Contribution by Dr. Patch Adams
Belen Clown Project “The original impetus to start a project in Belen is the finding of 3 five-year old children in one day with gonorrhea. There was (is) no perception how to stop child sexual assault rather the desire to stay committed to the community to see what can happen.” - Dr. Patch Adams 10 years ago, Gesundheit! and Bolaroja clowns, in a meeting with Belen citizens, conceived the Belen Project, a collaborative effort to energize Belen citizens’ dreams for a healthier, happier community. From the original idea to paint every house in Lower Belen, the project has evolved to include workshops for children in art, dance and music; mural painting; community health outreach programs; parades, talent shows, and the purchase of land for the building of a community center, Belen’s first.
Clowning is the central action through which we connect with the community. Our experience working and playing in Belen has taught us much, particularly the crucial necessity of coupling our intentions with the performance of deep collaborative social action. Whatever else the Belen Project is, it is also an exploration of the social dimensions of individual and community health. Our “clown strategy” combines play, art, work, healthcare and fun. Caring actions while working together are contagious. Caring clowns are cared for by Belen’s people. Through the years, the Belen Festival continues to evolve to more intelligently address Belen’s needs, and to give volunteers opportunities to learn about the roots of poverty, the richness of Belen’s social architecture, their collective creativity and resilience.