“Our secret? We are simple, sincere and listen”

Patch Adams teaches: “Laughing is not only contagious, it is also the best medicine.” But making those in a condition of illness and vulnerability laugh is neither simple nor painless. And then there are them, the ward clowns, who penetrate the heart of those who need a little affection and courage, managing to snatch a smile that drives away bad thoughts. The Vip association of Forlì, acronym of Viviamo In Positivo, is preparing to “churn out” other volunteers ready to wear the tomato red nose, expanding the number of Forlì clowns to about sixty ready to offer a moment of leisure to the sick and people in difficulty.

“Every two years we do a basic course and recruit new volunteers, who want to start a training course with the aim of going to hospital wards or structures for the elderly and disabled and carrying out volunteering activities with the aim of removing people from the moments difficult that they are going through “: speaking is Clown Frittello, aka Luca Pedna, 44, president of the Vip association of Forlì, in presenting the three days of training scheduled this weekend in Forlì (Friday from 18 to 22, Saturday from 9 to 19 with lunch break and Sunday from 9 to 16 in Corso della Repubblica).

How is the training organized?
There is a professional trainer from the Vip Italia Onlus Federation, with a 360-degree cognitive approach both from a theoretical and a practical point of view. From what it means to be a volunteer clown, how to behave and other elements that will be deepened during a continuous training that will be carried out by our association in Forlì every two times a month.

What is the average age of the volunteers?
I specify that the service is open to everyone, from new adults to the elderly. Fortunately, among our volunteers there is no age that prevails over the others. There are very young people, around the age of 20, as well as sixty, who represent our great resource, because there are retirees who perform services in the morning. It is also possible to practice the course even as a 17-year-old, and then start volunteering as soon as the age of majority is reached.

Speaking of your personal experience, when did Clown Frittello take his first steps?
Army since 2009.

And how did this adventure start?
I found a flyer at a ‘right’ time, because I needed to do something for others, and the idea of ​​the clown in the ward intrigued me. So I did the training course, then from being a trainee I became a ‘trainer’, that is the one who holds the internal training from the basic course and for the next two months that see the clown ready to exercise the activity. In June 2021 I became president of the association.

And what balance do you draw from it?
I had confirmation of the beauty of this experience, which personally shapes you at 360 degrees.

But what does the lane clown do?
We enter hospitals and facilities for the elderly or disabled. The running clown sings, dances, mimes, but it is also possible to transform into an animal. It is the beauty of the unusual compared to what one is in everyday life.

How do you organize your business?
These are scheduled meetings depending on the availability of the members. In the facilities for the elderly and disabled there are agreed days, which are Saturday or Sunday afternoon, once or twice a month, while in Pediatrics every Saturday afternoon, but when there is the possibility also on Monday morning. We are normally engaged around three hours per meeting.

But how do you give a smile to people who are going through difficult times?
People enjoy our presence and this helps them feel less out of place than most people think. First of all you need to respect the face in front of you and approach on tiptoe, trying to understand the moods and needs. Then the moment is seized, depending on the availability of the person. We aim to distract from the disease. Let me give a concrete example: when we enter a waiting room, where there are children waiting to take an exam, we make one clap their hands, another make their feet and yet another make a sound with their mouth, creating slowly a concertino. In this way we try to understand how to distract the person. But we can have an ironic approach with a gag, pretending to stumble. Another recent example was in Pediatrics: with a young girl who was in a wheelchair, we improvised a small show, infecting those who were in the corridor with smiles. Coming to the question, in short, we must be simple and sincere.

Is there a situation that has particularly affected you?
I remember a little girl who had some anxiety waiting for an MRI. And she made me happy to have managed with the other clowns to turn that fear into a game. I saw a change of expression in her face. It also affects the moment in which there is the elderly who seek relief through a handshake, even causing a tear. And these are the moments that confirm how beautiful it is to do this voluntary activity.

The covid period has removed this kind of human contact from you …
We missed him a lot, because we live on human contact. We tried to give a smile online, but it obviously wasn’t the same thing. And as soon as there was the possibility of returning to the hospital or to the facilities they called us immediately, because there was a need for a moment of coexistence. We have managed over time to regain the taste of the smile, even if the mask obscures it a bit, nevertheless giving it through the eyes. Eye contact was indeed a big milestone.

And you have given smiles to the children on their way to vaccination against the virus …
We also accompanied the children who were afraid of the sting. It was a pleasant activity and for about a month, during the first phase, we tried to be present both in the morning and in the afternoon. We did small shows before and after the vaccination in the waiting room, involving the parents as well. We also gave away balloons in the shape of a mouse, with the children competing to see who made them fly higher. A mode of distraction and aggregation, which for us was a small success. Beyond the vaccination campaign, where there is a situation that can cause concern, we are there.

Do you want to launch an appeal to expand the ward clown family?
There is room for everyone. No special features are required. Playing or singing, for example, is something more. However, it is necessary to get involved and listen. The beauty of our volunteering is simplicity. And it helps to enrich the baggage of personal experiences, you learn to know yourself and to be with others. Another nice detail of this volunteer activity is that you go home with a little piece of history of the people who open up and tell their suffering, trying in some way to escape from it.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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