Clowning to communicate? It works!

Clowning as a communication strategy in sexual health communication: a partial, informal, playful but realistic assessment of the regional impact of the Proyecto Payaso South South Exchange programme.

Theatre is powerful. Full stop. Nothing else has the power to mirror reality and life and to make us see ourselves, our weaknesses, strengths, stupidity, vulnerabilities. It stands to reason, therefore, that if one wants to change behaviour, theatre or ‘drama’ is arguably the best method to do it. It was this belief that led me to Proyecto Payaso. Looking at their website on the internet, I was immediately drawn to the project, despite my initial desire to go to South America and not Central.

One of the interesting aspects of the project was its ‘South South’ exchange programme, and what seemed to me to be its defiance of traditional the North-South relationship. That is, dependence on the theories, advise and experience of the North to tackle the issues of the South. I was an instant convert, myself a native of the ‘South’ (Jamaican). I felt that there was so much beauty in the natural culture of the South and thought it sad that we did not share our experiences in more meaningful ways. For the first time I actually felt special that an organization wanted my knowledge and experience instead of that of my Northern counterpart.

Proyecto Payaso offers a model of sexual health communication to the region that is participatory, target driven and non traditional; and this is exactly why it works. The project employs local youth but they are not just blindly carrying out the mandate of the organization; they actually have a stake in it right up to the executive level. Meetings, training and evaluation activities are all designed to involve the clowns in the development of the project. I participated in the project at all levels as well, sharing experiences and envisioning how this kind of project would work in my own context.

One of the distinctive features of Proyecto Payaso, for me, was the fact that the ‘obras’ or plays were specifically adapted to specific target audiences, even within Guatemala. The play done in the female prison was different from those done at schools or with indigenous women or in the various regions. Targeting audiences specifically is an extremely important part of planning any campaign for behaviour change. The fact that this is the case shows the evidence based backbone of the project (no clowning around!).

One of the things I grappled with the most during my time at the project (especially during ‘clown training’) was how the project managed to use clowning as a method of tackling a serious issue (HIV). The clown, I realized, helped to introduce issues that were not easily discussed in this population, and was a more accepted figure as it was not seen as threatening.

The fact that similar models to the project have been created regionally because of the exchange programme in other Central and South American countries is a testament to the success of the programme. The exchange programme can have an impact on the individual, in the sharing of ideas and in the influence of ideology.

Repost from the previous blog of Soroya Julian (originally published on July 27, 2011)


Focus on Changing Caribbean Eating Habits: Claire Haynes – TEDxYouth@Bridgetown Talk

A group of inspired and talented young professionals from TEDxYouth@Bridgetown recently held a 2-day event in Barbados entitled ‘The Big Questions’. The event was attended by secondary school students from across Barbados.

One of the featured speakers was Claire Haynes who delivered a powerful presentation entitled: ‘How the Catelli Girl Got Out the Box’. The presentation focussed on the urgency of re-evaluating traditional Caribbean eating habits and shifting away from diets comprised of highly processed foods to healthier diets consisting of more natural, organically based foods.


How to participate in the UNAIDS CrowdOutAIDS strategy drafting!

As we discussed before in our earlier posts, we all have the opportunity to participate in the development  of the UNAIDS Crowdsourcing strategy. This short video explains how. Perhaps a good question to ask though is why? Why should I spend the time to make a contribution?

Here are some reasons:

1. Only you know the experience you have and what you think should be done to improve the situation. Whether you work for a non profit or the government (or wherever), your insight might be valuable and actually make a difference.

2. You might learn something from others by participating in the chat.

3. You can make contact with other participants from around the world.

4. You can ensure that the unique issues the Caribbean faces are addressed.

5. You can learn how to use a new collaborative tool (Google docs) you may have never used before.

6. Show Andre Robb, the Caribbean representative on the drafting committee some support!

Can you think of any more reasons?

Please visit to view the calendar and find out about the next live drafting sessions. Let’s make sure the Caribbean is well represented!


“Never worry about what you will do next…” Reflections from Dr. George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of the Pan American Health Organization

A conversation with Dr. George Alleyne begining from his formative years in the University of West Indies to his current views about Panamericanism, Equity and a wide range of public health issues. Dr. Alleyne chronicles his career development and his ascendency as an academic and as Director Emeritus of PAHO. He states that he learned not to worry too much about the next steps in life, just to work hard, and the next steps will be become very obvious.