Clown Doctors New Zealand

Charity Showcase - This month we will be chatting with Rita Noetzel, one of the founding members of Clown Doctors New Zealand.

Nicole: When was Clown Doctors started in New Zealand and why did you start this initiative?

Rita: The Clown Doctors NZ was started in September 2009.  Prof. Thomas Petschner and I started it because he was familiar with it from overseas and I loved the idea of the concept of using ‘humour for health’.

Nicole: What is one of your best moments working as a clown doctor?

Rita: I myself am not a clown doctor - that takes a very special kind of person.  I am in awe of our clown doctors and their skills of improvisation and openness and vulnerability.  One of my best moments of working with them and going along on a visit was to see the face of a lonely, elderly person brighten and the person to become engaged and laugh.  Such a change.  

Testimonials from elderly:  “Blessed are you for seeing me” and “I am hard of seeing and hearing, it makes it difficult for people to be in contact with me. Thank you for coming in”.  

Nicole:  What would one of the biggest challenges that Clown Doctors faces at the moment? 

Rita: Our biggest challenge is funding. There are 27,500 charities in N.Z. and many of our applications are turned down, not because of what we do but because of the high demand for funding from all the charities.  Also many funding bodies, i.e. gaming  machine trusts focus on sport.

We have considered establishing a Clown Doctors Rugby Team to get more funding.

Nicole: Who are the clown doctors?

Rita: All our clown doctors are actors and/or experienced performing artists, so we are able to ‘go public’ and do any kind of events or promotions e.g. The Classical Sparks in Chch or the Santa Claus Parade in Auckland. We also support businesses by offering special humour workshops according to their needs e.g. as a team building activity, motivational tool, management wellbeing programme etc. Our aim is to provide to our corporate partners tailor-made sponsor/investor benefits.  This of course involves direct contact and a deeper dialogue.   

Nicole: How would a business go about donating to the charity? How can businesses get more involved?

Rita: There are many  ways how businesses usually can support a charity: donate money, also through payroll giving, do ‘office’ fundraisers, or they could adopt a clown doctor. Those possibilities are endless and it all depends on the business and how much they would like to contribute. And as much as we would appreciate this kind of support, we don’t consider ourselves  ‘just another charity' asking for money because of our valuable cause but because we have a lot to offer in return. 

Clown Doctors have a proven record of high popularity as a ‘feel good’ brand, which actually brings mutual benefits to our corporate supporters. Our mission is to bring joy & laughter to children in hospitals and to support healthy ageing, which aligns with the USP of many companies targeting happiness and wellbeing independent of any age group. 

Companies can promote their social responsibility programme in a wide range of activities, like our founding sponsor Tradestaff did. They connected their partnership to us to their business partners by organising a golf tournament or a Summer Starter Marathon (the biggest annual Marathon in Christcurch).  Another example is ASB Bank  successfully using our brand for their TV advertisement on ’Term Deposits’.  The Z petrol stations also promoted their “Good in the hood” campaign with a strong emphasises on clown doctors.