Magic tricks, songs, games and humour – just some of instruments “Dr Didou” uses each week to help dozens of sick children forget about their illness. swissinfo.ch went along to Neuchâtel’s Pourtalès Hospital to see the clown at work.
Ever since the Théodora Foundation was created 20 years ago, its clowns have entertained around one million children in Swiss hospitals. Dr Didou, alias Catherine Joly, has been one of the foundation’s Dream Doctors since 1999 and each week visits three hospitals in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
The Théodora Foundation was created in 1993 by the brothers André and Jan Poulie and became a charitable foundation in 1995. It is active in 162 hospitals in eight countries and 15 centres for disabled children in Switzerland. It has an annual budget of around CHF10 million ($10.6 million) and employs nearly 200 clowns, who are paid on an hourly basis.
In Switzerland, two-thirds of its funds come from small donations and the rest from private companies and other foundations. Its clowns attend clown school and undergo a 12-month training programme, including courses in medical and psychological matters.