H4h has returned home

Marhabaan alsaeadat alsufara'!

Humor for Hope is officially back on US soil and home from the Syrian border.

So much has happened that we can't even begin to describe to you what we are feeling or what's coming up mentally, physically and emotionally. One thing we do know is we are so incredibly grateful for this experience and also so thankful for be home.

It has become painfully clear that this experience has changed us in many ways and that it will take some time for us to work through. All we ask for during this time is your patience, love and understanding as we begin to piece ourselves back together so that we can begin to share incredible stories of heartbreaking resiliency that we witnessed amongst the Syrian kiddos in an uplifting, inspiring and empowering way.

That said, our team feels a little timid and anxious about re entry and we are navigating it to the best of our ability. Often times when someone experiences prolonged trauma or witnesses or endures an intensely traumatic situation, the brain and body respond in funny ways.

For example, it is not uncommon for the lower brain processes responsible for instinct and emotion to override the cortex so that it cannot properly stop reactions or focus your attention. Blood flow to the communication area shuts down too, meaning one can have less ability or even temporarily lose the ability for things like communication, language and memory.

Trauma has a way of making seemingly simple things like writing, have a conversation or even updating social media hard. 
Often times the first instinct when faced with this type of thing is to isolate or become withdrawn, but we don't want to do that with you all. We want to stay present and share with you all of the magic that we encountered and how it altered and affected us. We also want to show you where your money went, who it helped and how your generosity and selflessness impacted an entire community of incredibly gracious, wildly amazing people on the other side of the world. 
Lastly, we want to begin sharing and implementing innovative approaches that we have come up with that can all use to step up and help immigrants, refugees and those that are oppressed on a much larger scale moving forward.

We are sharing this because it's important and trauma is tricky. There are various kinds of trauma. Not to mention if you're empathic, deeply intuitive or a sensitive person at all, it's easy to become consumed by secondary or vicarious trauma too when working in those types of settings or with suffering populations. It's also in large what the trip was about and one of our jobs is and was to help educate, so we are honoring that.

Humor for Hope's trip abroad was incredibly life changing and inspiring, but it was also extremely hard and very traumatic. Every person and every child we worked with was amazing and has also been marked by war and displacement and has been touched by complex trauma in some way. Additionally, our own teams personal safety was jeopardized as we were taken in the middle of the night and detained in a Turkish jail. These things combined with working in an active war zone, having all communication devices taken and monitored, not knowing the language, being told repeatedly that it wasn't safe for us and also being interrogated, humiliated and held multiple times by our own government upon return, means that we are all carrying and sorting through a bit of our own trauma now that we have finally returned home. 
It is important to remember though, that everything we encountered or experienced is nothing compared to what these children and their families have experienced every single day for the past 6+years.

Despite all of this, we want you all to know how much our staff and the children we worked with absolutely needed and relished the power and magic of laughter. 
We also want you to know how much this trip and the Karam House has inspired us, what it means to us and how overwhelmingly thankful and humbled we truly are for the opportunity to embark on it. None of this would have been possible without you and your support.

So for now as we gather ourselves and begin to reintegrate, thank you for your support, for being you and for helping to inspire goodness and create positive change. 
We can't wait to continue to share and to add goodness to the world together with you.

This is just the beginning.

Stay tuned.
Together, we rise.

Photo cred: Karam Foundation

Hope England
Syrian Refugee Trip Update

Hello laugh ambassadors,

First of all, we want to acknowledge our absence and let you all know that the members of our team who were working along the Syrian border are alive and well and they have begun the final leg of their journey towards home.

We want to humbly thank you for your patience and unwavering support throughout this process. Humor for Hope wouldn’t have been able to carry out this life-changing mission without you. Because of you, many incredible Syrian children were able to laugh, play, process and simply be children again.

Unfortunately, due to location of the work, strictly enforced communication restrictions and immediate personal safety concerns, our team was unable and prohibited from sharing anything throughout the duration of our trip.

