Charity begins at home – and home is where your heart is…

by Robin Westley Martin
Clown Eckie

For Edward Haworth (aka Clown Eckie) home for him now is Thailand, but the journey to get here was long, and not always easy, though it has always been interesting. The charity he founded in Thailand is called ‘Gift of Happiness’(GoH), and we’re going to look into its story. The initial idea of setting up a charity to help the underprivileged was initiated in 1992 by Brit and Swedish circus performers, Mr and Mrs Eddie and Charlotte Haworth, when they were running their UK circus skills training workshops for disadvantaged kids in Liverpool, England.

Sadly, the pressures of work in the entertainment industry led to the breakdown of Eddie and Charlotte’s long and happy relationship, and they decided to go their separate ways in 1995. This was a tough time for Eddie, but he forced himself to redevelop his comedy acting career as a ‘Classic Sad Clown’ solo performer, which led to several years of success performing in theatres, circuses, TV shows, galas, and festivals around Europe, the USA, Scandinavia, China, and the Middle East.

Clown Eckie

In the year 2000, Eddie was invited to Thailand for a charity performance, which was being held at the British Embassy in Bangkok. When he discovered that the invitation was to entertain some orphans who lived in a city slum, he couldn’t resist the offer. It didn’t take long for him to decide that Thailand was just the right place to continue doing what he does best, which is making people laugh. He also soon realised that this was probably the perfect time to put his past behind him and reinvent his life by devoting his time to bringing a little laughter and some positive memories to people whose lives often lacked something that he was able to provide… laughter and happiness. These new challenges in the life of Eckie the sad clown became a welcome replacement for the love in his life that he had lost. But flash forward… nowadays Eddie considers himself to be one of the happiest clowns around, since he became devoted to the charity he founded, the Gift of Happiness Foundation, which has now become his new partner, and new true love.

Full charitable status for the Gift of Happiness Foundation in Thailand was granted by the Royal Thai Government on the 15th December 2009. Membership of the League of Foundations of Thailand under the Royal Patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was granted in March 2010, and it continues to grow, largely thanks to the efforts of Eddie, and a group of his friends, who donate their time when they can.

Clown Eckie
Clown Eckie

As Founder, Eddie is the primary volunteer at the Gift of Happiness Foundation and he has never received a salary. He is not allowed access to the charity bank account which is governed by the Gift of Happiness Foundation’s, all-Thai citizens Board of Trustees. In 2014 Monroe Consulting Group came onboard, and gave Gift of Happiness Foundation the gift of a brand-new truck and a pledge to provide monthly cash donations to cover the Gift of Happiness Foundation’s core running costs. Monroe Consulting Group and the Clown Eckie Corporation cover all administration costs… staff salaries, office/warehouse rent and utilities, insurance, telephones, office stationery, services and expenses – IT services – bank charges – audit, payroll, accountancy fees and Government charity-registration fees.

So it’s thanks to the generous support of Monroe that 100% of any money given goes only to Gift of Happiness Foundation projects. The chosen recipients of your donations therefore go directly to those so much in need of a little help and succour. The money for his new truck, bought in 2018, and its maintenance and running costs, which is essential for the charity, came from Eddie’s own earnings as a professional entertainer, and since 2018, from Eddie’s British state pension.

Boaz Zippor

The charity, amongst many other things, donates a plethora of school supplies, clothing, underwear, nappies, milk, toys and food to those most in need, in many of the poorest Thai communities. Eddie does, fortunately, have friends and volunteers who help him out in his mission to provide a little love to children and the underprivileged from the poor communities of Thailand.

One of these is Boaz Zippor, who, throughout 2019, has devoted a lot of his time and his art to exhibitions that have raised the profile of the Gift of Happiness Foundation, and raised a significant amount from sales of his work. I recently interviewed Boaz at his home in Bangkok.

When did you first become interested in giving your time and energy to charitable projects?

I was brought up with a firm sense of personal responsibility, what you do is what will be, don’t expect anyone to do anything for you, don’t expect other people to solve your problems or blame others for what is happening to you. Every small choice you make has a direction, you either help create or help destroy. As a designer and artist I was never rich, and a lot of years was actually on the other side of the economic spectrum, but talent and time are things that are
relatively easy to give, at least for me, and something even a relatively poor person like me can use on a regular basis to help others. My thoughts are about what I can do and my prayer is that it will work and that my actions will have the maximum possible effect on the world. I earned my narcissism with a lot of sweat, tears, and years of hard work.

