"It’s not water, it’s heaven!"

Where I should even begin? I guess I’ll start from the beginning.

When I heard about RED NOSES Caravan Orchestra (CARO) for the first time, I couldn’t imagine I would be capable of doing it myself. When health care clowns from different countries described some of the heart-breaking moments they had experienced as part of this unique program, I have to admit I struggled silently to keep back tears and maintain a smile on my face.

The Caravan Orchestra is a musical and theatrical performance for children with multiple disabilities.

Our little spectators include children with autism, Down syndrome, mobility impairment due to infantile cerebral palsy, or other dilapidating mental and physical conditions. All of them attend special schools or are residents of institutions providing social services.

During the performance, we strive to gain access to the world of these children who tend to be quite isolated from the outside world. We do so with the help of props, music, and songs. We are always surprised by the unexpected reactions and responses we witness at each performance.

For me personally, the Caravan Orchestra performance in Levoča (Slovakia) was one of these exceptionally powerful experiences.

Nine little souls were assembled and waiting for us in the common room of the local special school. The ages and disabilities of the children varied. Virtually all of the children were sitting, waiting with curiosity as to what was to come. There was a nun, a member of a religious order, standing with a boy at the back door. The boy kept nervously thumbing through a phone book.

We slowly started. Music and singing resounded through the corridors of the stately appearing school. As part of our introduction, we gradually sang the names of all the children and adults in the audience. The shy responses we had noticed at first began to slowly disappear, as we sensed the changing moods of the pupils and their teachers. But out of the blue, something thudded at the back of the room. It was the boy with the telephone book! He had loudly dropped a chair. Despite this distraction, our audience in the front rows kept their attention on us.

After the first song, the stage was set for us to introduce our props. As we were opening a suitcase, hoping to find our musical instruments there, a voice rang out, “look, water!” We slowly took the “water” out of the suitcase and started to bring it closer to the spectators to show them. A large piece of blue tulle fabric started rising and falling right before the eyes of these fascinated children. Suddenly, another voice rang out: “it’s not water, it’s heaven!”

Following these words, a thudding sound came from the back of the room. The boy with the telephone book was running towards us, staring at our “heaven” as if he was hypnotized. He slowly reached out his hand to the fabric, took it, and kept tenderly touching his face and hair with it. Mindful of his response, we left the heaven flowing over the spectators for longer than usual.

Once we returned the fabric to the suitcase, the boy went back to his corner and started to leaf through the phone book again. The performance smoothly came to an end and we parted ways with the audience.

Immediately before our departure, the teacher in the back approached us. She was deeply moved. In her own words, she had never experienced anything like this before. She explained that the boy with the telephone book was autistic and rarely showed an interest in responding to the outside world. She was taken by surprise with what she saw. He responded! He even enjoyed it! He cherished those enchanting moments when he could gently touch the fabric.

At that point, it felt to me as if, for a little while, we didn't have the blue tulle inside our suitcase but, instead, a real piece of heaven...

Ria Benkovska
Coordinator for CARO in Slovakia





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