KINGSTON, Sept. 8 (JIS):
BY: DOUGLAS McINTOSH
Two members of the internationally-acclaimed Spanish humanitarian organization, ‘Clowns without Borders’ (‘Payasos sin Fronteras’) are currently in Jamaica for a series of engagements between today (September 8) and Friday, September 12, involving over 600 children and close to 200 child care practitioners.
Their visit, which is being jointly facilitated by the Embassy of Spain in Jamaica, and the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation (SJF), will see them conducting master classes/workshops focusing on alternative grief and trauma interventions incorporating play and drama therapy, a relatively new concept to Jamaica.
These will be held at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, on September 9, and will target drama students of the institution, as well as social workers and psychologists from the Child Development Agency (CDA), and also current and future guidance counsellors from Teachers’ Colleges, and the Ministry of Education.
The members, Cristina Julia and Jordi Sabán, will also be giving special performances for children, aged four to 12 years, who are deemed to have been psychologically affected, primarily by incidents of violence, among other factors.
These will be held at the Edna Manley College on September 9, and Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay, St. James, on September 12.
A total of 600 youngsters, who have been identified in schools and children’s homes, will attend with each college accommodating approximately 300 children for the day’s activities.
The visitors will also perform for children who are patients at St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, St. Ann, on September 8; Bustamante Hospital for Children, Kingston, September 10; and Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), September 11.
Spanish-Jamaican Foundation (SJF) General Manager, Dr. Rebecca Tortello, tells JIS News that the Clowns without Borders first visit to Jamaica, forms part of the SJF’s contribution to assist in strengthening stakeholders’ response to challenges associated with trauma affecting children, as a result of their exposure to violence.
“We contacted them (Clowns without Borders) and told them a little about the situation in Jamaica, in terms of the effect of violence directly and indirectly on youngsters in schools and children’s homes, and the high level of interest their caregivers have shown in play/drama therapy techniques, and they readily agreed to come and do a series of sessions for the children, and counsellors,” she explains.
Deputy Head of Mission in charge of Cultural Affairs at the Spanish Embassy in Kingston, Victoria Tur Gomez, adds that they will interact with the children. “They will talk to them…and they will engage with them in ways that we hope will bring smiles to their faces, which is the main purpose of their visit,” she said.
Dr. Tortello tells JIS News that the decision to invite Clowns without Borders to Jamaica “is not something we just decided to do.”
“We saw the need, knowing the great necessity of different therapeutic interventions for our children, and the success that play therapy has had around the world,” she explains, adding that “this project is an intentional extension of the SJF’s emphasis on health and wellness over the last three years.”
“We have done a number of training workshops, particularly in relation to play therapy and child abuse awareness, both for stakeholders in government-run children’s homes, as well as the Community Safety and Security Officers in the police force islandwide,” Dr. Tortello outlines.
She points out that there has been a high level of interest in, and positive feedback from the participants, and also in planning the activities for the clowns.
“Our partners in the government ministries and agencies understand that these are trained professionals who go to countries all over the world, many of which are war-torn, where children have experienced unspeakable violence and trauma, and they will bring their own brand of child-centred therapy to our children in Jamaica,” Dr. Tortello tells JIS News.
Both women highlight the inputs of key stakeholders which made the week-long engagements possible.
“We are very glad to have the Ministries of Education, and Health, and the Child Development Agency (CDA), and hospitals partnering with us. I also want to say thanks to Edna Manley College and Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College which have allowed us to use their premises to host these activities,” Ms. Gomez says.
Dr. Tortello notes the significant support from private sector entities, both Spanish and Jamaican, for the engagements. These, she informs, include SJF member company, Grand Bahia Principe Hotel in Runaway Bay, St. Ann, which she says has a “very strong relationship” with St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, where they have long supported the paediatric maternity wards.
“Their team will be at the hospital on the day of the clowns visit,” she informs. In addition, Dr. Tortello says SJF member company, the Montego Bay-based Hospiten, will participate in activities involving Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH).
“We also have support from the Seprod Foundation, which is providing refreshments for the children,” she adds.
Both Dr. Tortello and Ms. Gomez express the hope that the visit will yield fruitful long term dividends for Jamaica.
“We are hopeful the children will enjoy the performances, that the practitioners will find the information useful, and be able to incorporate play intervention techniques and humour in the forms of therapy offered to our children,” Dr. Tortello says.
Clowns without Borders is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, and has branches in eight other countries. These include: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the United States, Sweden, and South Africa.