Clown Eckie

This year you have devoted to helping the Gift of Happiness Foundation; Which charities have you supported in the past?

I have been involved with many charities on a small basis for decades, a day here, a small pro bono work there, consulting, helping occasional campaigns or programmes, but it was only in my thirties that I started to realise I could do that on a more regular basis and still keep a life/work/charity balance. The thread that goes through my charitable work through the years was usually education and improving the lives of the younger generation. If we can improve
the lives of children we have a better chance of ending up with productive positive adults. I made a decision to help the smaller charities. The larger ones don’t need someone like me, and the smaller ones are not open to corruption or
misuse of funds as are some of the larger ‘corporate’ charities. With the smaller charities maybe I am able to help in a significant way.

Why did you choose Gift of Happiness to be the recipient of all your hard work for this year?

When I came out of my seven years of being a complete recluse, I had decided that if there was one reason for me to come back to society and to abandon the bliss of peaceful unadulterated creative life in my garden, it was to help others. I had done enough for myself through the years, had my success, had my ‘fame’. So I started to look for a charity I could work with and assist, a place that needed my help. It was then that I remembered working with Eddie and the GoH a decade ago, when he was doing clown shows for the Camillian Centre, and I was taking photos and documenting the work, both his and also the amazing things they did for the children in the Camillian.

When I reached out again to Eddie it was evident that he was slightly exhausted by the non-stop need for fundraising, running around looking for donations like nappies, clothes, school supplies, etc, and also for cash to make everything
possible. So I decided that for this year I would try and take some of this burden off his shoulders and allow him to concentrate on what he does best – make children happy. Make them smile, even when they live a life where they have very little to smile about.

How do you know so many talented and gifted people who come to support you at your charity functions?

That is a very good question (laughing). I am a very abrasive and direct person, I always had a “take no prisoners” attitude to life, and that seems to attract a lot of creative and productive people. In some way, I act in a way most of them wish they could (laughing) and I have no problem making the sacrifices it requires. I say what most people are afraid to say, and I do things most people are too cautious to do. If I see a talented or creative person who has found ‘fame’ of some sort I am not afraid to go to them and say, ‘Wow, I really like and appreciate what you do, it would be an honour to know you’.

Another aspect is that I do understand the real struggle creative people go through every single day in this hyper-materialistic world. When I owned my fine art photography gallery in Bangkok and held almost weekly social gatherings of creative minds, a lot of these connections were formed, usually over a couple of drinks and food in the garden, just thanks to having a place where they can meet and sit for an evening talking and exchanging ideas and experiences.
But in the end? I think I am just lucky. I would even dare to say blessed. There are really so many people with such amazing talents who help and contribute to my projects that it sometimes leaves me speechless.

Clown Eckie

Can we expect more books on photography from your extensive back collection?

There are at least four more books in the works, some await editing, some ready and just waiting for the right timing. The biggest project is the collection of my stage photography, the opera, theatre, dance festivals, cabaret and concerts. There are so many shots to go through and the editing process is very taxing because I find it hard to reduce the number of photos I like to an acceptable page count that it is moving forward very slowly. The new book that I am trying to push this year and find the right publisher for, is my very personal view of Bangkok’s street food culture, ten years of roaming the streets shooting the street food culture. Not the food, but the culture that surrounds the food stalls, what you might call the “behind the scenes” of the magnificent street food culture, how the stalls are set up, the people who operate them, the people who stop for a minute and enjoy them, the neon lights, the smoke from the grills, the plastic chairs and the iconic four condiments holders, the things that create the magic that engulfs us as we walk these street, the whole street food world that is endangered, driven to extinction by malls and air conditioned restaurants.

Boaz, thanks for your time and interesting conversation, and good luck with your upcoming publications.
Thank you too, Robin.

The art exhibitions that have been running throughout the year have made on average about 50,000B per function for the Gift of Happiness Foundation, and some rather a lot more. There will be another exhibition in in December, and there are also plans in early 2020 to finish his year of work trying to help out Eddie in his tireless endeavours to help the poor and needy in Thailand. Now that you are aware of GoH, I hope you will go along to support them when you see any of their functions advertised. And don’t forget to check out a show by Clown Eckie

…we all need to laugh a little now and then … Eckie will make sure you do!

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