The first day of this option involved a fun crash-course in the art of medical-clowning. We first became acquainted with our mentor, a very experienced clown who ironically named himself Dush (pronounced like the not-so-nice word) despite the fact that he is one of the kindest and most outwardly-giving people to walk the Earth. Throughout the day, we learnt about the basics of clowning in a very entertaining and hands-on way. We were also exposed to the complex nature of medical clowning in terms of its practical use in the medical field. It is interesting to note that Israel is the only country in the world that considers the clowns to be ‘medical staff’ and utilises their skills during procedures as opposed to just using them as entertainment in the wards. After lunch, we entered the paediatric ward and attempted to cheer up as many children as we could. It was heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces of these children in need of a friend. Although it was confronting to put ourselves in such a vulnerable position, especially considering the clear language-barrier, the reward was completely worth it. We culminated the day with a nice dinner and a quick stop at the toy-store for the next day.
To begin our second day, we walked 45 minutes to Shalva, an organisation that supports individuals with special needs. Coming from the inclusive Moriah community, it was interesting to see how Sharva focuses on special education but also focuses on ‘reverse’ inclusion in the broader community by integrating able-bodied people into their organisation. We all agreed that we could justify making Aliyah simply to work at such an amazing place - which really sums up our experience there! We then went to Yad Sara, a organisation or gamach created to assist people by providing medical equipment. We volunteered and built crutches as well as testing out various electric wheelchairs (perhaps without the permission of our tour-guide). We finished the day by revisiting our friends in the paediatric ward which was as rewarding as the previous day. It was especially nice to continue building bridges with the kids that we had met before. The day ended with free time on Ben Yehuda Street. Another fantastic and enriching day in Jerusalem.
Our third day of medical clowning began with learning about our home for the last two days, Hadassa hospital. We had the privilege of hearing from one of the ‘matriarchs of Hadassa’ who showed us the world-famous Chagal windows. After this, we had the immense pleasure of speaking to an inspiring patient from the oncology ward. He is particularly close to many of the medical clowns and describes their role very eloquently as “doctors for the soul”. After a quick lunch, we returned to the wards to hand out lollies that we had picked up from the shuk that morning, and say goodbye to our friends from the hospital. Although it was definitely emotional to say farewell, we were ecstatic to hear that our good friend, a young Arab boy and hospital veteran named Nasir, was going home for a while.
All in all, this experience truly encapsulated the term ‘service learning’. Not only did we volunteer our time and give of ourselves in order to help children in need of a smile, we also experienced great personal growth. It was also very inspirational to see that every organisation that we visited and worked in, is not-for-profit, non-denominational and free for all in need.
It was also beautiful to break down barriers with people of different cultures. We didn’t even need to speak with most of the kids in order to stamp out the stigma - all it took was bonding by throwing a ball or uniting through the stunning (if we do say so ourselves) sounds of the harmonica. If the whole world were to see what goes on in Hadassa hospital, they would realise that health and happiness for all should always take priority over politics!
It was a privilege to take part in this option with a such a special group of people. Thank you for a few days of growth, giving, fun and lots of chutzpah.