Dressed in his colorful outfit and donning lashings of makeup, he was one of Bangkok's most recognized faces. But there's another side to Clown Eckie, aka Eddie Haworth, whose tough background inspires him today.
Gift of Happiness Foundation is a nonreligious and non-political charitable
organization founded by Eddie Haworth FRSA (Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London), known by many as Clown Eckie, that provides much needed fun and interactive edutainment, health and educational resources to children and their families living in poverty in Thailand. It was granted full charitable status by the Thai Government in December 2009.
How did you first get involved? In 2000, I was invited by the British Embassy in Thailand to perform at a charity event for children living in poverty. I was inspired and decided to set up a charity to help people in need. The Gift of Happiness Foundation was launched in XXXXXX??????
Over the next two decades, the Gift of Happiness team and I have worked with schools, businesses, and communities to provide needed resources and laughter to underprivileged children in Thailand.
What is the mission of the Gift of Happiness Foundation?
Our mission is to ensure that needy children and families in Thailand are provided with the resources and opportunities needed to sustain a meaningful, healthy, and happy life. We unconditionally provide free happy events, plus tons of essential goods to thousands of people who normally have very little to be happy about!
We seek to expand the network of individuals we serve while forming additional collaborative partnerships with NGOs, schools, and agencies. We work to improve need identification in Thailand and the process of resource allocation. We are a non-religious and non-political charitable organization.
Tell us about yourself:
I was born in a caravan in Manchester, UK, in 1952. I had three sisters, sadly all deceased. Mum and dad worked 12-hour shifts in factories in the mill town of Bolton, Lancashire.
I went to a large urban secondary modern school where I learned
I landed in prison for a few months aged 17, then went straight working as a labourer at a total of 47 different jobs until the age of 22. I married the first of my six partners aged 20 and produced two children. Today I have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
My last wife, who's from Lapland, and I travelled as a team - she as an acrobat and me as a circus clown and strongman. She's now in a hospice with early onset dementia. Another wife was murdered by her son, my stepson, Christmas 2017.
In 1979, aged 28, I had a serious motorcycle crash that put me in hospital for a whole year, then registered disabled with calipers on my leg for five years. Meantime I lost my job, mortgaged house, wife and kids.
Started a new life when I hit the road in 1983, initially as a physically disabled itinerant musician/street entertainer. Slowly regained full use of my legs while living and working in every country in Europe, US, Middle East, India, SE
I landed in prison for a few months aged 17, then went straight working as a labourer at a total of 47 different jobs until the age of 22. I married the first of my six partners aged 20 and produced two children. Today I have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren."
girl (it was her grandfather). I did paid shows for various ambassadors and a few hi-so Thai families, and government ministers. My other career highlights: · Appeared as a Circus Clown on the Tata Young MTV, Dangerous Tata'. • Had a role as a pirate in the movie 'Black Beard' filmed on a small island south Thailand, and wrote the music used in that part of the film. • Featured in the Big Chilli Magazine in 2003. • Appeared many times on Thai TV on my three-metre high unicycle or performing my unique, world record seven-ball juggling routines. • Owned my own 'Clown TukTuk' and performed at many five-star hotels in Bangkok • Lectured in performing arts at Liverpool and Manchester universities as well as major international Schools in SE Asia
In Bangkok, I have lived variously in Pathum Thani, Sukhumvit and On Nut, where I still have an office/home.
What attracted you to charitable work? Simple. I was born into poverty and experienced first hand exactly what it's like to live a hand to mouth existence without even having a proper roof over my head.
Once I developed the skills that allowed me to live a more comfortable life, I realised that I had something to make those less fortunate a little happier for a while and leave them with a happy memory to lean on throughout their lives. Hence the Gift of Happiness Foundation.
So, I looked to see the best way to help people who are living in even worse conditions than I lived through as a child and homeless traveller for many years.
How many helpers do you have?
We have two members of staff who are paid by our only corporate sponsor. They are Thai citizens, a driver/handyman and our office assistant. There are usually two or three regular westerners who volunteer to help sorting donated goods and handing them over directly to the needy people we serve in Thailand.
Occasionally, we have groups of 10 or more volunteers helping us when we visit large hilltribe or migrant/refugee communities,
We only help the neediest people in Thailand. That means we help unsupported slum dwellers, migrant or hilltribe communities and refugees living along the Thai/Burma borders, mainly around Mae Sot, Sangkhalaburi and many of the Police Border Patrol Migrant schools in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
How is it financed?
In 2005, I utilized funds from my successful entertainment business to establish the foundation. The people of Thailand always warmly welcomed me, and I simply wanted to give back and share happiness. I have always financed the majority of running costs and project costs through my work as a performance artist, Lecturer and guest speaker appearances.
