Jecca the Clown has been a fixture in Laois entertainment since moving to Ireland from Brazil
Marcin Malek talks to Marco Passenha, AKA Jeca the Clown, about his life in Laois and how he is helping others during the Covid-19 pandemic despite being out of work
What makes us who we are? Appearance? What's in our wallet? Learned skills?
Maybe the answer is simpler. Maybe the answer is how we influence others. How we inspire and motivate them through our own deeds.
Perhaps by helping our neighbour with everything, we can spare at the moment, or by giving a hand to a complete stranger who happens to be vulnerable, maybe then, and only then, we are truly capable to show ourselves in all our glory.
When the virus hit, I said to my wife, 'now you will see what comes out of people'.
And to be honest, I did not think if shining lights. I rather thought about the shadow in which we sometimes like to hide.
The very same - nobody but us wants to see up close.
Fortunately, as it usually happens with habitual doubters, my pessimism crashed against the rock of compassion and good will.
Especially when (while browsing Facebook) I accidentally came across a video of the locally well-known Jeca the Clown.
However, this time not in disguise and with a different repertoire than usual.
His message was quite simple:
“As we all, I am out of work now, but it does not necessarily mean that we are useless. On the contrary, I can, and I want to help! So, if you need any assistance, anywhere, now you know where to look for it!”
I must admit, this short video has touched me deeply.
Moreover, it became a beginning or rather an inspiration to this series of interviews I want to share with you here:
Marcin: Hello Jeca, it is nice to talk to you, although circumstances are not as favourable as they were before.
Please tell us how you getting on right now? It must be hard for you, and yet we are hearing that you are helping those in need?
Jeca: Yes, it was an unpleasant and unforeseen surprise for everyone. You see: May, for someone like me is one of the most active months, unfortunately all of my gigs have been cancelled, Scare Crow Festival in Durrow was also cancelled, the Folly Festival (that’s in Laois) also postponed. So, it is difficult for the entertainer, it leaves me with not much of a choice. As everyone in similar situation I also needed some time for myself. It took for me around two weeks to rap all the things together and to come with the new strategy.
Especially how I am going to look after my family, not only here but also back home in Brazil. Most important, after those two weeks I realised that the best thing to cope is to help.
By helping others, you recognise that your problem is in fact much smaller than you were thinking it is. So, I did come with this offer to help, especially around my community.
Also, there is a lot of kids locked at homes right now, then I decided to ease their situation by sending the messages, for birthday and other occasions, not only here but also in Brazil.
I helped to provide some food by pouting contacts together, so we did provide to people here but also in Brazil. Yes… I think I am much stronger now. I just needed to feel up my cup first to be able to provide for others, and that is exactly what I did in these two weeks in order to move forward.
Marcin: Can you please tell us how you see all of this, what is happening right now? I mean, can you draw, and then translate it in to written words, a sort of sketch featuring todays Portlaoise and its people - seen by your eyes. What is most important in your opinion we can do, and what we should avoid?
Jeca: I see the whole situation not through the lens of an entertainer but rather as a Christian. I am a Christian, so I believe in God, and I think God is giving us a little bit of time to focus what is truly important in our life. This is the good time to revaluate, to think of your family, kids…
I have two kids, my daughter is 16, almost 17 and my son turned 8 just in April. I think about my time with them, what I give, what values I bring – stuff like this.
It is also a time to reflect on marriage, to look on things differently. It occurred to me that this time is not to waste. Let us take all this DIY everyone is doing around their houses; it is a great thing. We need to realise that house we live in it is not just building but something that is really in need of looking after. This is the best time to embrace what was given to us and to look after our kids, wife, family, and home.
And what we should avoid is selfishness, I think we focus to much on money and keep going with rushing our life.
We should avoid coming back to the same situation we were before, with all the neglecting of our families and people around us. Most importantly we should avoid being pessimists.
That is something I completely erase from my dictionary – be pessimist. We should be positive knowing that we will go through that situation. As in this adage I love “This too shall pass”.
Marcin: Apart of loss of earnings how does social distancing affects you?
Jeca: I am truly one on one person, I like birthday gigs, but I also have this special thing for the big projects like festivals, and special events, but unfortunately I could not do them anymore (at least by now).
