RED NOSES reached more than 900 children during pioneer Emergency mission to Belarus
In partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), a team of four international RED NOSES clowns traveled to Belarus for the first Emergency Smile mission to the country, which marked another successful cooperation with IFRC. During this mission, our international clown doctors visited almost 20 hospital stations in 3 cities. During the mission, the clown doctors were able to deliver psychosocial support to more than 900 children and prepared humour workshops for around 170 local supporters from hospitals, educational institutions and clown volunteer groups.
During the period of June 4th and July 1st, a group of clown doctors from RED NOSES offices in Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia – together with colleagues from our fellow Danish hospital clown organisation „Danske Hospitals Klovne“– traveled to cities of Minsk, Vitebsk and Gomel for our Belarus Emergency Smile mission, upon invitation by the local representatives of the IFCR. The regions were selected for good reasons by IFCR: in Gomel there are still a lot of children with damaged health as consequences of the Chernobyl disaster; in Vitebsk there are Red Cross clown volunteers, who are quite active and the mission provided a good platform for experience exchange and further professionalisation of hospital clowning; in Minsk the Belarus Red Cross is developing clown therapy programs to support children in various medical institutions.
Katsiaryna Lialeka - Program Coordinator, IFCR Minsk delegation – expressed her deepest gratitude for the work of RED NOSES: „The Red Noses clown doctors made at least 300 children in each region happier! They also supported Red Cross staff and volunteers and medical staff and provided a lot of inspiration for further work. Both Red Cross staff and volunteers described the RED NOSES impact as breath taking, in particular to see the clowns at work, to see how they could feel what children felt and what emotions they could bring out. The clowns also supported children who can’t move because of their illness, but the eyes of these children were shining after clown sessions. Sometimes the local medical staff was a bit cautious about the visit of the RED NOSES team, but after they could see the impact, their only question was: when do the clowns come again.“
The emotional impact of the RED NOSES delegation in Belarus can be best summarized by a quote from Viltaute Zemelyte – Co-Head of Mission, RED NOSES International: „Children were very impressed and playful together with clowns. Teachers were surprised of the effect that clowns brought to the groups – they were very concentrated and involved in the games (it’s very rare in groups of small children). The palliative visits were special: the clowns were going from bed to bed, really spending time with every child, singing the names, blowing bubbles, making scarf games. It was touching for all of us and it was hard to keep the tears. You could see children whose lives were so fragile reacting to clowns in very special ways – some heart monitors tracked increased heartbeat while clowns were singing their names, some children were following bubbles with their eyes, one child pooped by himself which nurses interpreted as proof of the connection clowns were able to create.“
Ms. Lialeka added: „The RED NOSES team helped the Belarus Red Cross to understand what clowntherapy is and who should be involved in its implementation. During the mission it was clear that the hospital clowning involves a whole gamut of emotions: sharing children’s pain, but at the same time feeling joy because those children could smile and feel better. The Belarus Red Cross could see that support in hospitals is important not only for sick children, but also for their parents and even for medical staff who are under stress every day. IFRC will continue to explore possibilities to provide financial support for hospital clowning. We hope that RED NOSES clown doctors could serve as mentors for the Belarus Red Cross clown volunteers. We would be happy to implement further projects on hospital clowning together and we are indeed looking forward for a similar visit next year!“