Clowning Around For Charity
There is very little clowning around for 40-year-old Mohd Adam Abdullah as he strives hard to make a living in Kuala Lumpur.
Adam, or Siso (as he is known professionally) is a clown. His work involves entertaining guests at parties, corporate events and carnivals. But while he puts on a cheery face at work, Siso’s real life is far from happy.
Adam is divorced and struggles to make ends meet, having to earn enough to support himself and his three teenage children. He also rarely sees his kids, as they live with his ex-wife in Kedah, a state that is nearly 450km away from the Malaysian capital.
But none of these experiences gets Adam down. In fact, he feels it is his privilege to be a clown and make others happy, as he strongly believes in serving others.
“When we earn an income, not all of it is for us. Fifty per cent of the income goes to us, and the remaining amount must go to charity,” he says.
The Penang-born clown has to earn at least 480 Singapore dollars to cover his rental fees, food costs and alimony payments. But he makes it a point to put aside between $10 to $15 a month for his “charity box”, meant to fund his charitable activities when he offers his clowning services to orphanages, children’s shelters, old folks’ home and hospitals, where he entertains terminally-ill children.
What makes it more noble is that Adam performs at these venues for free.
“I believe in service, nothing else. I enjoy clowning, playing the characters and wearing the costumes. And yes, I want to make others happy,” he shares.
Keeping It Simple
To keep his clowning costs manageable so that he can continue to charge nothing for his performances, Adam looks for creative ways to upkeep his career.
“There are clowning costumes that costs several thousand ringgit, and that really discourages professionals from taking up the activity. So for other entertainers who want to volunteer as clowns, I encourage them to design clown costumes from old garments or wigs, to keep down the cost,” he explains.
Supplies left over from his paid clowning acts can then be used for his charity events. “Nothing goes to waste,” Adam points out.
Nurul Huda Abdul Ghani, caretaker of Rumah Jalinan Kasih in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, is grateful for Siso’s presence at the children’s shelter.
“He has a heart of gold, for doing this for free. It is really good to have such people as a shelter cannot afford to hire a professional entertainer for the children. And most of the time, they miss out on such fun activities,” she says.
A typical session with Siso involves games, dancing and quizzes, as well as giveaways comprising of candies or animal balloons. All costs are borne by Adam, who is sometimes supported by a non-profit organisation or an anonymous donor who engages him for these type of events.
He is also fortunate to have the support of kind donors and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), who back his work at his homegrown outfit, SDC Family Resources.
MACMA helps Adam by raising funds to buy school supplies for his children, as well as treat them to goodies during festive occasions like Hari Raya.
“Sometimes, I get a phone call from an anonymous person asking for my bank details, so that they can send RM100 to RM200 (SGD30 to SGD60) to me, as a way of helping me with my work,” he says.
Chan Shiao Chew, a volunteer who has worked with Adam, finds him to be selfless.
“Whenever there are days that he does not have a real job engagement, he will visit some children or refugees’ home, charity events and even the children’s hospital to do volunteer clowning,” she notes.
Shiao Chew is a Hati.my volunteer, who makes home visits to deliver groceries, spend time with the poor community and raise funds for them. She points out that it is rare to find a professional artist who volunteers consistently.
“The last time he joined me on a visit to five different homes in Ipoh and Klang Valley, and his presence – with his portable music systems and animal-shaped balloons – made a big difference to the mood of the hundred residents we visited,” Shiao Chew reminisces.
Adam believes charity work should not end with one person. In fact, he runs basic clowning training sessions for people interested in the profession and advises them to consider doing charity work by entertaining the less fortunate for free.
“I have two students, both in their 60s, who go to night markets and perform, after having learnt about balloons, how to apply clown make-up and practice tricks,” he shares.
Adam wants to encourage others to have the spirit of giving, remarking that a small gesture like clowning moves people and brings a smile to their faces.
During his free time, Adam runs cooking and weaving classes for single mothers to empower them to run their own businesses. In addition, he is a trained masseuse and uses his income from those jobs to support his charity work as a clown.
Shiao Chew’s summary of Adam’s work says it all. “He’s a clown with a big heart, that’s for sure.”