And those events are the factor that brings people together. I use cameras and computers, but it is something different about this so called remote contact, all magic is gone, and also I feel a little bit awkward in front of camera, it is not the same as in real life. I am entertainer and to entertain I need flash and bone audience, which sadly screens cannot provide.
I am improvising in that exact moment by guessing and sensing emotions, unluckily camera does not give any emotional feedback.
I am still looking for a better way to use IT tools to provide a good quality entertainment, not such as these silly videos with the clowns willing to do anything just for likes. For me clown is to bring the joy and happiness, like in circus – clown is the first thing you see. That is me, I want to spread happiness.
Marcin: Your job is with children, I have daughter myself and I see how she experiences all this; I mean by that, how does isolation affect her, and how does she suffer. In your expert opinion, what effect (in long time perspective) It may bring upon children, and what is most importantly, what can we do to minimize negative consequences?
Jeca: When it comes to effects, it seems to me that it will be mainly a reflection, like a picture of each family. There is an old saying: our children are us. We say so for a reason.
We must work with children on many levels, it is about their mental health, but also about caring for physical fitness. Certainly, it will be a lot to catch up. We must not transfer depressive moods or negative emotions to young ones. We need to realise that kids sense twice as adults and react in the same proportion - so we should isolate them from these negative factors.
Despite all of the losses (thanks God we didn't lose any family members, we lose some friends back at home, but it’s nothing that kids should know) we need to accept that it is nothing new for our generation and those before us, we have lots of examples in history, when generations where shaped by much worse events.
Yes, there will be tribulations, but we should remain cheerful, to show our families that we can survive every storm with a smile, that not once we have overcome much worse happenings. Tribulations are part of the maturity, and we need to prepare our daughters and sons that their going to see lose in their life, in their family but regardless of all fears they deserve to be cheerful. We will go through.
“This too shall pass”. Less talking more actions, that what children need now, a good example from us.
Marcin: Can you please say a few words about people you are helping? Who they are, what they need? Is it hard to provide for them?
Jeca: I know one woman back in Brazil, she is single mother and I knew se was in sort of trouble, straining to provide food etc. So, I contacted the local church, and organised help by the parish. As for my close neighbourhood I did very simple thing. I grow organic rosemary in my back garden.
Then one day I harvest only the largest, mature specimens, I chopped them in pieces and filled them in many small sachets and gave all to my neighbours. It is great for the immune and circulatory system, also for mental health. If you ever try rosemary tee?
Just get a cup, throw some pieces in to hot water – that’s it. I went with all this bags from door to door offering this to my neighbours. Some were surprised, some did not know me very well, and some have no clue who I was. But no one have rejected me or my rosemary.
Everything went well, I introduce myself to those who does not know me and offered remote entertaining for kids if any at home. I did some computer performance for kids in Brazil, I also did show for one family in Cork. Right now, I have some videos on the que around here, for kids from Laois. I made a callout if anybody need help with shopping, maybe elderly, or anybody here in my town – Portlaoise.
I will be glad to help, for me it is extremely important to support people in my own neighbourhood, in my own community to be able to place myself in the bigger picture as well.
Marcin: Did anybody ask you, if you need any help, or did anybody offer help to you - In whatever form?
Jeca: So far nobody has offered me any help or any sort of assistance. But to be honest, that is not a big surprise for me, and that is not a thing I am going to self-pitying. I am 16 years here in Ireland and as a foreigner I do not expect much. I know I need to work harder and do twice as usually in order to get something or achieve some goals.
This is the way. It happens everywhere and it is justified. So proverbially, you must develop a second layer of skin, and you need to be like a rhino with tick crust to exclude self-pitying. It is a skill you need to gain. In addition, remember this famous saying: give it and it will be given to you - the more you give the more you gain. I am focused to be a giver right now even though both me and my wife are out of business.
My wife is a dance teacher and Laois Youth Dance Ensemble artistic director. Her dance school is closed at the moment, and the annual dance festival directed by her also been cancelled.
But we are not complaining, as many people in the country we are getting government aid (Covid-19 payment). My one was a little bit late (two weeks delay) so I had to rely on her help, but as you can see, we did survive.
Anyway, to sum up, I think day will come I am going to be surprised and someone will aid me in one way or another.
