Therapeutic medical clowning in healthcare may sound like an eccentric idea to some, yet it is a time-honored part of the tradition of alternative medicine – its faces in Israel are Dream Doctors, a medical clowns organization.
"We have over 100 clowns in hospitals all around Israel and these clowns are professional, therapeutic, humorous clowns who work with the medical staff to improve the way children undergo different procedures" in hospitals, Max Eisenberg, who goes by "Nimrod," told i24NEWS.
The Dream Doctors' mission is to take kids they meet in hospitals and make their dreams come true.
Their vision is simple – they give specialized care to over 220,000 patients each year, addressing their patients’ invisible pains and feelings of abandonment, isolation, loneliness, anger, and expressions of depression.
“After I worked in the oncology department and I saw all the things that kids can dream about is to be healthy," said Smadar Harpak, whose clown name is "Shemesh," meaning "Sun" in Hebrew.
"And I want to give them the opportunity to dream about anything they want, like a normal child, like a normal family. And I think 'if we are the clowns, and we want to take them out of the hospitals, to take this fantasy out of the hospital, then how can we do it?' So we must have a clown car… a car that the child will see and the fantasy will just begin when they get into it. So this is the 'clown-bulance'."
"As you can see, there's music that we put also outside and they can speak in the speaker to the people outside. You want to show them what's inside?" Smadar asked.
"It's an all-colorful and imaginative car. A little bit like what a kid would draw on a picture as a wonderful car in his imagination," Eisenberg said. "And part of the experience for these kids is to ride in a special, unique car with everybody watching them and applauding and taking pictures. This is part of the project where the children see the fantasy coming to life.”
In other words – the clown-bulance is a clown ambulance – just like there’s an ambulance for the body, there’s a clown-bulance for the soul.
“For example, we had a kid that wanted to go to the amusement park but he couldn’t mix with the other children due to this situation so the clown managed to make it so that he will be alone in the amusement park," said Eisenberg.
The Dream Doctor medical clown project first started in 2015, and they work in partnership with 32 hospitals across Israel. On a global scale, too, medical clowns are being integrated into disaster relief missions in times of national emergency.
Their job is integral to a hospital’s medical teams, but their bigger goal is to work towards a future where therapeutic clowning is recognized as an official para-medical profession so that each patient gets the chance to have a Dream Doctor beside them.
"So if you like this project, if you like us believe that healing is also an emotional process, it’s also a part of being together, of coming together and helping each other, then you can also be a part of it and help us, because the clown-bulance is totally free for the families and for the children," Eisenberg said.
"We need you Israelis and good people all around the world to contribute to be part of our project and to help us continue doing these wonderful activities. Find the link, it’s right here, the clown-bulance campaign, and really all the contributions go to our activities and we would appreciate it so much.”
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.