Alice’s Journal, Sept. 25th

Now we really are a vehicle full of clowns…. Jamie, James, Selena and I have started the second expedition! Having James as a logistic coordinator has been fantastic. While he is gathering props, making a backdrop and making calls, we are able to develop new routines. We’ve added a bit where Selena hurts her ankle and Jamie and I try to bandage her but we “accidentally” wrap the child to her leg. Then we dress the child up as a doctor to properly bandage the wound.

Our first stop was the Ndlovu Medical Center, Elandsdoorn, in the province of Mpumalanga. Ndlovu is a phenomenal place, which provides medical care for the Elandsdoorn community and the surrounding townships. There is a maternity ward, consultation room, pharmacy, laboratory, nutritional units, OVC program, NAAP (Ndlovu Aids Awareness Program) and much more. Peter Schrooders, one of the doctors at the centre, let a bunch of clowns stay at his house, while he and his son Kevin motorbiked six hours to Durban. What a cool Dad!

On September 20, we met with NAAP. We would be joining them, performing at a community awareness event. Taking a Deep Breath #1: First performance was a little rocky… mainly because Selena and I goofed on our acrobatics and she ended up scraping open her elbow. So in the doctor scene, Jamie really did get the First Aid kit. Selena was a trooper and just kept playing the scene Jamie bandaged her, while the child and I wrapped up the ankle. Talk about getting into character….yeeesh.

After the show, Koen can der Lubbe (Project Manager of NAAP) gave us a tour of Ndlovu.

Taking a Deep Breath #2: We went into an Intensive Care Unit for HIV inpatients…. It took me a second. A rush of tears came to my eyes and I had to breathe them back. Eyes so sunken in. Arms of bone, with a thin layer of skin. Lying there. Just lying there. I smiled. They smiled back. We moved forward.

Postnatal room. An HIV-positive mom with her new baby. She has been taking antiretroviral drugs, so the baby is negative. But it will have to be tested again in 4 weeks time. So little. Like a little grape. All wrinkly and confused. It may have a chance… but it will lose its mom.

Consultation rooms… a long hallway filled with patients. Patients curled to the outside waiting area. Patients. Patients. Patients. They will come early in the morning and wait all day. The six doctors will see up to 120 a day. Breathe.

The next day we performed at the Ndlovu Sports Center, then at a Nutritional Unit. In the afternoon we did some Hospital Clowning. Selena gave us a run down on “hospital clowning for dummies… or clowns in this case”. I was nervous. Weird, I can perform to 900 kids no problem, but one on one… I get nervous. Selena’s patience, play and humor calmed my nerves and we had a great time. We serenaded patients with her Birim Bao and my accordion, flirted with reception, swamped hats in the waiting line and danced with doctors. Meanwhile, James and Jamie sang songs and juggled in the maternity ward. Jamie also pretended his banjo was a newborn baby and they changed her diaper. I can’t believe I missed that!

On the morning of Sept. 23 we did one more show with NAAP. NAAP is an inspiring group of youth, dedicated to AIDS awareness. They tour around doing performances directing addressing issues surrounding the virus. They also do VCTs, or Voluntary Counseling and Testing, so when they perform, they are testing folks for HIV at the same time! The best is when they do community events, because they blast tunes and get the community dancing! They are a blessing to the children in Mpumalanga.

You really get used to acronyms; OVC, NAAP, VCT, HIV, IBM, YMCA, CBC (for all you Canadians!)
We returned to Joburg to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah with the Barnett family, friends of Jamie’s. I am repeatedly blown away by the kindness of the people in South Africa. This generous and artistic family hosted 19 people to share in their celebration.

Which brings me to yesterday. We went to the World Camps in Magaliesberg. Children from the townships are brought to the camp for workshops in psychosocial support, empowerment and ADVENTURE!!! The camp in progress was for 130 girls of various ages. We did our show in the dining hall and the laughter filled it from wall to wall. After the show, we did a talk back, answering any questions about our work. One of the older teens put up her hand and said, “you guys rock!”

We chatted with Phil Lilienthal (program director) and the rest of the staff. Selena and I then led workshops for all the campers. We took them through warm up, games and theatre exercises in life challenges and empowerment.

Taking a Deep Breath #3: The second group I taught was all teenage girls…. I fear teens, having worked with apathetic Canadian ones. 5 minutes in, as we were passing movements around a circle, they were laughing so hard, I couldn’t move onto the next exercise! They also blew me away with their risks & creative ideas.

So Tuesday we leave for Ladybrand. We’re on our way to Lesotho!
The breathing and adventure continues……

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