Joan’s Congress Report from Art and Health 2018 in Cuba



Hello dear friends of Therapeutic Clowning!

I am holding all the amazing and wonderful moments that took place during the 1st Cuban Congress of Therapeutic Clowns:  Art and Health 2018.  For myself, since beginning this journey to Cuba in 2009, I am forever grateful, humbled and indebted to dear Adrienne Hunter and Bonnie Eccles for lifting me up and introducing me to these resilient and compassionate people. What a ride and what life-long friendships made.

On Tuesday, October 16th Adrienne Hunter, TCI Representative in Cuba and Aniet Venereo, National Coordinator, Group of Therapeutic Clowns of Cuba kindly arranged for all the English speaking attendees to personally meet their appointed translators and we had the opportunity to get to know each other personally before the Congress began.  How wonderful so many shared their expertise in language with us.  We could not have participated or enjoyed this time together without their brilliant assistance.

I realized on that first day, Wednesday, October 17th, just how many foreign delegates made great efforts to attend and share their expertise with us. There were representatives from Mexico, France, Spain, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Palestine, Chile, and of course our Canadian delegates and our friends in Cuba.  It was so joyful to share our passion of therapeutic clowning with so many.  This Congress ran like clockwork. Every morning there was an informative plenary in the auditorium of William Soler Pediatric Cardiocenter.  In the afternoon, delegates were given the opportunity to choose from a variety of different workshops given by our global facilitators and our Cuban colleagues.

Our Canadian Melissa Holland, Founder of ‘Dr Clown’ Foundation, Montreal, eloquently did us proud the very first morning,  in Spanish, giving the Keynote,  ‘The Therapeutic Clown:  An Indispensable Role’ followed by two separate workshops during the next two days.  Cuba loved our Melissa – as I knew they would.

Ruth Cull’s,  CHEO, Ottawa  ‘poster presentation’ on Training Medical Students was a roaring success, with many photos being taken and tricks of the trade shared and freebies given out.  Her storytelling skills and outgoing personality enchanted and engaged everyone present.

Fif  Fernandes and Hamish Boyd, representing Canada and India, delivered a workshop ‘A field of joy, transforming hospitals and health care’.  During Clown Rounds in William Soler Emergency Department they were happy to witness some of the techniques that they had taught previously in their workshop.

On the second morning of plenary sessions, I was happy to introduce the profession of Child Life Specialist  ‘Partners in Play’ with the Therapeutic Clown as partners. We demonstrated the collaboration of our two professions, nurturing optimal development and well-being of  patients while promoting coping skills and minimizing the adverse effects of hospitalization.

On our final morning we were honoured to have representatives from the Ministry of Art and  Culture and the Ministry of Health on a panel for the first time in Cuba.  It was a constructive and positive discussion around Best Practices, accreditation, on-going artistic and psychosocial training, research and remuneration.

After many years of travelling to Cuba for TCI, this Congress was the highlight of our sharing this profession of therapeutic clowning with Cuba.  We at Therapeutic Clowns International, realized that this profession will now grow and be nourished through partnerships with other countries and government support for many years come.  Well done Cuba!

Joan Barrington, Director                                                                                                    Therapeutic Clowns International (TCI)



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