15 children, cancer survivors and orphans, sailing the waves of hope on the Nave Italia, the largest brigantine sailing ship in the world – and exporting Dr. Clown’s “Laughter Therapy” to children’s cancer ward at Genoa’s Gaslini Hospital!
“We could only accommodate 15 children on this trip, I wish I had an ocean liner to bring them all!”, comments Rafal Wojas, co-founder of Chance 4 Children (C4C).
Organized in tandem by C4C and the Italian Ambassador, H.E. Aldo Amati, this is the second time the Nave Italia set sail to ferry a group of special Czech children across the Mediterranean Sea. (Read about the first journey here)
The aim of the journey was not only to give back to a group of children from two distinctly different and needy backgrounds, cancer survivors and orphans – but also for them to experience community and the joy of bringing hope and encouragement to others.
On the ship, under the tutelage of C4C’s Uber-Clown, Rafal Wojas, and theatrical director, Daniel Brown, the children had practiced and learned songs in Italian and prepared programs for visits to cancer-stricken children at Genoa’s Gaslini Hospital and a homeless shelter in Rome.
“We went to visit the hospital and were singing to sick children so they could smile – at least for a while”, remembers Marketa, 9, who is a cancer survivor as well. “I know it helped them to forget their ordeal.”
“In Genoa and Rome, the kids were our Ambassadors of Hope”, smiles Rafal. “Especially our little cancer survivors remember how similar Clown programs brought them moments of happiness when they were hospitalized and sick.”
On board the ship, there was never a dull moment. Besides the sheer joy of experiencing the open sea on a large sailing ship, the children also took part of life on board: they learned about navigation, operating the ship, tying sailors knots, took shifts in the kitchen and were called on to help with clean-up too. They were truly part of the crew!
“For us, they are special sailors. It is a great human experience to work with them, ” says captain Marco Filzi, a former military officer. “But we also try to make them feel part of a team, help them to socialize and communicate, increase their self-esteem and sometimes even push them a little beyond their comfort zone”, he continues with a broad smile.
For Jakub, a cancer survivor, and Natalie from an orphanage near Prague, the trip was the highlight of their young lives. “It was awesome. We saw so many things and sights. In Rome we visited the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Basilica. I really like to study the history of Rome”, says Jakub. “Wow, this was my first time to fly and to sail – it was the greatest experience of my life” , chimes in an excited Natalie.
All’s well that ends well:
But, as all good things must come to an end, so also Expedition Octopus came to its conclusion after three days in Rome and Genoa and five days on the open sea. And as their plane touched down in Prague, the children took home memories and experiences they’re likely never to forget. Led by Rafal and C4C team member Daniel on guitars, and accompanied by a film crew from Czech TV, they charged into the usually calm and subdued airport arrival lounge belting out “La Bamba”, while wildly waving and smiling to the waiting parents and friends. (Check out the TV segment here)
“Thank you, C4C! My daughter Ami will treasure these memories for the rest of her life! Even though the youngest, she managed it wonderfully – thanks to all the wonderful and amazing people from the expedition. Thank you for this amazing holiday adventure”, comments Lucia, Ami’s mother, hugging her daughter.
Credit to whom credit is due:
Needless to say, it almost took a year’s planning and the help of many to bring this ambitious project to fruition. All of us here at C4C are grateful for everyone who pitched in to make it come true. Special thanks and honorary mentions for support and finances go to:
- CEZ Foundation
- The Italian Ambassador, H.E. Aldo Amati
- Finance Minster Ivan Pilny
- Czech Airlines
- The Spartan Charity Race
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making this incredible project a reality – again!
The C4C team