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Jul 15, 2011

April 2011 - July 2011

In our last report we updated you on the training of our new Clown Doctors and featured an interview with Kirsty Hudson. I spoke to her today to get an update on how her training is going: 

How do you think you have developed since starting the training?

I feel as though I have come a long way in a short space of time though realize I still have a whole journey ahead of me with more to learn as I go. I have gained a much more heightened sense of awareness in the hospital environment, noticing more and being more conscious of children, staff and visitors all around me when I am working. This is something I am continuing to develop, along with practical skills such as magic which is currently my weakest skill. However, I have learned to make a selection of balloon animals which is another new skill for me since starting the training. I also feel that my openness and response to improvisation is continuing to grow. I have done classes on improvisation whilst at university and it feels so brilliant to put the skills I developed there into practice and just enjoy being able to play.                                                                  

Our current Clown Doctors have been supporting the trainees every step of the way and as Kirsty mentions above, have been assisting them on their first visits to the hospitals.

Dr Hunny went to Bradford Royal Infirmary with Kathleen, one of the trainees, and sent us a lovely story which we would like to share with you:

I slowly peeked through the door where a little girl was sat down next to her father. We made eye contact and she smiled at me…I asked if it would be ok to come into her room and also if Kathleen (a trainee Clown Doctor who was observing) could join me too! The little girl nodded so we entered her room. I introduced myself and Kathleen, and asked the little girl her name. She told me but I called her ‘Princess’ as she looked like a little princess.

I picked up one of the little girl’s ‘Dora the Explorer’ slippers and pretended it was a phone! ‘Ring, ring, ring, ring’. (I’d pushed a phone sound effect on the gadget in my pocket). I placed the slipper to my ear and passed the little girl the other slipper. ‘Hello’ – she responded giggling away! We had a little conversation, including her Dad too, who also had the slipper to his ear! There was a lot of laughter whilst we were chatting away and I ended the conversation asking the little girl if she could help me do some magic. I pulled out of my pocket three yellow stars (sponges)! We gave the stars names (one being ‘Princess’, one ‘Dad’ and one my friend ‘Kathleen’!) The first star was placed in my hand (Princess) along with the second star (Kathleen)…the third star (Daddy) was placed into my pocket! I asked the little girl how many stars were in my hand – she responded ‘Two’. I asked the little girl whether we should try to magic the Dad star back. ‘Yes’ she said and we decided on the magic word ‘Abracadabra’ (after considering ‘Av a banana’, ‘Av a kebab’ and ‘Av a dab-dab’)! To the little girl’s amazement it worked, all three stars were together again! ‘How did you do that?!’, the little girl said with a big smile on her face. ‘I didn’t do it’, I replied…. ‘You must be magic’. We gave the little girl a big clap and she looked very pleased with herself. Just after us doing this, in walked three nurses with a trolley containing medication for the little girl - the nurses asked her what she’d been doing. I then said ‘how about she shows you, she’s very magical’ (the little girl agreed excitedly) This time we called the stars after the three staff nurses and we used the little girl’s hands to put the stars in, not mine.

We went through the story, placing two of the stars into the girl’s hand and the third into my pocket.

When the magic words were said she slowly opened her hand and was thrilled to see she had all three stars!! She was giggling away and the nurses congratulated her – she just looked elated and I truly believe it took her mind off what she was about to have done. Kathleen and I left her room watching the little girl still smiling away, Dad too, and the nurses.

‘Bye, Bye little Princess’, ‘You’re Magic’…

From everyone here at Theodora Children’s Trust thank you so much for your continued support.

Apr 27, 2011

January 2011 - April 2011

Dr LooLoo at North Manchester General Hospital
Dr LooLoo at North Manchester General Hospital

In our last project report we announced that we had just taken on 8 new Clown Doctors. These trainees have now completed 3 modules and are currently undertaking their fourth and final week before starting their assisted visits. We are so excited to have such a passionate group on board and are looking forward to 2012 when they will join our current team of 17 Clown Doctors.

I thought the best way to tell you about the training is for you to hear it from the trainees and trainers themselves. I recently attended one of the modules and asked Kirsty Hudson, one of our trainees, to share with you her experience of the training so far.

Why did you want to become a Theodora clown doctor?

I've always worked with children since finishing school.  I love to make people laugh and smile.  I think the best thing about this job is that you give something to people who need it the most.  Children in hospital really need laughter.

What previous experience do you have?

I have a Performing Arts degree but have also worked in a nursery and crèche for 4 years.  I've had very little experience in clowning so that element of the training is quite new to me.

What has your training entailed so far?

