Naylenia Ramírez, of BBVA Provincial in Venezuela, is able to negotiate budgets and conditions with the bank’s toughest suppliers and then turn around make kids and adults laugh their hearts out.
Naylenia puts her clown nose on and blocks out everything that happened that day at work. Sometimes it’s hard, because negotiations in her unit (Corporate Premises) are arduous. “We have to demand the highest quality from our suppliers because that’s what we have purchased,” she says seriously.
However, it doesn’t take her long to burst out laughing or tell a joke. She says she learned this from her experience at Doctor Yaso, the NGO she works with. There, with her nose on, she is no longer Naylenia, but Misumisu, a cat-like clown who shares laughter and joy with the youngest patients in the hospitals they visit.
"They are always waiting for us,” she says. “Their parents tell us that the night before we arrive, the kids are too excited to sleep because they know the clowns are coming to play with them." And it is not only good for the kids: their family and friends also enjoy the jokes. "Some are just as bad off as the patients."
A game-centered approach
The key, in her opinion, is how to interact with kids. "What happens is that many people who visit them only see their illness. We use games to reach them. In fact, we avoid asking what’s wrong with them at all costs: that’s prohibited. That's what the doctors are there for. Our job is to take the drama out of being hospitalized.”
They say that we make them laugh, but they give me much more than I can give them"
That change has a huge impact on them. "There are children who spend months there. Or they come from backgrounds where they are not used to someone playing with them in an innocent way like we do. "
Naylenia considers herself privileged and says she gets more out of the experience than the patients. "They say that we make them laugh, but I think it's the other way around. They give me much more than I can give them on a visit. Most of all, they help you to put your problems into perspective: They remind you that whatever you are going through is nothing compared to what they have to deal with. They suffer a lot, and even more so with the current situation in Venezuela in terms of medicine, food, etc."
She acknowledges that she has a soft spot for the toddlers. "My clown is a cat, and I have a great time playing with babies because they love the ears and nose," she says.
A very real cat
Her character is a cat because it was her own feline that showed her the value of collaborating with the community. "I didn’t volunteer much,” she says. “But about three years ago, we adopted a cat. After that all the animals I saw on the street reminded me of my cat. So I started to volunteer and that showed me the value of helping out.”
Now I take things differently"
It was BBVA that gave her the first opportunity. "The possibility of collaborating with Doctor Yaso arose at the bank." She signed up and participated in the first session. "I wanted to find a way to show my gratitude for not having suffered hardships, like others. I thought I would go play with the kids for a while, and I realized that there was much more to it than that.”
She recognizes that the hardest thing is to leave behind everything she experiences on her visits. "Sometimes it's hard to shake it off. But we go in pairs, and at the end of the visit we discuss everything that happened to us so we can leave everything behind us in the hospital. There are patients who move you, and you end up crying. But we can say that we have done everything we could, and for little while they had a good time. There will be more children tomorrow. It's tough, but that's what we're trying to do.”
Naylenia Ramírez, a smile is the best medicine
A transformative experience
She says that the experience has changed her, and the way she approaches her job at the bank too. "Now I take things differently. I'm more patient. Sometimes I even add a touch of humor, and I don’t take things so seriously. That makes work less stressful. You can find a solution for everything."
Naylenia—or Misumisu—wants to do even more. She dreams of opening an animal shelter. In her architect mind, she has already completed the project. It will be her new way of making people smile.