Singureni, September 28, 2003
Prologue - Sept. 27, 2003 - As you may know charity is a different animal where many humans want to pet or stroke and are with good intentions. Few will surface on the actual day. It is just that way. I'm quite excited for tomorrow to be able to offer one crazy day to the few lives of forty kids. They did not ask to be hiv-positive nor did they vote to be homeless and without parents. I think we have a nice bunch to add some music. Two clowns. Four actors from the national theater. Two camera people. A photographer. A martial arts team. It is an invitation to all kids to join these artists. The make-up artist will try and add more clowns. And hopefully we will show Mino Damato that I mean what I say. And support his tremedous efforts. Will tell later.....
How it went down. Ok. From 11am we had one hour delay for people to all get together in a 16-seat minibus. The hotel pastry-chef had packed pieces of last night's wedding cake and doggy bagged them in boxes. As I was on the phone organizing I realized my new "homeless friend" must have been waiting for a half hour. I ran outside to see if he was there. He was. Right there at the entrance. Great. In the hour drive to the village we picked up our kendo team and master. We talked a little about the idea and I suggested that what was most important of all was to get a series of improvised clowns on their feet as we would start preparing ourselves once arrived. Hug a lot and touch a lot and kiss too. This was the basic tool for our clowns to approach the kids. One would have the only real professional nose and that's why he might have a nose fetish. A hairfetish would be good. An eye fetish and of course one of the women clowns would have a kiss-everybody obsession.
Anyway. Once we arrived we picked a place in the main square where all play would take place. Then we consumed a small lunch ouside which had been prepared. The Kendo team said they could not eat before fighting. The actors were rehearsing. While our makeup artist put the first clown through the works on the side while kids could watch this process, the homeless guy started his own little performance. A little sad clown sits on a bench. A pantomime. He sits there being lonely and there is a box with a ribbon around it placed in front of him. A nice girl appears and pats him on the shoulder and points to the box indicating it is for him. He decides to open the box. The present is revealed. It is a small child. What a surprise. Applause. The kids think it is a small masterpiece. And it is. The 5-yr old in the box of course had to be planted there without anybody noticing. This was not so easy. We did it just before the performance. But I got afraid the little kid would not get enough air. I had no idea exactly what his condition was.
Mino Damato, the founding president, was watching this, but I got a little scared so I had to pretend to be an idiot and check what was in the box and so the kids knew. It did not matter. Next the actors started performing a normal human procedure. How do you wake up. How do you sleep. Brush teeth. Open faucet with hot water etc. The kids joined in and copied them. Then they stopped this and made a little more room for the next segment. While they started their magic and the audience got quiet the box which was still there started moving and moving again. Interfering and distracting this new beginning. I jumped in and opened the box. Another child was in it and laid low. He made it clear that he needed to be carried away before coming out. So we did and gave him an applause.The next show was a very original and clever choreographed ballet of imaginary things. Really magnificent and done on music from a CD. The people next to the CD player were moving along which made the music jump. I saw a moment of panic in the players but they incorporated the CD hickups from then on. Next the pieces of wedding cake were served. While this was going on the Kendo warriors walked onto the square. The kids swallowed their cake and got very quiet. What followed was a very funny and serious and dangerous demonstration of kendo after which our kendo master invited them to practice a few moves. The kids were so into this and the clowns were multiplying while all this was going on. Pictures were taken. Hands and hugs were in constant touch.
It turned out it was the birthday of five kids and more cake was brought to a special table and happy birthday in different languages was sung. Then some kids started dancing, or running around or came to me for more pictures. The day was as bright and light as the weather. Sunny and warm and lovely and it could not have been more perfect.
And the smiles on their faces and the way their hands would hold on was deeply moving. All we did was give them a few hours and how much did they return. I know that it was an explosion which left me stunned and exhausted afterwards. After the bigger bus had left and the goodbyes died out I had an hour long discussion with Mino just getting to know him more and some thoughts about what else we might do together.
I said let's just see. It will come to us. One thing he said there stayed with me on the way home. If people want to do something for HIV-children they need to be butterflies. They need it now. I know we did just that. And I felt we were close to each other. Not to be forgotten. No matter how long or how short the time.
Some men just have such heart and courage. And sometimes I get to meet them. They then have a place in my heart forever. What to say about such a meeting. The man who's been buldling a hospital as well as a small safe village for HIV kids since the early nineties is Mino Damato. A modest and gentle intelligent man. Just the best....
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