In 2015 we gained the amazing support of Monroe Consulting Group, Bangkok. They have sponsored the two staff salaries and paid most of the monthly bills and administration costs since 2015. There are also many individuals (too many to name) who have made large and small contributions over the years.
We receive tons of clothing, toys, educational supplies, bedding, toweling and toiletries from expat individuals, international schools, hotels (especially the Sukhothai) Santa Fe Relocations and Allied Pickfords Relocations. Very occasionally, we get used office equipment from local businesses. Even more rarely, we get cash donations from local businesses and international schools.
Since the start of the pandemic and because of the problems with PayPal in Thailand, we have lost almost all the regular contributions made by individuals and a couple of companies. Right now, we only have the support of Monroe, and I have been supporting some of the projects by selling off my truck and using part of my UK pension.
What are its medium/long term objectives?
We are slowly recovering from the effects of the pandemic and the loss of all our regular contributors. And we are excited to be able to restart our list of essential priorities. The number one priority is to reach out to organisations, business leaders and mindful wealthy individuals in an effort to develop new sponsorship. This will enable us to give aid
"We need to find sponsorship from companies who are looking for a perfect solution to their CSR requirements. The amount needed is just enough to cover a reasonable salary for a Director of Operations."
to many more thousands of newly povertystricken families who've lost their jobs during lockdown.
We also need to find sponsorship from companies who are looking for a perfect solution to their CSR requirements. The amount needed is just enough to cover a reasonable salary for a Director of Operations. He/she will need to maintain current partnerships and develop new partnerships that allow for expansion of donations, services, and to locate new recipients in Thailand.
In the longer term, we are planning a collaboration with a group of established
Tell us some inspiring stories about the people you've helped.
Because there are so many, I'll just tell the story of what really started my journey along the Happiness Road in Thailand...
During my first year living in Thailand, I was asked to give a performance to a group of 42 kindergarten kids who were being cared for by an American lady who was a volunteer at a large orphanage in Klong Toey, Bangkok..
Back then I hadn't yet realised that westerncircus clowns were pretty much unknown by most Thai people and apart from Mr Bean or Benny Hill, they had probably never seen a slapstick comedy 'Character Mime' artist.
To my mind, I was simply giving the same non-verbal show that I had performed all over the world to a bunch of tiny Thai tots. After all, it had always made kids laugh in the Middle East, India and China.
So, I gave the 30-minute show which had the kids initially perplexed, then quickly rolling around in fits of uncontrollable laughter, then calling out for more as I reached the end of my (very hot) performance.
The American lady volunteer spoke perfect Thai to the children and asked them if they had enjoyed seeing the show and had any questions to ask me. Most of them had nothing more to say, than to ask me to do it all again. Then one of the slightly older kids, around six years old, asked: "What's wrong with the clown... Why can't he talk?"
When the lady translated the question to me, I just thought, aww that's so nice... it was one of those lovely little fuzzy feeling moments that I sometimes get when I hear such audience reactions. Then the lady told me that some of the other kids were really quite concerned
We need regular donations of clothing, toys, medical supplies and educational equipment to pass-onto desperately poor people in Bangkok slums, poor rural communities, orphanages, migrant schools, refugee camps and medical centres in Thailand.
And that's when my mindset and probably my life started to changel Because that's when the caring lady told me that what I had just done would mean so much every one of those 42 children. She then told me that they had all been born with AIDS and most of them would probably not live for much more than a year longer. As she thanked me again, I realised that my simple little slapstick comedy show had made a big difference in the lives of those innocent souls who now had a happy memory to cherish for the remaining months of their time on this planet. (This was in the days before antiretroviral drugs were allowed in Thailand).
What can the public at large do to assist the foundation?
We need regular donations of clothing, toys, medical supplies and educational equipment to pass onto desperately poor people in Bangkok slums, poor rural communities, orphanages, migrant schools, refugee camps and medical centres in Thailand. During our monthly aid giving projects, we give several tons of goods to thousands of poor children.
The Gift of Happiness Foundation is one of the few charities that does not spend a massive percentage of our income on admin/executive salaries. Of course, we desperately need to rebuild our list of cash donors to help us cover the costs of delivering essential supplies. Every baht donated is only used to help the people we serve!
The future is looking very good so long as we can continue to recover from the effects of Covid and rebuild our base of genuinely mindful followers. We plan to have a new board of trustees and sponsored professionals to help us build on what we have worked so hard to establish since 2005. I will always be the head of the organisation and I have a personal friend who is able to help fund my regular visits to Thailand so that I can continue to perform my educational comedy shows and give tons more happiness in Thailand for many years to come.