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The 10th Ethiopia National Laughter Day
“Laughing breaks down barriers”
Robin Graham (UK) and Belachew Girma (Ethiopia) are preparing the tenth Ethiopia National Laughter Day; an official celebration, unique in the world, for the power of laughter. “We have the support of the Ethiopian government to create a festive and meaningful event that will touch every citizen. We hope to bring political and business leaders to Addis Ababa to share the positive effects of laughter with us”, says Graham.
“Laugh with famine and disaster”
The driving force behind the Ethiopia National Laughter Day, Belachew Girma, does not seem to have a lot to laugh about. Many years ago his hotel in the south of Ethiopia burned down. After rebuilding the place, the area in which the hotel was located was flooded. “So he lost everything, again”, says Robin Graham, Ambassador for Laughter For All, and founder of the World Laughter Pledge. After Girma’s wife had died of HIV, he read a text in the Bible that said, “Laugh with famine and disaster”. “That is just what he did. He, being a man who likes to smile and have fun, started to use laughter as a therapy for himself and for others. He became well-known for it and one day got the green light from the government of his country to actually put laughter in the centre of attention. That was already ten years ago.”
Over the years, Girma has become one of the best-known ‘laughing guru’s’ of the world. In his position of World Laughter Master he teaches people about the benefits of laughter. Robin: “When you laugh, your body produces antidepressants like dopamine and serotonin, and endorphins, the body’s own morphine, which make you feel good. Laughter also reduces the levels of ‘bad’ stress hormones and boosts your immune system. Belachew calls laughter a ‘diplomacy pass key’: if we can get leaders and decision makers to laugh together, we break down current barriers. They will negotiate more openly and honestly. The Ethiopia National Laughter Day is all about that.”
Conference for regional leaders
This year will be the tenth year in which this day - most likely held on October 27- is celebrated, Graham, Girma and the organising team have great plans. “Obviously, there will be a conference, to discuss today’s problems, ideally with the political leaders of the region – Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya. We hope they will come to Addis Ababa not only for a good laugh, but also to get a more positive outlook to help resolve problems.”
Furthermore, Girma and Graham hope to attract thousands of people from all over the world to travel to Addis Ababa, to be part of the celebrations and to have fun. “In recent years, Belachew attracted thousands of students, elderly people, HIV-infected and disabled people for a program of laughter, such as laughter competitions, speeches and for many other reasons to laugh. Laughter is a great vehicle for peace!”
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