UNIFIL clown therapist revives children with special needs

Clown Walter arouses curiosity of a student in Ayta ash Shaab School for Children with Special Needs

Student happily yields and takes part in the show under the smiling eyes of UNIFIL and the school faculty

What if pinching a big red nose blows a whistle? Wouldn’t you laugh too?

The young audience forgot their pain while watching UNIFIL ITALAIR Warrant Officer Walter Mazzocchi

Clown Walter performs for special needs students in Ayta ash Shaab School

Special needs students laughing out loud in unison with UNIFIL clown Walter

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14 Jun 2013

UNIFIL clown therapist revives children with special needs

A smile and a red nose were enough for clown Walter to draw a smile on the faces of 100 students in Ayta Ash Shaab School for Children with Special Needs, who experienced a real joy and laughed out loud for an hour and a half, but most importantly, felt loved and liberated from any discrimination.

"Most people think this is just a form of entertainment, but we are not clowns of circus... The best way to show solidarity, particularly to children, is to give oneself. I try to give from myself, within my capabilities," explained UNIFIL ITALAIR member, Warrant Officer Walter Mazzocchi, who is a specialised clown therapist, aside from his routine tasks in UNIFIL.

"Despite the fact that he is the clown bringing laughter to these children, it was clear that he too loved them," noticed Hanan Mouzannar, the educational coordinator in the school.

In fact, clown therapists attend to the psycho-social needs of children. The healing power of humour and laughter combats stress and reduces pain by releasing endorphins, the body's natural painkiller. "Most of the time, the problem of modern medicine is that it is focused on alleviating the effect of the disease instead of its causes," Walter said.

"This is a unique experience, especially that one of UNIFIL soldiers carried it out. This is a therapy via laughter. We seek to provide for these children a psychological support in a positive way so they can interact with the community. We noticed by their interaction and applause that they were very happy and were trying to imitate Walter and participate with him," Hanan added.

Zainab, a fifth grade student with learning difficulties praised Walter. "This is great, thank God for everything... The clown made us happy; we were delighted," she said with excitement.

The clown therapy initiative was organised on the occasion of the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties on 22 April by UNIFIL Civil Affairs office jointly with Civil and Military Cooperation (CIMIC) office in collaboration with Ayta Ash Shaab School for Children with Special Needs.

Daad Ismail, director of the school and founder of the Association for the Protection of Children with Special Needs, spoke from the heart. "Truth be told, UNIFIL has always been one of the few to take the initiative since this association was founded in 2006. They have always been supporting us," she said.

For his part, UNIFIL CIMIC officer Captain Ciro Parisi asserted that he knows "it could be just a drop in the ocean," but "it is a good start," he stressed.



Article: Rania Harb
Video Editor: Suzane Badereddine
Video Camera: Mohamad Hamze
Photo: Pascual Gorriz Marcos