Lots of modular work, including infection control, child development in relation to humour and how that's impacted by illness.  We've also looked at the impact on a family when a child is ill.  On the practical side, training involved the beginnings of developing a character, creating a team, an environment and a supportive network.  I've loved the modules which I've found so interesting and thought provoking, especially the work with the hospital specialists. 

What did you think of your 1st hospital visit?

My 1st visit was to Southampton General Hospital and I felt very privileged to be there.  I really enjoyed watching the different reactions, not just from the patients and children but also from the parents and staff.  It was wonderful to see with our own eyes what we're aiming to achieve. 

I also caught up with Hilary Day, one of our trainers...

How did you choose the trainees?

With great difficulty.  We had an amazing number of people apply.  We look at whether they'd be able to cope with working in a hospital and whether they'd fit in and work well with the current team.  We also look at their skills and experience and how these would compliment those of the existing clown doctors.

Why does the training take so long?

It is important to allow people enough time to develop their skills, as well as experience various scenarios.  Even after 10 years of doing this job, I still get surprises; we can't equip them for every single situation but we try to simulate different circumstances you may come across on a children's ward so they can tailor their skills and adapt.


Once trained, these new Clown Doctors will enable us to visit over 70,000 children and their families each year. That’s a lot of laughter for people who really need it.

“On our first meeting with Dr Kala our daughter was very ill, she just lay in bed with tubes and drains coming from all parts of her body.  She hadn't spoken to us for a few days and we were desperate as we felt she would give up. Then one day in walked a clown doctor who sang and talked and joked and played silly tricks that made us laugh.  Our daughter responded in her own way, which was with her eyes; they sparkled, she was hooked, there was a funny lady who had come to entertain her and our hopes started returning...On a cancer ward a lot of children won't make it through treatment, but their last days are filled with laughter and fun from the clown doctors...they show the parents that they are allowed to smile and that it's good to have laughter around even when things are bad.”     The parents of a child with cancer at Addenbrooke's Hospital

Thank you so much for your continued support.

The new trainees
The new trainees


Jan 19, 2011

October 2010 - January 2011

Bradford Royal Infirmary. Photo: Candis Magazine
Bradford Royal Infirmary. Photo: Candis Magazine

Since joining Global Giving in October 2010 Theodora Children's Trust have visited over 16,000 children and their families at 17 hospitals throughout England and Wales.

The Clown Doctors love sharing stories from the hospitals with our donors. It seems only right that you should hear about the magical moments that you so kindly help to create.  Below is one such story from Dr Dovetail:

“On Monday I had the pleasure of bumping into a little girl I’d met once before. I had just entered the ward and stopped at the sink to wash my hands when a lady called out to me. ‘Thank goodness for that’, she said, ‘We were so hoping to see you. You met my daughter last August and she talks about you every time we come back to the hospital.’ The lady explained that her daughter had arrived on the Friday for an operation and had been in intensive care all weekend. Monday was her first day back on the ward and she was delighted that I had arrived just in time to see her. She led the way to her cubicle and as soon as I poked my head around the door her daughters face burst into the biggest smile I had ever seen. Despite her scars and weakness from the operation her expression was one of pure delight. ‘We were talking about you ALL the way here’, she said. ‘You made me a big, blue balloon dog last time. I LOVE dogs. My favourite colour used to be pink but it’s blue now!’ This is the most magical part of being a Clown Doctor. Whether we’re here or not, we live in the imaginations and minds of the children and make hospital a little less scary and a little more happy.”

As part of our quality control we regularly meet with staff at the hospitals we visit to evaluate our Clown Doctor programme. Below is a quote from Anoushka Duroe who is an Arts Coordinator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital:

 “I am writing to thank you and the team at Theodora’s Trust for running the Clown Doctors programme. I would be grateful if you could extend this thanks to the donors and supporters and to your wonderful team of Clown Doctors who bring magic to Birmingham Children’s Hospital each week. We have had fantastic feedback from families and ward staff. The Clown Doctors bring lightness and laughter to families who often spend long periods of time in hospital. This can be a stressful time and everyone values the opportunities that the Clown Doctors create to be able to smile together as a family. Thank you so much for making so many people happy.”  

Although we have grown significantly in the last few years we still have a list of hospitals waiting to be visited and in 3 of the hospitals we currently visit, due to a lack of Clown Doctors, we are only able to visit half the hospital each week, alternating the following week. For this reason we have decided to train 8 new Clown Doctors to visit an additional 20,000 children per year.

The training began last week with 5 days of seminars run by health care professionals and our Clown Doctor trainers. Subjects covered included infection control and common childhood illnesses and diseases. By 2012 we hope to have a team of 25 Clown Doctors who will visit over 70,000 children each year.

Thank you for your continued support.

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