Barneblad: Hospital Clowns (Sykehusklovnene)
Heidi Håvan Grosch
Laughter is the language of the world.
No one likes to be sick, and it is even worse if you have to be in the hospital. So what can make it better? A visit from a clown! In Norway, volunteers dress up like clowns to bring a little joy into the lives of children trying to get better. “The clowns help me think of something nice when I am in the hospital,” comments a six-year-old girl, “because then I can smile and laugh.” For some of the children, it has been a long time since they smiled, so getting the chance for a real belly laugh is some of the best medicine of all.
Hospital clowns in Norway always work in twos, so they can play with each other. That is what makes clowns so special. They always try to understand their audience and improvise with whatever situation presents itself. Some people have a disease called coulrophobia, which means they are afraid of clowns. That is why hospital clowns use very little make-up and are very well trained.
Clowns first started visiting the children’s hospital in London in 1908. They became official visitors in hospitals in New York in the 1980s thanks to Michael Christensen and the Big Apple Circus clowns. Patch Adams, played by Robin Williams in the movie, showed us that doctors can also clown around. Although clowns have been in Swedish hospitals for about 25 years, the first clown appeared at Haukeland Hospital in 1999. A few years later, in 2001, Norwegian clowns were here to stay, and every year they become more and more popular. Today, there are 30 professional actors and clowns visiting Norwegian hospitals. There are even people doing research on how clowns can make you healthier!
• Did you know that there are about 50 professional hospital clown organizations around the world? The Norwegian Hospital clowns belong to the European Federation of Hospital Clown Organizations (EFHCO www.efhco.eu).
• Clownschool International gives grown-ups the chance to play. Every summer Clownschool International has a camp in Hemsedal, Norway. This year it is called “My Everyday Clown” and takes place July 22 to July 29.
More sites if you are curious:
• Norwegian Hospital Clowns with videos: www.sykehusklovnene.no/english
• Clownschool International summer course: www.facebook.com/events/1344959642265783/?active_tab=about
This article is a part of Barneblad, a monthly feature by Heidi Håvan Grosch to share with kids and grandkids.
This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.