A little word from our chief clown dictator (Guillaume Vermette)
It was during a therapeutic clown project in Bolivia, in July 2019, that our dear Marie Veillette and I looked each other in the eyes and said to each other with far too much enthusiasm: “we found an organization! ”. On October 1, 2019, with Dany Hamel and Benoît Gonneville Damme, we signed the first official papers. Barely a month later, 6 of us were leaving for a refugee camp in Samos, Greece; our first project.
I recently learned that an organization does not normally start its activities until it has held its Foundation General Assembly. What do you expect, a gang of clowns rarely do things like the others. Our beautiful little Caravan has only been around since October 2019. The amount of our accomplishments may seem impressive for such a young organization. In fact, many of our projects and ideas had been thought through and discussed for months, if not years.
Before, everything went under the banner of “Guillaume Vermette the humanitarian clown”. It was the natural continuity of several years of personal projects. I wanted to do more and surround myself with a team, so I did my best to organize projects and bring people together, with my limited skills and knowledge.
An impressive number of beautiful people offered themselves daily to help me, get involved with refugees, break the isolation in CHSLDs, spread happiness, etc. Most did not know where to start, how to train, and where to donate their time. Indeed, the opportunities in our community are too rare. It was obvious that we needed an organization, an official and better organized structure, to democratize the practices of the therapeutic clown, the social circus and the humanitarian clown / circus.
It needed an autonomous entity separate from the individual (me, me, I, I’m cool because I’m going to Deux Filles le Matin), to truly become a team. It’s a step-by-step process that is still ongoing. A huge step has been taken in this direction in the past year; legally and financially, the Philanthropist Caravan exists independently of my little one. Also, the Philanthropic Caravan now has its own identity which will continue to develop. The name, logo and slogan “One smile at a time” were created by consulting as many people as possible who were involved in our projects. The mission, values and goals have been reflected on as a team with the board and hopefully will be reflected again by including our members in the process.
The projects, the plan of action and most of the big decisions come from me, all on my own and slack in my living room. Out of necessity I guess, and out of a burning desire to achieve beautiful things immediately. I did my best to improvise as director, using common sense and consulting our team.
I would never have succeeded without being supported by a board of directors made up of such exceptional and capable people. Not to mention all the other exceptional humans who are involved in the Caravan; artists, volunteers, collaborators, partners… you! It’s all of you, this “army of happiness” that I keep bragging about and shouting from the rooftops.
A first year for an organization (I am discovering it at my expense), it is complicated in saperlipopette. Formalities, such as general regulations, are completely beyond me. I think I can speak for the majority of clowns in saying that we don’t quite understand what all this is for. It is against our nature to wait for a comma in a document to make people smile. But still, I learned to better understand and discover these formalities. I realize that these commas and turns of phrase are crucial for the Caravan to exist and develop to its full potential.
The board of directors therefore gave priority to this administrative poutine and this in-depth work. During this time, he trusted me (probably too much) in my job as Managing Director. Now that that’s done, he’ll be able to tackle the “concrete”; refine our mission, establish an action plan, create a code of ethics, further define and oversee the role of the CEO, etc. In short, we still have a lot of work to do.
My wish is that as the Caravan is structured and developed, I can gradually leave the role of General Manager, to be a simple clown within a well-oiled organization and completely autonomous. Who knows, maybe one day we won’t even have a director, to make way for a form of co-management? I dream that you appropriate this organization, to contribute your color, your ideas and your initiatives.
I also hope that the Caravan will not grow too big. However, it will not be for me to decide, but for all of us. I’m afraid we will one day become another one of those organizations whose word “growth”, dollar signs and competition take precedence over mission. I consider that the essence of our work and the real impact on the ground is not quantitative, but qualitative. I am convinced that a clown who thinks he is better than another clown has not understood his job and his role in society. I hope that this organization will develop by doing honor to the clown, in particular to what are called the “5 points of the clowns”: simplicity, lightness, openness, joy and authenticity. The clown is an extraordinary art, where ego has no place, where listening takes precedence and where everyone has something great to offer, in the service of others.
Finally, I want to say to each and every one of you: THANKS and BRAVO. I’m so proud of us, of you. Proud of all the beautiful things we have managed to accomplish and the thousands of smiles sown. I feel privileged to be part of such a great team of amazing people. These dreams that have lived in me for 15 years are much lighter and more comfortable to wear when shared with you. Beyond the impact that the Philanthropist Caravan has on the ground, it has a huge impact on my happiness and on my quality of life. THANK YOU. I love you. xxx
PS: I’m pretty proud of having managed to avoid the words “Covid” and “Pandemic”.