Slovene's are clowning around for public health

Red Nose Day is a day when lots of normal people around the world put on big red noses for charity. In Slovenia Red Noses are being used to raise funds for charity but also to raise smiles and laughter in hospitals.

Around the world, many charity organisations raise money on so-called Red Nose Day. As the name suggests, the day involves wearing plastic or foam red noses which are available, in exchange for a donation, from many shops. People are encouraged to wear the noses to help raise awareness for a charity. However, in some places, the noses are used for another cause.

We all know clowns, comic performers who are stereotypically characterized by their colored wigs, stylistic makeup, outlandish costumes, and unusually large footwear. Clowns are common to many cultures, because they meet some deeply rooted needs in humanity, such as violation of taboos, for example.

As one of the biggest clown groups for medical institutions in Europe, RED NOSES International is active in Slovenia, as well. But their clowns are health promoting agents of a different kind. They are called the red nosed clown doctors, and they specialize in the power of laughter. Eva Škofič-Maurer, the only official clowness in Slovenia, started the whole project in 2004, and describes their mission.

"We, the clown doctors are artists visiting children in hospitals dressed as funny doctors. We are trained for our work at different workshops, where we learn more about being a clown as well as about how to behave in hospitals, where the circumstances are different."

The clowns who work in the hospital are hired by ROTE NASEN Clowndoctors and are paid on the basis of a remuneration scheme. In Slovenia there are currently six of them, dr. Anastazia with a huge accordion, dr. Rozeta, wearing tonnes of make-up, cute nurse Marjetka, incredibly short dr. Little, funny dr. E.K. and nutty dr. Ifigenia Sfrčkljana.

Clown doctors visit hospitals twice a week, going from bed to bed and visiting young patients in pairs.

"We go to hospitals because we want to change the atmosphere in hospitals, the fear these children experience, because they are away from home and they are in a different environment where they undergo several treatments. We want these children to relax and we want to make them smile. This way, it is easier for the children to stay in hospital."

According to the Code of Ethics, the artist’s work is based on respect for dignity, the personality and the private sphere of the patient and his family. During his clown work the artist always retains the same professional integrity, regardless of gender, ethnic heritage, religion, tradition, sexual orientation, family situation, social status, degree of education, illness or any kind of feelings and sentiments he might have towards the person.

Last year, Radio Slovenia International also supported the project. This year, starting on March 4, the Red noses tour will last until April 3. The Good Will Institute will try to visit all hospitalized children across the country. The two main hospitals known for such visits are the Pediatric Clinic in Ljubljana and the general hospital in Maribor. People supporting the campaign can, of course, donate some money. One of the most simple ways is to send an sms worth 1 euro.