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Spreading joy in a red-nosed car

We may think of hospitals as clinical, cold places. But, since the 1970s, the red of a clown's nose has become a welcome pop of colour.

Photograph: Ådalskolen, Ringsted

Text: Michaela Medveďová

The red nose often adorns the face of Kirsten Licia Lærke Olsen, and when it does, she becomes Omsorgsklovnen Kikka (The Care Clown Kikka). A pedagogue since 1987, Kirsten has always been fascinated by the hospital clowns. She took a continuing education as a caring clown in 2015 but wanted to spread joy in places other than hospitals.

"I decided to be a caring clown who drives around in my little red car with a red nose in the front - so you're sure that a clown is coming." She visits children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, the elderly, people with dementia, or small children to spread joy and happiness. She meets them in their homes, schools, institutions, nursing homes, and daycare.

“I meet people with empathy and respect and try to show them they are loved as they are.”

Kirsten needs to prepare for every visit as there is a difference between interacting with able-bodied children and adults and children with disabilities. "I have to be ready to catch the moment. In some nursing homes, the residents want to be entertained while sitting and drinking coffee. So I use music while interacting with them. They love to have physical contact with me, so we hold hands. Sometimes, I even dance with them while sitting or standing." But when visiting elders, she also inevitably experiences death. While it's sorrowful, Kirsten is ultimately happy to have met them and enjoyed their company.

Some of those she visits can't remember her name - or their own, or who their families are. "But there is something about the expression of the clown that they know. Even without talking, I can read people's signals." Yet Kikka's visits can also develop into a unique and special relationship, just like her relationship with a woman who has a physical disability and suffers from dementia. Kirsten has been visiting her for six years.

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