Clowning around is more than “just fun” when
Simchat Halev medical clowns visit patients in Israel’s hospitals.
Bored looking kids and their parents break into wide grins when animal-shaped
balloons suddenly appear from nowhere, “airborne ping pong” is played in
bed, and all kinds of funny things happen to the medical equipment around
a hospital bed.
Simchat Halev‘s medical clowns bring smiles to faces, but
that is only the beginning. The help goes beyond medical clowning, and extends
to helping children receive something about which they dream.
Each month about 200 children
in Israeli hospitals meet and benefit from the services of the the medical
clowns. But the help goes much further than the individual patients as families
share in the great atmosphere that surrounds the children when they are
together with the medical clowns.
Some children require continuous care, or long-term analysis requiring
prolonged hospital stays. Children who are victims of terror are traumatized.
Children are scared because they don’t always understand what is happening
to their bodies, or why they must stay in the hospital. Simchat Halev
seeks to build the confidence and self-esteem of hospitalized children by
giving them something special.
Doctors who once were
skeptical about having a clown on the ward now sometimes ask for the medical
clown to help them build a relationship with a frightened or stubborn patient,
or to help the child agree to take medication or cooperate in medical tests.
When visiting with the clown a number of times, one can witness the positive
attitude change in the hospitalized children.
One boy in particular comes to mind. For days on end no one could
communicate with this child. He simply stared at a TV kept about 3” from
his face, in order to avoid all human contact. The child refused to eat,
or do much of anything else. The medical clown who was visiting had a gentle,
calm, non-demanding approach and managed after a while, to get the child
to look at some balloon sculptures. After a few minutes, the boy actually
requested a particular balloon game to be made for him. Minutes later, in
the same visit, the snack cart came by and this very small ten-year-old boy
asked for a piece of cake. After enjoying the cake, he even requested a second
In this case, the medical clowning worked as it should. The clown created
an environment where the child wanted to participate in his treatment. He
was willing to take the necessary mental and emotional steps that would allow
the medical staff to treat him.
Zvi Meir, the founder
and chairman of the organization, ran a successful telemarketing organization,
when he decided it was time to give something back to society. Three years
ago he founded Simchat Halev, and has been devoting himself to helping
Not all of the cases are so dramatic, but one thing is for sure, Simchat
Halev, which means bringing joy to the heart, does just that.
Photos: Michele Kaplan-Green and Judith Isaacson
Text: Michele Kaplan-Green