Emergency Smile Mission to Moldova
Over a thousand people got to enjoy our artistic interventions during our last mission to Moldova. The international team from Slovenia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, in cooperation with the organisations Concordia and Moldova for Peace, provided psychosocial support to refugee children and their families for over three weeks.
Concordia’s Day Centre in Tudora
It was our first mission to Moldova, and we didn’t really know what to expect. What we knew is that the team was excited about this new adventure and our support was needed.
During the first week, our team worked in the Concordia* day centre in Tudora. Since the first minutes, the personnel greeted them with open hearts and the children were so curious when seeing them arrive with red noses.
That week, the team hosted a lot of activities together with the children and their care givers. The kids learnt how to spin the plates, acrobatics, magic tricks, juggling and many other circus skills. It was so good to see that the personnel actively joined all the activities with the children.
On the last day in the Concordia centre, the children, personnel, and clowns had a common circus performance for the entire Concordia community.
One of the care takers from Concordia shared this with our team: “It was an unforgettable experience for all of us! After this week we feel so inspired! I could not be happier to see our children learning new skills and enjoying the process so much!”. It was a week full of joy, laughter, and new experiences.
Parade in food distribution centre
During our mission to Moldova, we had the opportunity to work in a food distribution warehouse operated by Moldova for Peace, which is visited daily by around 600 Ukrainian refugees.
During the day, the clowns were welcoming and interacting with people through a parade with music, songs, magic tricks and of course a lot of improvised performances.
A woman who was watching the healthcare clowns from a distance, approached one of them and said: “I can’t remember the last time that I laughed so much!’’.
Another lady, just at the beginning of the visit, told the team “Today is my birthday!", immediately, the clown team started singing “happy birthday”, and all the people who were in the warehouse, including the volunteers, stopped for a moment, and started singing together with them. The entire warehouse was chanting along. The lady was so happy and excited! “I couldn’t have imagined a better gift for my birthday”, she said to them.
These feelings of joy, happiness, or relief, are something that the power of humour and laughter can bring to anyone at any given moment.
Circus Smile and visits to the accommodation centre MoldExpo
This centre used to host refugee families since the beginning of the Ukrainian war in February. When our team visited it, most of the families who had the possibility to leave had already left, so those who were still accommodated there lived in a kind of limbo. On one side they didn’t really want to integrate into the Moldovan society as they were hoping to be able to go to Ukraine soon, but they also didn’t have any other place to go.
At first it was very difficult for our team to start activities in this centre. Many children did not want to join and remained in their rooms. This of course was not enough to discourage our team, who decided to split in two groups, one ran Circus Smile sessions while the other went door to door, to meet the residents. They met with teenagers, with very little hope in the future and with elderly couples who shared their stories with them.
On the last day, the team decided that it was time to spread some joy to everyone, so they did a parade in the centre. Suddenly everyone joined and started singing and participated in the final performance. It was a truly magical moment for everyone!
Mothers surprising kids in Community centre 151
For the last week of the mission, the team hosted a Circus Smile workshop in the community centre of Chisinau, operated by the organisation Moldova for Peace.
All of the children participating to the workshop were Ukraine refugees. Most of them joined the activities with their mothers, making it very easy for the team to work with all group ages and keep their attention.
At the beginning, the clowns were sitting in a circle, playing music, while people were joining them and just be in the moment. There was no rush, everyone got special attention. The connection with the volunteers also grew as the days went by. By the end of the week, they also joined the activities.
As the team splitted for work with props, the mothers kept coming and participating. It was very touching to see how they were also spinning the plates or playing with rings with their kids.
The team saw this as a sign and had the idea to involve the mothers for the final performance. After the workshop they invited them for a short magic tricks session to talk about their idea. They were excited and agreed to surprise the kids during the final show, so they had a short rehearsal with them.
On the last day of the mission, there was a beautiful show in the community centre, but the cherry on the cake was the mother’s performing for their kids. The children were just speechless!
Everybody was full of positive emotions. It was the best ending for this challenging and altogether wonderful mission.
Christopher Bailey, the Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organization (WHO) joined the team for this part of the mission, and it was an absolute privilege. He was constantly acknowledging the impact of our work and the joy that we bring to people in challenging situations.
* Concordia Social Projects Moldova (part of Concordia Social Projects International) is a non-governmental, non-commercial and apolitical organisation, which started its activity in 2004. The main goal is to contribute to the harmonious integration in society of disadvantaged people, to promote their rights and provide them with the necessary social assistance.