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[A Heart of Gold] Trading Miles for Smiles
03 March 2016

Parents would do just about anything to see that sparkle in the eyes of their child or simply a face beaming with joy. When it comes to illuminating a smile on a child’s face, Caring CAB (Clowns at Birthdays) does likewise. Caring CAB is a group of professionals (some of whom are holding full-time positions) which has been actively volunteering with Star PALS since 2013. They travel the extra mile to bring the children extra smiles by bringing into play their clowning talents, singing and dancing skills and even performing magic for the children.

“A meaningful life is not about being rich, being popular, being highly-educated or being perfect. It is about being humble, being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others. It’s only then that we can have a full, happy and contented life,” declares Shootie, who prefers to be addressed by her clowning name, a little quirk shared by her fellow funny men and women. The group of vibrant, fun-loving clowns has had many “first time” experiences with our patients at Star PALS.

Entering every house evokes a similar feeling of anticipation within each clown, but a different impression becomes indelibly imprinted in their hearts when they leave. There is a sense of joy in prevailing against hopelessness, a show of perseverance and gathering of strength despite all odds in most of the households that the clowns visit. They leave the houses, each with a deeply personal experience, speechless and amazed in their individual ways by the patients and their families alike.

“We show we care by delivering a moment of relief to the patients in whatever situation they are in, putting a smile on them; at the same time, the caregivers cheer up too,” shares Scooby.

Caring CAB always tries its very best to accommodate the different schedules of the families and individual physical abilities of the patients. The fabulously entertaining group of joyful jesters definitely go all the way and beyond just to bring joy and comfort. Most importantly, they create many beautiful memories that remain etched in the minds and hearts of our beneficiaries.

On one such memorable occasion, Star PALS invited Caring CAB to join us for a birthday celebration in the afternoon. Scooby and Tellie were the dynamic duo activated and at the honking of a bright, red nose (or two), they dropped their daily work and hurried to meet the team at the void deck of the patient’s home. That was their very first home visit (unlike their usual hospital visits) and that one home visit thoroughly changed their perspectives and motivated them to continue spreading love and joy as Caring CABs.

“The one-to-one interaction demands a lot more from us but the reward far outweighs the investment,” explains Tellie, the crooning comedienne who loves singing.

In a hospital setting, there are proper facilities where they could change into their costumes and actual dressing tables where they could transform themselves cosmetically into full-fledged clowns, but home visits pose a whole new set of challenges as they have nowhere suitable to do any of those things.

On their very first visit, the clowns encountered their first challenge: there was no private place to change and put on make up. Needless to say, clowns are almost always armed with a mindful of crazy ideas. They found a corner by the staircase, relatively hidden from prying eyes (unfortunately not from our excessively enthusiastic photographers) and started gearing up and hysterically pulling their costumes over their heads. On other visits, the void deck became the makeup room of choice.

Truly, these are not your run-of-the-funny-farm, ordinary clowns, but clowns with extraordinary talents and hearts of gold – always willing to spare time and go the extra mile just to witness a smile on the faces of our patients and families.

“I think about the turmoil that they are going through and what they have possibly been through earlier. Whenever I read certain stirring paragraphs of fiction, hear a particularly touching song, I’ll still remember the session vividly,” says Rongèr, who volunteered once with Star PALS and left with a genuinely moving impression of a home birthday celebration.

“Our beneficiaries acknowledge the total devotion from the Caring Clowns. The settings in which they practice their craft (within our patients’ humble homes) have not been the most conducive but they took it in good spirits, blessing so many along the way with their genuine and heartfelt kindness,” says Dr Chong, Medical Director of HCA Hospice Care.

We are eternally grateful to be blessed with these beautiful buffoons who are volunteering with us at Star PALS. The difference they make to our beneficiaries is something neither any amount of money can buy nor any form of medical treatment can accomplish. It is something so priceless and worthwhile just to see the innocence and pure joy radiating from the smiles of our beloved patients, delivered right to their doorsteps and straight to their hearts. The joy is profound, and it spreads to all who are present.

Drop a note of encouragement for our beloved volunteers @ communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg. You may also wish to visit https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/volunteers/info-on-volunteerism to volunteer with HCA Hospice Care. Stay tuned to read more volunteer stories in the [Heart of gold] series!