Please know that despite unforeseen obstacles, deeply enriching and meaningful work was carried out and our crew will need time to acclimate, settle and process all that was witnessed and endured.  As we begin to tease through this journey, we will be sharing the fruits of our work with you all.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to add goodness to the world. And thank you again for your patience and support.

With overwhelming love,

Humor for Hope

Hope England
Update from Hope: Africa take off Day 1

You guys,

I’m just a teensy bit EMOTIONAL.

I feel a little dull, my senses muted, my body fragile, my reactions slowed, my legs wobbly, my head swimming, throbbing, aching. 

I haven't said much, been super vocal or drawn too much attention to myself these last few days (aside from my usual smorgasbord of expected puppy obsessed photos or regular ridiculous snarky FB status posts) but the past 4 days or so I've come down with something fierce and have been violently ill.  

Despite the fact that I wouldn't wish this temporary mystery illness on my worst enemy, my little 4 day restroom rendezvous has left me very, very humbled regarding the delicacy and fleetingness of my own personal health and place in the world. 

Impermanence is a thing and it really is lurking around every corner. (Especially the busy Chicago street corners...in the summer...late at night...when you're all alone... Okay, okay you get the picture) And although I am more aware of this now than ever, it never changes the fact that I tend to operate in the world like a bright-eyed child, full of awe and wonder, overwhelmed with curiosity and easily consumed by emotion. Like a bug to light, I follow the brightest brights and the darkest darks. In my child-like state I tend to see myself as indestructible and even invincible most of the time. Maybe this is because I choose to believe and operate under the assumption that everyone is good and that the world is full and overflowing with untapped love waiting to envelop us all and show us to one another. I imagine it as a silent, delicate orchestration leading us to that magical place where everything aligns, where the world seems soft and we share those rare and precious moments i.e., a look, a story, a deeper connection; one where our hearts and souls really see each other and we can let our guard down, let out a breath and say "oh, you too?" and end with a hug. 

I operate under the pretense that when things are bad, or people are hateful, violent, vengeful, hurtful, murderous, manipulative, conniving or downright evil that they just need to be loved, listened to, cared for, accepted and shown the behavior and compassion that they wish they had received throughout their lives.

Hurt people, hurt people. If we were the loving, nurturing adults that we always wished that we had growing up then the world would be a much kinder, gentler place. 

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe you disagree, maybe I'm just a sitting duck waiting to be ambushed and taken advantage of but I don't think so. 

I've shown love to some of the most violent, hardened folks out there and the return for me has been at least 10 fold. 

I write all of this because my body's current, minor battle with A) some unknown foreign Mexican virus B) contaminated United Airlines food poisoning C) Malaria pills (enough said) D) Giardia from my disgustingly CUTE pup that might as well be my lover (I'm from the South, it's allowed) or E) All of the above has really, really humbled me. 

Now you might be thinking, "C'mon, Hope. That's a little dramatic. And to that I say, just wait until I breathe on you and this is what theater people do when they feel really sick, right? --RIGHT?!

Okay, WHATEVER. I do feel much more human than I have the past few days and yes, I am SO lucky that I have a healthy immune system and that my body possesses the ability )if it chooses) to recuperate. I also don't hate the fact that my buttered-bagel-loving-self has lost about 10 pounds (Hollaaaa!) but being basically incapacitated and feeling just a touch of what some of our kiddos feel their entire lives really opened my crusted over eyes and has left me feeling brand new, slightly fragile and so, so thankful. 

When things are bad, much like a wounded animal or a Paul the Hermit style monk, I'm astonishingly good at isolating and pushing people away. I go into hiding and I rarely, if ever ask for help. I get mad at myself if I can't handle something and if it's obvious then I crack jokes and nonchalantly play things off like everything is superrrr normal.

It usually goes something like...

