What is there to laugh about when fleeing home?

by Monica Culen

AUSTRIA – 20 June 2016

He looks to be in his early fifties, his appearance is disleveled and unpolished. His clothes are worn and he has a serious edge to his face.  He is leaning on a fence which surrounds the refugee camp Traiskirchen. Around him three young boys sing, dance and play with RED NOSES clowns. Seeing the events unfold, the man cannot help but soften his gaze. “We were so desperate and unhappy,” says the man. He later reveals himself to be the father of one of the boys. “Then you guys arrived, I haven’t seen them this happy in a long time. Thank you so much,” he explains with a sincere smile and as tears form around his eyes.

Imagine. Just for a moment. What it would be like to be in their place? These people come from war. Their houses have been destroyed. They have seen extreme violence and death. They have lost everything. They fled their countries to bring their children to safety. There is nothing left for them there. They are in an extraneous place; they do not even know how to continue. They have to start a new life in which ever country they end up – in the Middle East, in Turkey, in Europe or in other parts of the world.

This is the making of a lost generation. When all that one faces is fear and desperation, the trauma buries all emotions. It removes any radiance from the soul. These people, especially the children, lose many things: their identity, their self-worth, their creativity and their ability to learn. Often, it is these hidden emotions of helplessness that prompt reactions of distrust and anger.  

Many doctors, psychologists, teachers and social workers alike are needed to productively process these emotions. Only with patience can these people embrace society once more and regain the confidence to express positive emotions.

We know one treatment that always works. One that is contagious and that touches the soul. Like the air we breathe, or the food we eat, laughter is a basic need for all human beings. The state of happiness is essential for any long-term recovery.  

It is humour that makes the unbearable, bearable. It is a laugh that frees the soul, that aerates the body and that gives wings to the spirit.

When people need it most, for those who thought there is no more luck and happiness for them in this life, we bring them a positive message.  We make them smile from the heart, suddenly gaining hope and courage to feel alive again.

When we encounter individuals with traumatic experiences, humour and laughter are our first tools to help them open up. Helping a child to rediscover their laughter is the key to unlocking buried emotions. Sometimes, the moment where they are laughing whole heartedly is a trigger to unlease a flood of emotions and tears that they were holding back for so long.

If there is only one this that all humans share, it is our ability to smile and laugh together. Someone who laughs is not necessarily angry or scared. If we want that the many people, who are fleeing for their lives right now, to gain renewed confidence and to live an independent and fulfilling, then we should help them laugh a lot!



About the author:
Monica Culen is the co-founder of ten RED NOSES organizations in Europe and the Middle East. She is also the President of the Austrian Fundraising Association.


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