C4C´s interview series – Get to know the team!
Ever wondered who are the folks visiting hospitals, mentoring youth at risk or staffing the C4C office? Look no further and find out here! We kicked off this series of interviews by first quizzing founder Manfred Franke (click here), his wife Marketa (click here) and in today´s segment you´ll get to know C4C´s co-founder Rafal Wojas.
Down the line, find out what makes the members of our Dr. Klaun team tick and why our teachers, mentors and psychologists dedicate their time to helping young people in children´s homes succeed in life and in the job market. Why do they even care?
All this and more is coming your way in the coming months – stay tuned for more!
Interview with Rafal Wojas, C4C´s co-founder:
- You started C4C together with Manfred in 1996. How did you actually meet?
I was running a charity project in Slovakia from 1995 to 1999. In 1997 I received an invitation for a European get together of NGO’s in Hungary. At this event I met Manfred. We discovered that we had a matching vision and a desire of helping others. At the end of our discussions, an idea of working together was formed and in 1999 we teamed up together.
- Being partners for over 20 years in a charity is a respectable feat. Do you still have the same visions and ideas, or do you sometimes diverge in ideas? Then how do you reconcile?
In my life, I have met many people, have worked with many people and have been able to serve and help many people. The best thing, for which I am most grateful, is that Manfred and I have become close friends over the years. We have learned how to work together. Have learned how to accept each other and have learned to respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This friendship was and still is the foundation on which we have built Chance 4 Children. Our vision and desire of helping others is what has helped us overcome any and all differences and obstacles. Our main dedication to what we do, mixed with close friendship, is definitely the main reason we are still working together and having fun at the same time.
- You are the main Dr. Klaun for 20 years – have you ever run out of smiles?
The first time I have put on a clown nose was in 1993 in Warsaw, Poland. I have been invited by a friend, pediatrician doctor at Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka, the biggest children’s hospital in Poland, to come and to meet his friends. When I came to the hospital, he took me room by room and personally introduced me to his friends, children’s patients whom he was treating. I met Anna, Eva, Jan, Tomasz and many others and had a chance to talk briefly with each one of them. Later in his office, after being introduced to them, he asked me: “So what do you think of your visit and of meeting with my friends?” I remember thinking long before answering. When I finally gathered my thoughts, I said to him: “The children are bored, lonely and sad.” To this he responded: “So what are you going to do about it?” Well, that question changed my life. This year it’ll be 30 years, since being asked this question, 30 wonderful years of bringing laughter and joy to the world to those who suffer, are lonely and in need of a helping hand. Have I ever run out of smiles? Definitely yes! Sad periods in my life, heart breaking experiences, difficulties I had to overcome, events that brought tears to my eyes which helped me to be more compassionate, more understanding of others, more present and more humble. You can, of course, put on an act, learn funny jokes, learned routine gags and take it as a job – many do. But for me, those experiences have given me more, they taught me to have better understanding of other people´s needs and helped me to feel for them and to relate to what they’re going through. Without it, it would be shallow and superficial, an act without a heart and soul. Laughter therapy can´t really be learned, it has to come from the heart, it has to be felt, only then heart to heart communication can happen and wonderful miracles take place. Miracles where everything changes for the better and things are never the same.
- How do you motivate yourself when you go to the hospital to clown around and give out smiles, but you just don’t feel like laughing because life makes the day more difficult here and there?
When you put the needs of others before your own and focus on being present and in the moment, then you don’t have time to think of your own problems. Your own problems then seem irrelevant, they simply disappear. As a hospital clown, I have learned to leave my problems outside the hospital doors, this is what we’re teaching all of our clowns, to forget about ourselves and to focus on those we’re with, on making it a priority to connect with them and help them to forget about the hospital blues.
- How many clowns does the C4C team have now? How are they educated? How often are you in personal contact when Dr. Clowns are all over the country?
At present we have 25 Dr. Clowns. Each clown participates in regional and national workshops. Workshops are focused on self-development. Each and every clown is unique and it is important for us that each clown works on growing, adapting, changing and learning as an individual. It’s a lifetime learning process. The workshops are meant to give each clown tools he/she can use to be more flexible, adaptable and open, to react spontaneously and to improvise in any give situation. Each child or elderly person we meet is unique and different, therefore our clowns have to be able to adjust their visits accordingly. Each visit is different and gives us an opportunity to learn, to grow and to gain new experiences which enable us to meet each person’s needs. I’m in contact with each clown regularly, am personally interested in what is happening in their lives, in the hospitals they visit and am happy that most of them are with us for many years. I´m happy that we have very little rotation in our team and that we’re all doing clowning with all of our hearts. I often travel and join our clowns in their visits, this gives me an opportunity to hear them out, to know what they need and what would help them to be better at what they do.
- You can’t be a “full-time” clown every day from morning to night. What is your “civilian” job?
When I’m not clowning, I’m fully committed to Chance 4 Children’s other projects. I’m privileged that I can do what I love and Chance 4 Children is what I love and give my all to, to make this world a better place.
- How did and does your family support you in your work as a clown?
My wife is part of Dr. Clown team, my son, Kevin Richard, did clowning for three years in Kladno hospital, so I can’t complain about a lack of support from my family. Clowning and Chance 4 Children’s charitable work has a permanent presence in our lives and I enjoy the full support of the work I have committed myself to.
- What are your hobbies?
I love photography, wood-working, hiking, discovering new cultures, travelling and most of all, meeting new people.
- Are you doing any sports?
I do, I enjoy swimming, biking, playing badminton, hiking and paddle boarding.
- How about movies, which ones do you enjoy?
I enjoy most movies based on true stories, movies that give you food for thought, that provoke you to reflect on your live. I also enjoy action movies, sci-fi movies and romantic ones, which my wife loves the most.
- Any last words?
We’re all a time limited ‘edition’. We only live once, so let’s make the best of the time that is given us to help those who can’t help themselves. Each one of us can do something, can help someone and to do that we don’t have to be billionaires, we just have to do what we can with what we have. Love isn’t love, unless you give it away and the more you give, the more you get. So let’s all do our part, to make this world a better place for everyone.