Belen Festival 2009. Iquitos Peru.
The Fourth Annual Belen Project brought more than 90 volunteers from eleven countries to Iquitos, Peru. Co-sponsored by
Gesundheit! Institute (Patch Adams) and Bolaroja Clown Doctors of Peru, is an ambitious and successful community development project. As with previous years, the central theme involved close
collaboration of clown volunteers with the Belen community to kindle the spirit of cooperative volunteer social action through art, play, work, education, and healthcare.
Clowns have a direct impact on community health.
The programs begun in 2006. Clown volunteers and local residents painted homes in Belen. There was a significant increase in
the number of homes painted entirely by residents of Belen. The paint itself was made available through the inspiration and actions of Wendy Ramos, director of Bolaroja in engaging the Facebook
cyber-community in a last minute donor campaign made necessary by the failure of promised corporate sponsorship. Due to the generosity of individual donors on Facebook, 300 gallons of paint were
donated, and 131 homes have been painted in beautiful colors.
Ninety tons of garbage was collected and removed from lower Belen in one day, partnering community volunteers, the Municipality of Belen, PAHO, and the clowns.
There was a diverse group age fourteen to sixty-five. Many had never clowned before. Some were in Belen on their second, third, or fourth trips. Days were full of clowning, painting, workshops, murals; there were meetings in the evening, siestas mid-day; they drank lots of water, working and playing closely together, hugging thousands of children, becoming vibrant cohesive community united in a commitment to service and fun, caring for each other, emphasizing what they had in common and playing with their differences, falling in love with each other, laughing and crying together. Clowns connected one to another in the spirit of gratitude for the opportunity to serve, in the spirit of amazement in the power of collaborative playful work, in the spirit of deep community through intentional loving kindness. At the end, they hugged and hugged and hugged till it was time to go back to their other lives, ready to live and give in that spirit of love.