First of all, some people have told me they had no idea Patch Adams was a real person. He totally is. Some of you may only know of him from the Robin Williams movie that bears his name. That's valid, but the real Patch Adams, MD is alive and well.
His real name is Hunter and he really, actually, honestly is a medical doctor. He's also a ton of other things including a clown (duh) and a social activist.
Because of all this, he's one of my heroes. Here's a video of him in 2012 explaining some of what he's all about.
40 years ago Patch founded the Gesundheit! Institute which is a not-for- profit organization dedicated to holistic healthcare. GI is "based on the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, the world, and the health care system itself."(from the Gesundheit! Institute's mission statement.) GI builds clinics, offers education to healthcare workers, creates orphanages and provides healthcare to tens of thousands of people... some of them all over the world!
Ok. That's awesome. But you're still maybe asking ...why CLOWNS? Why would this man choose clowns, which can be so very creepy? And why would I choose to go be a clown? Isn't this all very silly and whimsical for the sake of whimsy? Not... entirely.
These "humanitarian clowning trips," are also referred to as Gesundheit Global Outreach (GGO). The whole philosophy boils down to this: individual health is linked to the health of society. The health of society is determined by the health of the individuals within it. You can'tseparate the two. Anyone in the field of community or public health worth his or her salt will tell you the same. Then- consider that society's health is linked to a ton of other bigger things, like politics and economics and environment. We need to affect changes in those things (in order to change society), in order to promote the health of individuals within that society. And the only way for society to change is for the individuals in the society to change.
GGO is rooted in the belief that in order to change society we must befriend one another. Clowning is a unique way to create friendships through play, and silliness and break down social barriers and status differences. Or as GI puts it:
We work closely with community members, seeking understanding which can guide more responsible and precise helping gestures. In clowning, we lovingly disturb the status quo and facilitate creative social change, enabling dialog between those with power and those without (men/women, rich/poor, boss/worker, doctor/patient, prisoner/guard, etc). Through collaborative explorations of local issues and needs with community members, we offer assistance in community projects, and education in health care, political and economic policy.
Got goosebumps yet? I do. And THAT my friends, is what I meant by "clowning around," with Patch Adams! I leave on Sunday the 18th. Feel free to leave words of advice or concern in the comments section, or email me directly, as always!