Potpourri & The Eleventh Week in Sicily

This was a week full of joy and… fishermen`s stuff… Joyful because I spent it together with “the red noses” from Messina VIP Association, a group of clowns who do volunteer work in hospitals and who are supervised by my colleague and friend from CESV, Mari Angela. And with fishermen`s stuff because I visited Scylla, a fishermen`s town in Calabria where I enjoyed a lot of moments of relaxation on the sea shore.

Messina VIP Association (Viviamo in Positivo – Let`s live in a positive way) is another CESV volunteer association whose president is Mari Angela Filocamo, my friend and colleague at CESV. It was set up in 2004 and is part of VIP Italy, a federation that brings together and coordinates 53 VIP volunteer associations from Italy and San Marino Republic.

VIP Messina is made up of volunteers of all ages, missionaries of happiness clad in funny clown costumes, who want to bring a smile on the faces of those hospitalized at the pediatric, hematology and plastic surgery wards in Messina Papardo Hospital and other hospitals, centers, old people`s homes and even in other countries where people with different social, physical or psychological problems are taken care of. “The Red Noses” – as the members of the association are called – enter the hospital every Sunday to bring joy into the hurt souls of both children and adults; they use a method called “clown therapy”, a therapy of love that uses tricks, magic games, improvisation. The Red Noses also organize meetings with students in order to raise awareness regarding the importance and benefits of volunteering and social involvement.

This Sunday, on the 19th of May, VIP organizations celebrated Red Noses National Day, the ninth edition. The volunteer clowns met their supporters in the main squares all over Italy and promoted positive thinking, clown therapy and volunteer work. We put up our tents and “ammunition” in the central square in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto.

I would like to tell you from the very beginning that it was a very long but beautiful day: I woke up at 5 a.m. to get there in time and be able to have everything ready before the start of the activity, and I got home only at 11 p.m. It was a day full of play, laughter and good mood, but at the same time, for the clowns and for me (I took lots of pictures in an attempt to catch the most representative images and moments) that meant work, dedication, responsibility and implication. Twenty volunteer clowns from Messina VIP prepared the event in the smallest detail, helped by their families and friends – who understand and respect their mission and, most important, have been supporting them for more than ten years. They make their own costumes and the props they need for the activities themselves, also the publicity materials and the prizes they offer to the children. Everything is handmade since most of the clowns are talented (they help with decorating, tailoring, etc.) and Dali, the painter, adjusts where needed. More than that, everything is offered with great love, thing that can be seen in minute detail.

Being a volunteer clown is no easy matter – as some might think. There are strict rules here and training sessions are needed in order to be ready to wear the clown`s costume. I understood this on Sunday, during the activity, watching the clowns at work and seeing how the public appreciated them and how successful they were. Many of the people who came during the morning joined us in the afternoon and in the evening too but what impressed me the most was that there were present many former patients whom the clowns had brought so much joy in their suffering days and who now came to look for their saviors and salute their work once again.

We let the show begin at 10 a.m., after two hours of preparations, and the square filled at once with children, parents and grandparents who were glad to put on a red nose and play alongside us and the children. I am mentioning this to emphasize the different mentality of the Italian people, but I am not doing it a critical or malicious manner; I just know that, back in Romania, adults would not be so receptive in this case. On the other hand, this was precisely what made that Sunday unforgettable: the young and the old playing together and having fun. In order to enter the clowns` magic world, you were given a clown card and a red nose which enabled you to join in five games: “darts” with balls, caresses chair, wishing well, face painting, circles throwing, the cube games and more than that, you could sing, dance, have fun at the puppets theatre and choose a souvenir made by the clowns. There was not a moment`s break until 9.30 a.m., when the red noses day officially ended with the launching of VIP paper lamps – which rose into the air despite the wind, to everyone`s delight.

The conclusion of this day lies in the kids `exuberance and their parents `enthusiasm as well as in the clowns `work: a roaring success! Flawless, professional organization, without any incident, no technical glitches, no tiredness, just sheer joy, coming from the heart.

A big round of applause for VIP Messina and sweet kisses for all the volunteer clowns I was honored (to say the least…) to meet and support. And if you too want to know them better, here is where you can find them:




As to the fishermen side of the week, this is called Scylla, a touristic resort locality in Calabria, on the other side of Messina Straits, the traditional site of the sea monster Scylla in Greek mythology. They say it is one of the most beautiful towns characteristic of Italy, stretching along the “Violet Coast” (this being the color of the sea at certain times during the day). It is a dream place, situated on a headland that separates the locality in two (actually three) parts: on one side, there is the resort with the beach, umbrellas and restaurants, on the other side, not visible from the beach, is the fishermen`s village and the harbor, where the houses are older, with narrow streets, water smell and a lot of little colorful boats “parked” between the houses. The third part actually stretches on the slope on the entire cape that sticks out into the sea, with Ruffo Castle, the central element on the edge of the rock, dominating the whole panorama. Having wandered for about four hours and taken 250 photos, I finally made my abode on the beach to enjoy a lemon granita and wind down in a chaise longue, admiring the special color of the sea and the light house on the other side of Messina Straits.

I have known what travel tastes like for a long time, but Sicily fascinates me a great deal because there are treasures in every corner of the island, thing that is normal for the people living there but for a foreigner like me, they are natural wonders which man seasoned with an architecture that never ceases to amaze you and which makes you want to see more and more…

 Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member