Supporting the Kyrgyz Red Cross: Visits to Orphanages and Children with Tuberculosis

30.August 2018

During three weeks, an international RED NOSES clown team provided psychosocial support to more than 170 children in three different cities in Kyrgyzstan; visiting orphanages, tuberculosis and oncology hospitals and rehabilitation centers. In cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), four of our professional healthcare clowns carried out the latest Emergency Smile mission in this Central Asian country.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis (TBC) is the 10th deadliest disease in the world and the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the 30 countries in the world burdened with this highly contagious illness. They estimate that every year there are 1,400 new cases of infected people, including children. These children, even when considered cured, because of their low immune system, have to spend several months at the hospital with little to no distraction.  

The team who visited a specialised Hospital in Baitik experienced that tuberculosis is a much-stigmatised disease and infected children are extremely marginalised. The hospital treating them is outside the city, which emphasizes this perception of outcasts, hence the importance for our clowns to visit this hospital and lift up the spirit of these children.  

After a week working with the kids, teaching them new skills and helping them develop their artistic talents, the performance ended beautifully with a big applause. One of our clowns said, “It was a great moment to see how proud and happy the children were” and a little patient added, “thank you for paying attention and spending time with us. For a moment we forgot that we are ill.”

Children's homes 

Our team was asked by Kyrgyz Red Cross to visit five orphanages these past weeks. The term “orphanage” however, is not precise as the children in most of these institutions are not really orphans. The vast majority, from different Kyrgyz regions, moved to the capital or abroad for labour reasons, leaving their children with their relatives whom ultimately, because of neglect or lack of resources, placed them in these temporary centres.

As a result, the interaction with these kids was not always very easy. Their behaviour revealed the hardships that they have endured, to which our professional clowns answered with great professionalism, empathy and patience. They help them feel valuable through the preparation of the Circus show, offering them a longed-for change in their daily routine.

Humor workshop for IFRC volunteers

Part of our Emergency Smile Missions is sharing our knowledge with our fellow humanitarian workers. In these cases, it is important not only to lift the spirit of the patients but also the people helping them every day. Our “humour workshops”, designed for the staff and volunteers of humanitarian aid organisations, help them reduce stress, tension and anxiety so they can work better with the beneficiaries.

After the workshop with lots of exercises, joy and laughter the volunteers thanked the clowns for everything they had learned and one of them even said, “it was very easy for us to open. You made us a team; it almost feels like family now.”

Overall, Sou-Yen Kim, the Head of Mission, summarized the experience as “demanding, challenging but also an inspiring time for all of us”.