Wellington Nogueira Santos Júnior
Fellow Since 1998
Doutores da Alegria
This profile was prepared when Wellington Nogueira Santos Júnior was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Wellington Nogueira has taken an idea that dates back many centuries–the transformative power of humor through clowning–and applied it with ground-breaking success in the Brazilian context. His organization, called the Doctors of Joy, uses clowns to work with hospitalized children, their families, and with doctors and nurses throughout the city of São Paulo, to alleviate some of the children's suffering and to bring a humanizing element into hospital care. Wellington's clowns challenge children and parents to look at illnesses from a brighter perspective and gain a better understanding of their bodies, while bringing humor and joy into the care equation. At the same time, he has resuscitated in Brazil the classical, European model of clowning, characterized by professionalism and careful acting.Early on in his career as a clown, Wellington discovered that for the Doctors of Joy to truly take hold, he would have to prove that his clown troupes in hospitals were more than simply a sporadic diversion for the children and could indeed be a key factor in their care. He devised a model with hospital administration and staff where the Doctors of Joy would be a stable, frequent presence, coming two to three times per week at regular times to meet individually with the children. Now, in the hospitals where they work, the clowns have become an integral part of the health care team. They work closely with doctors, nurses, and psychologists. This partnership encourages the team to focus on the patient and family and to introduce a human, individual element into an environment that often can be impersonal and difficult for patient and doctor alike, particularly in cases where the child has an incurable disease.