"Yikes. Oh, man. Okay. Oops. Sorry. Sorry. Sooo sorry. Yeah. Yep. Well...uh. My arm just fell off. Ha. Haha. Hehe. Ohhh, no biggy. My bad. My bad. Agh, sorry for bleeding in your general direction. Oh, yeah...It's no problem. Nah. I got it. It's fine. Really it's fine, fine, FINEEEE. Oh, I'm bleeding out? Yeah, it's okay. Are you okay? I know this is probably hard for you to watch. Are you sure you're okay? Oh don't worry about me. Can you just hand me my unrecognizable, disgustingly severed arm from over there? Actually it's okay, you stay put. I'll just grab it. Nooo big deal. I'm just gonna head out now. Take care! So sorry I was such a downer today. Here is some overdraft money from my overdrawn bank account for your inconvenience. Don't worry about me. Yeah, no HAHA don't show up!  I'll just call you after it’s too late."

Super ridiculous right? 

Well here's the good news... 

The few people that were vaguely aware of my altered state and how awful I've been feeling these past few days have been so amazing. What troopers you guys are. You really showed up. But so has everyone that has been completely and utterly unaware too.

How you ask? Well, all of this pity love combined with the outpouring of constant love that I feel and have felt from you all for me personally on my windy, curvy, janky journey in life, in addition to the endless and overwhelming love and support you all have offered and continue to offer for things like Humor for Hope baffle me and leave me breathless in the best way every.single.day. What I'm trying to say is...

You guys, none of this would exist without you all. I hope you realize that. 

Although I live my life for h4h, believe in it and it's healing potential with every ounce of my being and know without a doubt that my life experiences, good and bad, have lead me exactly where I need to be...I also have to accept that I am not Humor for Hope. She is her own being. I can nourish, love, teach and support her with all that I have, the best ways that I know how but I have to remind myself that this beautiful, organic vision is separate from who I am and my personal identity. It was and is an amalgamation of us. Without an "us" none of this would exist.

When someone asks me who I am I don't respond, "I am Humor for Hope."  I just say, "I am Hope. Nice to meet you. Please shake this hand because my other arm fell off earlier today."

I am just Hope, trying to do my part in the world because I have a bleeding heart and I want so badly to leave things a little better than I found them. I dream about the potential of our world, of each other, of an "us" and it is so beautiful it's painful. 

We all deserve to feel loved, to be seen, cared for and comforted in our darkest of times and on our brightest days too. 

Some of the most soul filling experiences of my life include watching you all support something that you believe in so passionately, so fiercely, with all of your heart and not because someone is telling you to but because YOU want to, because at your core something resonates in you, because somewhere in your busy mind, body and souls this just feels right to you regardless of whether a name is attached to it or not. 

That, to me, is love. That to me is what this world needs. That to me is the change we need and it's happening right before our eyes. 

The good in this world is because of YOU.

Right now I'm 1 hour into a 15-hour flight somewhere over the Atlantic headed to Africa to listen, bear witness to, hold space for, cry with and of course dance and LAUGH with some people that could really use it. I know without a doubt that this journey and these people, just like you all, will fill me, will fill US in more ways than I could ever imagine. 

Together we are defenders of hope and deliverers of humor. This is the essence of Humor for Hope. This is what WE are doing, together. The vision the world has for our girl h4h is beautiful and life giving and just so much dang fun to be a part of. We are on our way ya’ll.. 

I just want to say thank you on behalf of h4h for supporting this, for helping guide h4h and for being a part of positive change. And personally, from yours truly (the fictional one armed bandit) thank you from me, just Hope, for leaving me and the world better than you found it. 

Be humble, be gracious, be kind. 

See you in Africa,

-H

 

Hope England
Comer Children's Hospital Resident Retreat

Today Humor for Hope had THE COOLEST opportunity to lead a Humor Therapy workshop with 30+ The University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital Residents. We discussed and demonstrated how to incorporate improvisation, compassion care, comedy, psychology, more improvisation and lots and lots of love into the challenging work these awesome future doctors will do with their pediatric patients and each other.

Hope, our founder, also learned how to cure her UTI...

So today wasA WIN FOR EVERYONE!

Thank you Chief Residents and Comer Children's Hospital.

You guys are doing wonderful work!

H4h takes Milwaukee

H4h worked our magic today and got to spread some much needed humor therapy, self care education and cry laughs to the lovely people of Creative Group.

Keep on keeping on ya'll!

You are lovely!

