Sixth Annual Belen Project

Register Now!

August 9 – 22, 2011, Iquitos, Peru

"One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding."
— Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

If you haven't yet been part of the annual Belen Project, organized by Gesundheit Global Outreach and the Bolaroja Clown Doctors of Peru, this is the year! This will be the sixth convergence of humanitarian clowns in Iquitos, Peru, and each year it gets better, more colorful, more collaborative with the residents. It's an intensive experience in grassroots community activism and celebration, with aspects that are unique to this place and this project. And if you already have been part of the Belen Project before, you know you can't stay away...

Lower Belen (pop 12,000), one of Peru’s most distressed communities, sits at the edge of Iquitos (pop 400,000), the world’s largest city unreachable by road. Peruvian health officials have referred to Belen as “the hell of Peru” because of its many problems—lack of clean water, sanitation, adequate health care, education and employment, high rates of illness, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and teen pregnancy. It sits in the floodplain of the Itaya River, and for 5 months of the year is inundated by floodwaters.

Six years ago, Gesundheit! and Bolaroja clowns, in a meeting with Belen citizens, conceived the Belen Project, a collaborative effort to energize residents in achieving their dreams for a healthier, happier community. From the original decision to paint every house in Lower Belen, the project has evolved to include workshops for children in art, dance and music; mural painting; community health outreach programs; parades, and, last year, the purchase of a community center, Belen’s first. The Belen Network now consists of a variety of organizations, (Bolaroja, Gesundheit!, Amazon Promise, Doctors for Orphans, La Restinga, Selva Amazonica, Pan American Health Organization, and others) whose intention is to provide the community with support and facilitation of Belen’s development.


Clowning is the central action through which we connect with the community. Our experience working and playing in Belen has taught us much, particularly the crucial necessity of coupling our intentions with the performance of deep collaborative social action. Whatever else the Belen Project is, it is also an exploration of the social dimensions of individual and community health. Play and fun, in joy and love increases social participation, creates safety, and enhances optimism. Caring actions while working together are contagious. Caring clowns are cared for by Belen’s people. As Kate Deciccio, one of the muralists in the Belen project writes, “... [we're not] aiming to provide a travel service for adults who want a summer camp experience … we’re working to cultivate a relationship with a community and facilitate opportunity for activists, artists, & people interested in public health to come to this community to experiment with ways that collaboration can be useful for both trip attendees and residents of Belen.”

See for a more detailed description of the Belen project, and for links to articles and photos of previous Belen Projects. Also, watch the Pan American Health Organization documentary about the project here

This year we will continue the work of previous years: house painting, murals, workshops, clowning, community health outreach. We hope to complete renovations of a Community Center.

General Information

Beginning clowns will have the opportunity to learn simple clown techniques during orientation workshops led by Bolaroja and Gesundheit clowns. We will clown and work in Belen and in hospitals, care facilities, prisons, hospices, and other care facilities in Iquitos throughout our workdays. We will team with other service organizations, and make new and/or deeper connections with Belen citizens. We will share, teach, learn, play during evenings.

Housing: We will be housed in 2 adjacent hotels in Iquitos, and clowns from around the world will have many opportunities for sharing experiences and ideas.

Important Dates:
Aug 9 Fly to Lima, early arrivals may fly to Iquitos same day
Aug 10 Fly to Iquitos; orientation and parade
Aug 11-20 Belen Festival in Iquitos
Aug 21 Return to Lima
Aug 22 Flight home

Payment $1500 includes lodging, workshops and all clowning events. Pay and register by July 5 for $100 early-bird discount This fee does not include your flights to Lima and back home, and most meals are not covered.

Travel We will be organizing a group flight out of Washington DC to Lima and back. If you are interested in this flight, email

Registration Join us in this unique experience in international volunteer clown service. Space is limited to 50 clowns. Register Now!

Downloadable Forms
Fill out the Belen Project questionnaire HERE and then please sign the forms below and email them to

Parental Authorization (Under 18 only)25.05 KB
Gesundheit Indemnity International Parent Release (Under 18 only)37.98 KB
Gesundheit Indemnity International Release Form.pdf34.71 KB