RED NOSES Clowndoctors presents a new
crisis intervention programme:
EMERGENCY SMILE

Vienna, 23 October 2013. RED NOSES Clowndoctors immediately bring a smile to those areas of the world in which this smile would never be assumed to be found, but where it is urgently needed. This is possible through the newly created EMERGENCY SMILE crisis intervention programme. In this project specially trained clowns from the RED NOSES Partner organisations work in close cooperation with relief organisations in crisis and disaster areas, using the power of humour to give hope and attend recovery processes. The first engagement led the RED NOSES EMERGENCY SMILE team to Akonolinga, Cameroon.

A spark of hope in moments of greatest need
Not only patients in hospitals or people in social institutions are helped by the power of humour to gather new courage and confidence. In crisis and disaster areas, after the provision of basic humanitarian needs, a smile can be one of the greatest wonders and gifts - especially in moments of deepest despair people need moments full of joy and happiness.

"A brief look at the daily news is already sufficient to see how much sadness, suffering and helplessness there is on our planet - be it caused by natural disasters, such as the recent floods experienced in Central Europe, by poverty and ill-health in many countries or by conflicts and wars. It is here that we wish to support people and give them a new courage to face life," explains Monica Culen, director of RED NOSES Clowndoctors International.

RED NOSES in the Kosovo War
Before the EMERGENCY SMILE programme there were some isolated RED NOSES engagements in war zones. Everything began in 1999 when five Clowndoctors travelled to one of the then largest refugee camps from the war in Kosovo. Additionally, clown work started in 2011 in Palestine and it is now inconceivable for it to no longer be there. In the same year the RED NOSES team in New Zealand provided support and cared for the victims and relief workers for many weeks following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch.

"Initially we were plagued by the doubt and anxiety that our clowns were completely out of place in such surroundings, perhaps even considered provocative. But we were to learn better. Together with medicines, shelters and sufficient food, people in emergency situations need a great deal of confidence and moments that satisfy their hunger for the joy of life," states Giora Seeliger, artistic director of RED NOSES Clowndoctors International.

With the new EMERGENCY SMILE crisis intervention programme, RED NOSES Clowndoctors International immediately brings this joy of life to people in great need - and that worldwide!

EMERGENCY SMILE: premiere in Cameroon
The RED NOSES crisis intervention team carried out the first mission together with Doctors Without Borders in Akonolinga, Cameroon, Africa. It was here that three RED NOSES clowns from three partner countries spent a total of 18 days with adults and children suffering from the severe neglected tropical disease, the Buruli ulcer.

The illness is an infection that causes the destruction of skin and soft tissues with the formation of large and painful ulcers. The pathogen is the atypical mycobacterium (MOTT), Mycobacterium ulcerans, which is related to the pathogens of tuberculosis and leprosy. Most cases of Buruli occur in tropical or subtropical regions. Mainly the least developed countries of the world are affected. Therefore, the development of new therapies would not be financially profitable and the disease is being neglected by researchers. In 2002 Doctors Without Borders created its own pavilion for Buruli ulcer patients in the hospital grounds in Akonolinga, Cameroon. The treatment for these extensive ulcers is very comprehensive and painful and can take up to 16 months. It is not only a physical but also a psychological challenge for the predominantly young patients. Thus, they were the first visited by the RED NOSES EMERGENCY SMILE team.

At the same time it is not only a matter of bringing happiness and joy of life to the sad and painful everyday life of the patients, but also to offer information about the infection and the therapy for this illness in a light and easy way.

Karola Sakotnik, project director of EMERGENCY SMILE, says: "We spent many months in preparation for the clown work in Akonolinga. Many details had to be taken into consideration before our crisis team started their journey. We visit foreign countries with different cultures and the clowns must know exactly how to exercise their humour in a proper and effective way. Moreover, it is necessary to learn a certain amount of medical and political know-how because, depending on the engagement, this knowledge can be vital. In the name of the entire team I wish to thank Doctors Without Borders for the support given in the preparation and on the ground. Carrying out a project like this is only possible with strong partners."

Credit: Doctors Without Border

RED NOSES clown Christophe Dumalin was present at the "hour of birth" of the crisis intervention team: "The time in Ankonolinga was full of new impressions and challenges. We were very unsure about whether our humour would be accepted. Would the patients perhaps have other expectations and needs? But it is repeatedly astonishing what the figure of the clown can do and what unique and personal experiences are possible. Such as with an 11-year-old girl! She was alone and extremely worried about her mother who was also ill. The little girl then had to have surgery. We accompanied her to the skin-transplantation unit and spent the time with her before surgery, singing and dancing together. From that moment we were very close to each other, like good friends. With the crisis intervention programme EMERGENCY SMILE the original character of a clown is clearly revealed: as an encounter artist a clown comes into contact with people on a very emotional and pure level and without barriers."

Where do we go next? The next engagements are not yet fixed, but the RED NOSES EMERGENCY SMILE team will presumably go to Kirghizstan and Swaziland. Here the crisis intervention team with the red nose will concentrate predominantly on tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients. Information and prevention are to play a central role. As previous experiences in crisis areas have shown that relatives, relief workers and care personnel also need special attention and the power of humour. This will be a further focus of EMERGENCY SMILE in the future.

Video:
You will find here a video of the first engagement carried out by EMERGENCY SMILE in Akonolinga: http://youtu.be/Q3AlYfUfFrE

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