Sharing laughter and kindness to those who need it most in Ukraine

UKRAINE - June 2016

On the third trip to Ukraine this past June, our Emergency Smile programme visited various facilities accommodating internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mariupol and Berdyansk. In each city, the clowns brought with them a positive message to encourage each child and adult they met.

This team was made up of four gifted individuals:

Juste Kulakauskaite (RAUDONOS NOSYS – RED NOSES in Lithuania)
Indre Mickeviciute-Petrauskiene (RAUDONOS NOSYS – RED NOSES in Lithuania)
Jan Šprynar (ZDRAVOTNÍ KLAUN - RED NOSES in Czech Republic)
Pavel Mihalak (ČERVENÝ NOS – RED NOSES in Slovakia)

The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continues despite ceasefires and has forced a massive displacement of people. The situation is dire for IDPs, they are not eligible to claim asylum or seek protection in another country as they are not classified as refugees under international law.  Since IDPs remain within their borders, their own state is responsible for protecting and assisting them under international law.

The assistance to the large number of displaced people depends on external sources other than the state-run social support system. The Ukrainian Red Cross Society (URCS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deliver services to IDP’s where government services fall short by establishing psychosocial centres for safe and protective environments for children and their caregivers affected by the conflict. Despite their best efforts, more help is needed. 

Each of our interventions is unique. In Mariupol, a city that is visibly scarred from the conflict, the clowns were welcomed with open arms. Pavel noted that, “after performing in a region where schools, kindergardens and homes had been physically destroyed, the people received us warmly. People shared their memories with us, giving us a glimpse into the changing circumstances they face each day.”

Within this context, RED NOSES International actively works to strengthen the pyschosocial support offered to IDPs. Aiding in the creation of an environment where children feel relaxed and safe to play, the Emergency Smile programme reinforces the work being done by our partners. Each clown uses their unique talents to build a connection with each child, utilizing the power of laughter to draw out positive reactions. 

While strengthening the previous work with URCS and UNICEF, our clowns also benefited over 300 volunteers and staff of our partners by providing workshops on how to use humour in their daily work. This is especially important when providing psychosocial support to the Ukrainian people. 

Sasha, a volunteer with the URCS, explains why our presence is needed, “The entire URCS team in Mariupol, including myself, wanted to come to see how RED NOSES clowns would interact with the tough audience. Immediately, we knew the clowns had a gift that could touch a child’s soul and help them to open up. I will not forget this moment in all my life."

With these moments of tears and joy, the brave team returned knowing that their work was appreciated. It was wonderful end of the mission!

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

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