Marcin: There is an old Latin saying: nemo probheta in patria sua ("no man is a prophet in his own land."), then maybe a little mischievous, but I am asking you to be a one right now, and to foresee what lies ahead. How will it all proceed, will the children return to school in September, or will you wear a clown costume this year?
Jeca: It is funny, you did mention this quote, countless times I felt like this. I regard Portlaoise as my own. There are many families here who have been giving me a lot of support, by hiring me or checking up my Facebook, leaving supportive comments and friendly suggestions.
This kind of backing makes me feel that I am in my place. This what is really building me up as an entertainer.
On the other hand, you can still see some businessman hiring other entertainers, from the different places, only because they are bringing their prices to ridiculously low level - which always affects the quality of the service.
But still it does not change my feelings about the town. And what I expect? I am sure we will overcome, if I am to wear my clown suit again I certainly will. No doubt, everything turns ok. If I need to ad some extra stuff to my outfit, I will.
If this new reality requires me to use camera more often, I will use it. I am open to all suggestion and propositions. If future clients would need such of services, why not – I am ready to do zoom videos for kids, chat rooms, special messages in the local radio or TV. And yes… I expect that schools will reopen in September. I hope that my little one will go to school (as many other kids he is home schooling right now with our help) and my teenager daughter got her place in Inchicore College at the dance course. So, I hope she will have a chance to do what she loves in September.
Marcin: Do you think state help is sufficient right now? Should local authorities be more involved in helping? Does the distribution of resources and serviced go to the source, or these are only facade undertakings aimed at creating nothing but good impression?
Jeca: When I compare what is happening right now in Brazil, and what is the level of government support there, with what is happening here and how the Irish government supports its own people - I have only one thing to say: It is great!
The only issue I see is that, they are providing us with so called fish instead of equipping everyone with a fishing rod.
This in turn causes people to feel too comfortable. Everyone is just looking to go and grab their fish without any effort. In the long run, it makes a man dependent on the state and deprives resourcefulness.
But in general government is doing everything they can do right now. What we need to bear in mind that this situation is new for them as well. We need to be less dependent on their resources and we need to do our part, which is much more significant to our families and neighbourhood in general than any of govern help.
Marcin: What role does the local community have to fulfil? What do you think about the spontaneous initiatives of ordinary people? In most cases they are our neighbours or friends, should we limit ourselves only by showing verbal support, or should we get involved through specific action?
Jeca: I was raised in the belief that faith without work is dead. It is good to talk about what is happening today, but action is better.
We have different skills, some of us can do good wit their pen, some by their hands - how we do it and what tools we use, it is all secondary importance. the most vital thing at present, is that we try at all.
Just like in the army, where I once served - to be in the middle of action and do the job. To prevail we need to work together, we need to change our ways, and Ireland is a good place to start everything over.
Especially due to today's cultural diversity. In modern Ireland we have representatives of almost all cultures and nations of the Earth, and this is what enriches us and gives greater strength ever before. With such people and in such conditions, there are literally no challenges for us. All we must do is join the action.
Marcin: What is you wish for, when all this craziness ends. Have you any long term plans? Would it be easy to return to normal everyday life as it was before pandemic?
Jeca: We should change. It would be much better for us to learn a lesson from what happened. We need to re-evaluate ourselves and our surroundings and probably learn to live completely new life. But I am positive, I hope I even be able to start with my long-dreamed project involving Portlaoise hospital. Briefly, the whole idea is about the paediatric ward, especially the sick children that I could cheer up as Jeca the Clown. Since I watched Patch Adams movie (I love that movie, this is what inspired me) I wanted to bring joy and cheer up people, and in some way I also wanted to carry his legacy on. I think that this scenario would work well in our small community.
After all, everything can be adjusted to the appropriate scale, you just need to be thoughtful. Not so long ago I was in the hospital with my younger kid, and I know from my own experience what child is going through waiting a few hours to be seen. Even in the world's best hospital, the atmosphere of waiting is not very conducive to improve the moods of sick children.
So, I thought Jeca would fit in here just like the doctors. And even now, with the corona virus, we still be able to respect the distance, but most of all it will help to cope. It is my big dream to be a Patch Adams of Portlaoise. And remember – be positive.
“This too shall Pass” – this is my most important sentence for this year, and it should also be yours.