For children who have nothing much to laugh about when outside their school premises, a morning of laughter instead of the daily dose of lessons which will hopefully give them something to smile about later on in life, came as a very pleasant surprise, thanks to a visiting Spaniard travelling around the world on a cycle under the banner of ‘Miles of Smiles Around the World!’ (MOSAW).
Forty one years old, Alvaro Neil Gomez-Moran de la Rubia, holding a degree in Law by the University of Navarre has been a professional clown since 1989 and since 2001, traveller and adventurer focusing on projects of solidarity.
He is the first Spaniard to cycle alone, touring the whole African continent (30 countries and more than 30,000 kms). He began his journey from Spain, through Africa, many other countries up to China, with performances and conferences in all countries for thousands of people. MOSAW is a cultural project with a ‘solidarity and adventure’ message. This extraordinary project, the first of its kind, requires total and permanent contact with other cultures. It began in November 2004 in Oviedo (Asturias) and its success has been beyond his expectations, says Alvaro, thanks to the media and the number of people visiting the website.
Alvaro visits one school in each country and in Islamabad he decided to visit Rah-e-Amal, a free school for underprivileged children in Rawalpindi, after hearing about it from Jean-luc and Maite Jacquier. His interaction with the children was a delight to observe, while his magic and his clowning had everyone, including the volunteers who teach here, laughing and applauding with enthusiasm throughout the performance. You could tell that the children who were chosen for his demonstrations would treasure the memory forever, while the others would talk about this treat for a long time to come! It was a special day for the children in other ways as well. A few Spanish citizens living in Islamabad also visited the school along with their compatriot, while CNN was there to record the occasion!
From 2001 to 2003, Alvaro Neil carried out the project “Kilometres of Smiles” cycling through South America and with the same targets as MOSAW. His ambition is to cycle around the world alone, with panniers, offering an interactive cultural experience combining circus, magic and acrobats for the most humble and least favoured groups for free; to hold conferences and distribute DVD’s and pictures to connect all the countries of the world with each other in order to promote exchange of knowledge and experiences; to offer clown workshops to train other people so that they can also follow his example and teach others; to inform others through his web site www.biciclown.com, about situations of inequality and about the work being done by institutions and NGO’s working to make up a better world; to be a link so that people and institutions with enough human and/or economic resources can contribute to solving lack of social justice and situations not being covered by the media.
He has raised funds through the web for the Hospital de San Juan de Dios in Nguti (Benin). A parcel with medicines has been sent to the Hermanas Brasilenas working in Lastourville, Gabon. Clown workshops have been held in Cameroon, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. He has written a book about his African experience.
— Ishrat Hyatt