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Clown Goes To Help Tsunami Victims Smile Again

Kiwi clown goes to help tsunami victims smile again

The adage 'laughter is the best medicine' is something of an article of faith for New Zealand actor Aaron Ward.

This week (9 February) he takes his Elvo the Clown act to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, to put a smile on the faces of children severely battered by the Asian tsunami.

He will perform at World Vision child activity centres - designed to assist children who are grieving the loss of their homes and friends and help prevent them from being abandoned or trafficked.

It will be a big change of role for Aaron, who normally finds work in television drama, live theatre and pantomime.

He most recently appeared as a marathon runner in a Mizone drinks commercial and as the groom at a wedding in an ad for AMI insurance.

But he says helping truamatised children find some joy in life is the most satisfying work he has done.

"Kids have forgotten how to be kids in these situations. They need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, they need to be able to gain some normality, they need to laugh again," he says.

It will be the second time he has used his talents to assist children in dire need. In 1999 he went to the Balkans to entertain Albanian children living in refugee camps, after fleeing atrocities perpetrated in Kosovo.

He admits, at first, he was unsure how children who had witnessed the burning of their homes and villages, and violent deaths of those close to them would respond to his clown act.

"I had a lot of doubt before the first show but about 10 seconds into it I knew it was right. First somebody would smile, then you would get a giggle and then everybody would burst into full-blown laughter."

But Aaron acknowledges it will not all be fun and games in Banda Aceh. He will be forced to live amongst the unsanitary and primitive conditions faced by the local population.

"The whole area has been completely devastated but I will survive, I can put up with roughing it," he says.

Aaron says besides helping children laugh again, he will be responsible to help them through their grieving.

"It's about getting kids to realise the different stages in the grieving process - longing, anger, despair - are all okay. There's nothing wrong or strange about having those feelings."


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