity and individual attention. The performance allows the residents to laugh, de-stress and feel comfortable around us. Following the performance is a physical group activity, such as a dance, music or a workshop where we teach things such as comedy or circus skills. This portion is crucial because it acts as physical exercise, which increases circulation and decreases tension. Sweating also release toxins as the brain releases endorphins, which fight depression. Also, learning a new skill boosts confidence. The last stage of the visit is one-on-one interaction. This is important in helping with social skills. We ask each of them to tell us a story or teach us a joke or skill they have. Being able to teach another person increases their self-esteem and they in-turn realise they have something to teach and offer others. We believe in tiny miracles and that simply listening and playing without judgment is crucial.
Who are the clowns?
We volunteer our time, talent and passion. Our volunteers range from professional performing artists to teachers to cabin crew to students to housewives and just about everyone else in between. Everyone is welcome!
What’s the new Catch A Smile campaign all about?
Well, I was watching the news and got really upset about everything that was happening in Syria, Egypt and crime in the US. I felt so helpless and deeply sad for humanity. I wanted to do something to help spread joy.
I remembered Mother Teresa, a woman whom I greatly admire, and her quote ‘Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.’ I then started to look at my list of friends on Facebook and realised just how many people I knew living in different countries around the world. What if we all came together once a month and performed random acts of goodness for others? For one day maybe the good energy could outweigh the bad energy happening? I spoke to some friends, CWC volunteers about this idea and they loved it. I decided to name the campaign ‘Catch A Smile’ because smiles and laughter are contagious. This month’s good deed is to perform a random act of kindness for your neighbour, or anyone nearby, and the date is Tuesday November 26.
How can we get involved?
People from around the world can join in Catch A Smile and encourage their friends and network to join in. The concept is simple: let’s make this world a happier place. Our main goal is to encourage people to perform random acts of kindness once a month so that eventually it might become once a week, and then every day. Locally, we are always happy to have volunteers join us during our visits, events, and so on. Volunteers can assist with the activities, help set up, perform or bake/bring treats for the kids. We are all part of mankind, but somewhere the ‘kind’ got lost. We are doing our part to help put it back.
Visit www.facebook.com/clownswhocare or email email@example.com
Making Dubai a kinder place
Clowns Who Care aren’t the only ones doing their bit – we take a look at two other initiatives.
An anonymous group at the Winchester School in Jebel Ali Gardens is encouraging people at the school to be nicer to others through random gestures – and the project has begun to spread out of the school’s walls and into the inboxes of Dubai residents.
Pay It Forward
UAE expat Nadia Mashar set out last year to perform anonymous good deeds for other members of the community, creating a Facebook page featuring 110 random acts of kindness. Her efforts have gained more than 100 followers, with many inspired to take similar action themselves.