Impressions in Ethiopia and Uganda
Mid October to early November 2012, four of us clowns representing the Caring Clowns International organization accompanied a group of Rotarians to Ethiopia and Uganda. As the group did community oriented projects, we clowned in villages and children’s schools in both countries and at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa.
I have asked each of us who clowned to write a piece of some of our impressions from this trip, and to include a few of each of our favorite pictures from the trip.
We have also invited others on this trip – who have never seen us clowns in action, to give their impressions of our work.
Jed "Duffy" Selter
Fourth Caring Clowns International Clown on this trip
President, Executive Director and Co-founder
Caring Clowns International
We would like to dedicate this short writing to people who extend themselves
to help others.
In Rotary jargon it is called "Service Above Self."
Deb "Giggles" Foy
Deb "Giggles" Foy has done hospital clowning for a number of years, and heads Caring Clowns International’s Detroit Giggle of Clowns. Giggles is also a Director on the Caring Clowns International Board. This was her first trip clowning internationally. Her energy on this trip was an anchor of our work with kids and adults alike.
Clowning in Ethiopia and Uganda was magical! Each time we would step out of the bus our hearts locked on to the hearts of the people young and old. We didn’t need to verbally communicate, we already spoke the same language. At first, some were a little hesitant but always ending in smiles with laughter and connecting with each other by sharing love for one another. It was raw and genuine, a simple act of giving of oneself to another human being, to lift that person up for a moment in time and share a magical moment together. I was blessed to be able to be a part of such an incredible group of people.
Deb "Giggles" Foy
Lois "CoCo" Kerr
Lois "CoCo" Kerr is a co-founder and former Secretary of Caring Clowns International, and is on the Board. CoCo has clowned for years and has traveled worldwide with the Caring Clowns International organization and other organizations. CoCo is a consummate professional with a great heart for children.
This is my first exposure to the bush country of Ethiopia. We have walked about a half mile down a red dirt foot path, to find a community of folks living in Vibanda huts, somewhere out in the grassy plains. Our interpreter asks if there are any children birth to 5 years, who have not yet been immunized against polio. One tall slender woman says something; a little boy dressed in only a stark white beaded necklace is running away from his Mommy. She is calling after him, I assume to come hither and allow these spooky pale people access to his mouth. He is having none of it. Running as fast as his little legs will carry him, he loses ground as Mommy gains on him. Alas, he is in her lap and I am slowly approaching, as inconspicuously as possible, wearing clown make-up and size 68 shoes. I say “hi big fella, it’s OK.” What a healthy pair of lungs he has! This is so unfair; yes I’m sure that is what he is telling us!
Another favorite moment was when we were hanging out at the bakery school, a little girl, maybe two years old, snuggled up to CoCo and took her hand in hers, intertwining fingers. What a powerfully loving moment, I will never forget that precious face, little bare feet, hand in mine, as time and space melt away at warp speed. Yes, this is why I clown..
Lois “CoCo” Kerr
Brenda "Queen B" Wall
Brenda "Queen B" Wall is a long time Rotarian. She is a past President of the Poulsbo-North Kitsap Rotary Club (who invited us to clown on this trip). Queen B is a novice clown. In fact, clowning on this trip was her first foray into the craziness of clowning. She was amazing!!!
Jed “Duffy” Selter
Jed "Duffy" Selter (that would be me ). I have chosen to pen my reflections in two verses, below.
Different This Time
I have clowned for almost forty years…Not something I readily admit to most (Read my bio, it says … “Duffy has been clowning since the invention of sand dunes.”)
With others, I have clowned in many venues, for small groups of kids to about 200 Plying kids with clown buffoonery, gags, shows, balloons sculptures, ending with red noses for all…In the U.S. and several developing countries.
The kids are all the same….
Initially some anxious for a moment,
But within minutes, to a little one, all engaged…smiles, laughs, reaching to us for more.
Each time it is the same, but different.
But…this last three weeks clowning in Ethiopia and Uganda …New for me.
More emotionally charged than usual…ok, I’ll admit it – Than ever before
Four of us played for schools of 1,000-1,500 or more – each in unique uniforms
They would see us, react with shock, run and dart away like a school of minnows,
Then dart right back to us laughing and jumping to engage.
I found myself (each of the four of us did) virtually surrounded by layers of small smiling faces Pressing against us
Reaching to touch and to connect
Except for the beauty of it, the roar of laughter and yelling could have been deafening, but instead, it was joyful music to our ears
Almost Divine orchestration
Never less than 1,000 children, gleaming white smiles on small innocent black faces
Amazingly most respectful of each other in the din to touch us Careful not to trample the littlest of their own
Surrounding me on all sides
Not allowing me to move
Keeping me virtually upright
Physically and emotionally uplifting
Raw Love unspoken
Words cannot adequately describe
Unforgettable for my lifetime
Meeting on the Road
We were on one of our daily marathon drives going I don’t recall where
(Seems like every day it took 6 hours to get somewhere)
Mostly red clay, ignored potted holed rural roads.
(when it rained, almost treacherous …clay to slime and loose slippery mud)
And every where on the roadsides, people walked.
Some in shoes
Some in sandals
We streaked by walkers in our bus at what seemed like warp speed
And people walked
Unperturbed by our zooming hulk
Mothers with babies strapped to their backs
Some balancing massive loads on their heads
Boys and girls in brightly colored school uniforms Some walking bicycles laden with huge bundles of long sticks
And they walked
Lord knows how long
Who knows where or why
I guess some coming from
Some going to
But one stays vivid in my mind’s eye
We crested a long hill
As we sped down beginning the rise to another I saw a speck of a boy coming toward us
Two yellow dots at his sides – one in each hand
He was a young kid
Maybe five years old
We got closer
His figure more distinct
In each hand
He trudged a five gallon plastic yellow water “Gerry can”
Straining with each step
This little shiny headed kid
Walking at his own pace
Steeled to win against the weight of these heavy yellow rectangles
Unmonitored -no adult with or near him
Unprotected from big trucks and small cars dashing inches from him
Tenuous safety at best
Who knows how far he had come
How far yet to travel
But, he and his load obviously expected by someone
In another instant we were passed him
But he stays with me
A slow motion moment in my memory
Copyright© Jed Selter 2012
Patty Pigot and Myriah Lea-Tucker
Patty Pigot and Myriah Lea-Tucker, Rotarians from Canada, and Henuck Alemayehu, an Ethiopian Rotarian, while not clowns, we’re courageous enough to put on grease paint and costume to work with us in Ethiopia. We are grateful for their delightful involvement, and have included their impressions of their clowning experience. Each of them was fantastic!
I think most people have a secret desire to slap some paint on their face, dress up in funny clothes and fool around. I really enjoyed the opportunity to release my inner clownness. It was a pleasure to watch and help the clowns in action. The children and adults alike at the Black Lyon Hospital and Cheshire Home loved seeing and playing with them all. What these people do is more that dressing up. They are true professionals and it takes special people to be able to do what they do. Thank you for being you!
Hello my new and special friends….Thank you for adding joy to my trip – and the thousands of lives of those you touched.
It was truly an honor getting to know you.