Sidenote: Only one person peed their pants from laughing today!

 

Hope England
Genentech

Humor for Hope dropping some Humor Therapy knowledge on Genentech, a super swanky sci fi/ something you would see in The Matrix San Francisco based biotechnology firm.

Humor heals ya'll.

#ChangingtheWorld

Hope England
What Is Humor Therapy?

Written By: Cambria Roland | Edited By: Meredith Kane & Hope England 

 

What is “humor therapy?

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” – E. E. Cummings

Laughter: We are born with it. It’s natural. It’s empowering. It possesses the ability to change a dark and dreary day into a more positive, brighter one. It is contagious and it brings people together.

Humor therapy, also called laugh therapy, is the use of humor to promote overall health and wellness. It aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort.

Research supporting laughter therapy

According to CancerCenter.com, “A growing body of research supports the theory that laughter may have therapeutic value. For years, the use of humor has been used in medicine. Surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century. Later, in the 20th century, came the scientific study of the effect of humor on physical wellness.”

Throughout time, researchers have conducted studies to further explore the impact of laughter and its correlation to health. After evaluating various participants before and after periods of laughter seemed to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones, and boost the immune system.

Medical journals have acknowledged that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Many hospitals now offer laughter therapy programs as a complementary treatment to illness.

The healing power of laughter

For people living with cancer, it may seem strange to find humor when facing such serious issues. Yet, laughter can be helpful in ways you might not have realized or imagined.

Laughter can help you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Laughter can be a natural diversion. When you laugh, no other thought comes to mind. Laughing can also induce physical changes in the body. After laughing for only a few minutes, you may feel better for hours.

When used in addition to conventional cancer treatments, laughter therapy may help in the overall healing process.


 

For more information on Laughter Therapy, check out these great articles:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/04/16/laughter-is-best-medicine-health-benefits-humor/

Hope England
Humor For Hope: The Starting Fund

First, I want to say thank you.

Thank you for your support, for your encouragement, and for your belief in Humor for Hope and future lives we will impact together. Rooted in deep passion for terminally and chronically ill children, my dream is to use and teach improv therapy to shine hope into darkness and bring laughter back into the lives of those in suffering. This dream was born from a perfect collision of my innate gifts and personal circumstances, but it was brought to life by my community's unwavering support. Because your hands have helped shape this journey and brought me to where I am today, I want to make sure you are the first to know about the exciting future ahead. Humor for Hope (H4H) is in the process of become an officially registered charity. 

H4H uses improv and sketch comedy as a form of inpatient therapy for terminally and chronically ill children in hospitals. Our programs enable children confined to isolation the opportunity to laugh as a means of emotional and physical healing. We work with families of these children by relieving the emotional stress by gifting them with regular and sustained laughter as a means of coping.

By July 3rd, 2015, we are aiming to launch nationally with a campaign to raise funds for our first year of operations to make this form of healing a reality for families and hospitals nationwide.

In order to get there, we need your help to lay the first bricks of our organization. To prepare for the national launch and establishing as a 501(c)3 we need to raise $15,000 by July 3rd, 2015 . Please join with us in taking the first step to changing the face of terminal pediatric healthcare. Would you consider giving today?

Today - the best way to support this effort is to either donate directly or to  set up a fundraising page, it's easy, pinky promise! We believe in the power of community and have set up a team effort to hit this fundraising goal. 

If you want to join the Humor For Hope team click here https://www.classy.org/events/the-starting-fund/e50127 - and set up your page. Then share it on your social  media platforms and invite family + friends to join you! 

We are fundraising to launch the beginning of our operations. Your donations will 100% be used towards the following segments: 

  1. 1 on 1 sessions with children in need: $25 per session 
  2. Operational Development & 501(c) Establishing 
  3. Creative & Media Development 
  4. Humor For Hope Educational Resources 

We believe in this and in you. We’ve witnessed the power of laughter’s effects first hand, and are compiling the research to prove it. 

Thank you for believing in us, laughing with us, and living for something greater.

With Overflowing Gratitude,

Hope

Hope England