Feb 24 2010

Send in the clowns

Published by Editor at 1:12 pm under University News

img_5104A unique event at the University featuring graduates of the Medical Clowning program who joined the rescue team in Haiti offered a riveted audience a moving and insightful account of their work in the quake-ravaged country.

Medical clowns Dudi Barashi and Chamutal Andi from the “Dream Doctors” team that was developed with the Magi Foundation who flew out to Haiti on behalf of Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) were the highlight of the event. Appearing in their ‘work clothes’, they powerfully recalled their experiences while working in Haiti, with humor and emotion. “I am petrified, scared to death,” medical clown Chamutal Andi read from her diary entry from before she left Israel for Haiti. But once she was there, she said, she got straight to work and brought some light to the lives of the orphaned, homeless, injured and starving children. Being able to give what she has to those who don’t, Chamutal explained, was the most powerful and satisfying experience.

One of the commanders of the Israeli relief team in Haiti asked Dudi Barashi: ” What is a clown doing here?” on one of those first horrific days when he was assisting the victims of the earthquake. Even this stern commander smiled when he turned to clown-clad Barashi. “You see! If you are smiling now, when we are surrounded by this tragedy, then I suppose I am doing my work,” Barashi replied.

The Medical Clowning Program at the University of Haifa is important not only for giving care to hospital patients, Dr. Ati Citron, founder and director of the program explained at the event, but also for patients and victims of crisis zones. As such, graduates of the program have worked in many countries, including Ethiopia and now Haiti.

Also speaking at the event was Dr. Efraim Laor, an expert in the geography of disaster zones who assisted in the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Haiti. Dr. Laor described the extent of the disaster that surrounded them there, and pointed out a frightening perspective: “Israel is no better prepared to cope with a major earthquake than Haiti was.” Such a crisis, he emphasized, is highly likely in Israel given the similar subsurface structure that consistently creates earthquakes every few decades. The extent of such a disaster could also be similar: Israel, Dr. Laor explained, has some 400,000 buildings that would not withstand such a powerful earthquake.

Photos:
Top: Chamutal Andi and Dudi Barashi - medical clowns of the “Dream Doctors” team, graduates of the University’s Medical Clowning program, who joined the rescue team in Haiti

Dr. Ati Citron, founder and director of the Medical Clowning program at the University

Dr. Ati Citron, founder and director of the Medical Clowning program at the University

Chamutal Andi; Dr. Ati Citron; Dudi Barashi; and the University of Haifa's Dr. Ephraim Laor of the team of volunteer doctors who traveled to Haiti

L-R: Chamutal Andi; Dr. Ati Citron; Dudi Barashi; and University of Haifa's Dr. Efraim Laor of the team of volunteer doctors who traveled to Haiti

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