Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SCTC Spotlight: Conservatory Grad Hope England Doing Great Things With 'Humor for Hope'

Hope England is a conservatory grad, a talented performer and an all-around awesome lady. Find out what she is doing with her Non-Profit 'Humor for Hope' and how you can help. Inspiring stuff!

Can you tell us what your organization is all about?
Humor for Hope is a 501c3 non profit that uses the art of improvisational comedy as a form of therapy in children's hospitals. Our mission is to provide children with acute, chronic, or terminal illness an opportunity to experience improvisational comedy as a therapeutic intervention.

How did you come up with the idea of 'Humor for Hope'?
I was performing sketch and improv all around town while simultaneously volunteering at Lurie Children's Hospital. I had a really rough audition for NBC in LA and left feeling deflated, super self conscious, and doubting myself, my skills, and abilities. I had never felt that way before and didn't ever want to feel that way again. I felt like the work I was doing was self indulgent so I took some time off to process and do some soul searching. I realized I loved the work I was doing but wanted to use my talents, skills, and abilities for the greater good. I wanted my passions to benefit others, not just myself.
At Lurie Children's I was doing volunteer work with patients that were placed on isolation. This means they are very limited in their interactions due to their illness and the risk of infection. As you know, improvisational comedy requires no props so that alone greatly reduces the risk of infection while still stimulating the imagination. Much of the time this isolated population of children needs engagement and interaction more than any one else, so I proposed the idea of using improv comedy in order to access them, seeing that no props were necessary and it greatly lowered the risk of infection.
The more I researched it, the more I realized comedy should absolutely be a form of therapy in all hospitals. To me it was a no-brainer. I just kept thinking, why is this not a thing? We all know laughter is the best medicine.
I pitched my idea to a few hospitals and at a global health care conference at Yale and got resounding feedback. Thus began Humor for Hope

What has been the most gratifying thing to you at an event so far?
In the very beginning, I came across a toddler that was deaf, blind, and alone. My heart broke for this child. All I knew to do was hold him close and sing so he would feel the vibrations through my chest. I began to chuckle because I didn't know the words to the song I was singing so I improvised it. He felt my laughter and let out his own little laugh. That moment changed my life. The power of comedy and laughter is so real.

Was there an eye-opening experience that shifted your point of view as a person and made you want to help others?
After my 3 month long stint soul searching, I began to realize that all we have is now. This very moment. All of us. That the second we are born we begin to die. When it comes to death and dying you really begin to question the meaning of life and why you are here. Especially when it comes to ill children and death. I watched nurses, patients, and parents, persevere through some of the most unimaginable circumstances.
As human beings we crave and need connection. Sometimes all we need is someone there beside us when we are helpless and sometimes that's all you can do for someone - just be there. I witnessed this many times at the hospital and on my solo journey across the country. We need each other. The people that helped me and the ones that I saw help others inspired me to try to do whatever I can to help others and make the world a better place.

What can people do to help your organization touch more lives?
There's so much. Because we are so brand-spanking-new and have gotten so much feedback and attention so quickly, we are in need of a lot of help. We are currently looking for an awesome web designer that's willing to do some pro bono work and we are also in need of some killer grant writers if you are out there. We are in the midst of talks of expanding all over to different organizations and hospitals, so very soon we will need a lot of volunteers for various things.  For now just spreading the word and offering feedback via our contact page on our website would be tremendously helpful. http://www.humorforhope.com/ Also, feel free to share  inspirational stories of how humor and comedy changed your life on our Facebook page or just stay up to date on our happenings and volunteer needs. https://www.facebook.com/Humor4Hope

Anyone you would like to make a shout out to? 
I would like to make a shout of to all the people that have supported me on this crazy journey. That includes all of my family at The Second City and in the comedy realm, my parents, friends, and people I've met along the way that believed in this vision and supported me no matter what. Without you this wouldn't be possible. 
It's amazing what good things come out of being supportive, kind, and saying Yes AND :)

Humor heals, let's do what we can while we can.

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