The concept of Ibtissama: Clowns for hospitalized children, is the same as that of the Swiss Theodora Foundation. The idea was brought by Ali and Roula Mouhanna, who had connections with Theodora Foundation in Switzerland. Once the concept was introduced and researched, the program was readily adopted and dedicated a team to manage its implementation in Lebanon.
In 2007, the first contact was made with André Poulie, co-founder of Theodora Foundation, in order to start a “Clown Doctors” program in Lebanon. However, the unstable political circumstances in Lebanon delayed the actual onset of the program yet another year.
In March 2008, André Poulie accompanied Dr. Strettoscopio (Rodrigo Morganti), a Clown Doctor Trainer from Theodora Foundation - Italy, to their first visit to Lebanon in order to meet team and to help recruit Clown Doctors. Together with Ibtissama founding team, they facilitated the creation of a solid basis for Ibtissama, and over the following months they helped in overseeing its proper implementation.
Dr. Strettoscopio’s first visit to the hospital in Lebanon was to Rafic Hariri University Hospital where he performed for sick children in presence of an appreciating audience from children parents, Ibtissama founding team and hospital staff. Dr. Strettoscopio’s 2nd visit was to the Children Cancer Center of Lebanon (St. Jude) at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.
During their first stay in Lebanon, André Poulie and Dr. Strettoscopio interviewed many Clown Doctor Candidates. Selected candidates underwent practical training provided by the experienced Dr. Strettoscopio, as well as theoretical training provided by the American University of Beirut School of Nursing and Psychological training provided by the specialized psychotherapist, Dr. Marwan Gharzedin.
Consequently, the small group of professional young men and women formed the first batch of Clown Doctors in Lebanon. A year later, Ibtissama Program launching was scheduled on July 4, 2009, and Ibtissama was finally born! As of January 2012, the management of the project was transferred from the very capable Ajialouna Association, who generously adopted our project, to the “Smile Foundation” which has its own dedicated personnel. "