April 2013

Laughter makes everything in life better

“When you wake up in the morning, you start a day better thinking positively, and you will be able to believe in yourself as good person. “It is a basis to laugh and enjoy your life,” the director and founder of “Doctores de la Alegría” Miriam Costa said.

By: Taisuke Azuma
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Kanagawa-ken – Japan


Doctors play with all the personnel in the hospital; doctors, kids, and family

Photo: Doctores de la alegrĂ­a

The benefits of laughter for the body have been proved scientifically. Dr. William F. Fry discovered the benefits in the 1960’s and named this knowledge “Gelotology.” According to Gelotology, laughter increases the release of endorphins into the brain, which alleviate pain and deliver happiness. In addition, we move our face to laugh, which becomes a good exercise, in particular for patients who cannot move their body freely. Nowadays, this idea spreads all over the world as a common kind of medicine.

The idea of Gelotology is also adopted in Bolivia. “Doctores de la Alegría” has provided laughter to children in Cochabamba since 1999. The members visit rooms in hospitals to have young patients laugh and make good use of some programs to alleviate the suffering of hospitalized children. They usually meet the patients twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday afternoons) for three hours. When they visit the patients´ rooms, they each play clowns with red noses and white aprons through Clown Theater. To play a specific character and become a member of it, the people interested have to take part in training more than fifteen times.


The three doctors watch the alarm similar with their red noses in the hospital of burned kids.

Photo: Doctores de la alegrĂ­a

Miriam Costa established the foundation as a non-profit organization in 1999. The Brazilian has been interested in the activity of “Doutores da Alegria,” which is an NGO providing laughter to patients in Brazil. Through the opportunity of living in Cochabamba, she decided to create the same foundation here. Miriam explained that the difference between the foundation in Bolivia and the one in Brazil is the range of targets. In Brazil, only ill kids are treated; in Cochabamba, the targets are ill and abandoned kids. Thirteen years ago, the idea of doctors having their patients laugh to alleviate suffering was not accepted by the society in La Paz, but was done in Cochabamba. Since 2004, the NGO has worked in Santa Cruz, and the next step is to open another group like them in La Paz. Their ultimate objective is to expand the idea of humanization through laughter therapy to society, not only to hospitals.


Photo: Doctores de la alegrĂ­a

There are three phases in the activity to make children laugh. In the first phase, the “doctors” – by communicating with children – plan to understand why they are in the hospital in order to decide how to do humor therapy for them. In this phase, it is important for them to build a relationship of trust with the children to get a natural laugh by playing games, talking, or making some jokes. They also involve doctors and nurses in the humanization therapy for them to treat their patients more friendlily in the second phase. If a trust base is established between doctors and patients, a cure will be more effective and rapid. In the third phase, they urge the families of patients to participate in the therapy in order to have them understand what treatment their son / daughter gets. To understand it, the families can be easy in their mind for the treatment and develop a better relationship with their children.


Photo: Doctores de la alegrĂ­a

Through these phases, they try to understand that everyone is different, and so are the treatments and symptoms they have. They have fields to work in four departments in the public hospital called “Viedma”: infectology, oncology, surgery, and burned kids. Though the symptoms of patients are different, they do only one thing: laughter. It is a universal language. The work is to help children think their life is good. Moises Callahuara, the coordinator for the doctors, said that they treasure the saying “More life in your life.” Depending on the reaction of the children, they have some kinds of work to play with the kids and build a good relationship with families and doctors.


The clowns make children laugh.

Photo: Doctores de la alegrĂ­a

It took some time for doctors in the hospital to accept this idea. Although “Doctores de la Alegría” faced difficulty at first, what made them keep working were that children were actually getting better. Thanks to their work, doctors have seen the children happier and have gradually accepted the idea of laughter therapy. Miriam explained that they feel their work is successful when the children heal faster. The responsibilities from their activities and contributions to society have inspired the foundation. From now on, they will keep working to deliver laughter to the sick children of Cochabamba, hoping their illness will be better faster.

Traditional Bolivian Sweets and Their Relevance In Toda y’s Society
In Bolivia, a high variety of traditional candies exist. Some of the most popular ones are Tawatawa, Chancaca, Confites, Tantawawa, Maicillos, Rosquetes and Hostias. Although all fall under the definition of candy, some of them are not as sweet as you would expect them to be. Rosquete, for example, is made with flour, butter, yeast, eggs, water, and just a little sugar. Eating this sweet is a rather strange experience as your mouth gets sticky because of the white meringue covering it. However, a sugar shock fails to appear. Same goes for Maicillos, as cornstarch, baking powder, and margarine dominate. They would count more as biscuits and are a good addition to tea or coffee.
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