Last Emergency Smile mission of the year to Lesvos

29.November 2022

Our international team from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Palestine completed two consecutive missions in Mavrovouni camp in the Greek Island of Lesvos during the past months of September and October. In closed cooperation with Eurorelief and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for over six weeks, they brought psychosocial support to the camp and its surroundings.

The hasty establishment of Mavrovouni Temporary Reception and Identification Centre (TRIC) in October 2020 has, since then, given way to constant construction works posing an acute health risk to all the people living there. Fires, heavy winds, flooding and ongoing building works have forced the camp residents’ constant relocation from one tent or shelter to another, while prospects of moving outside the camp have progressively closed.

Mavrovouni’s neatly aligned rows of tents, containers and rub-halls might appear, at first glance, better organised than the olive groves that sprawled around the former Moria reception centre. But this image, juxtaposed by extreme weather conditions and scarce access to sanitation facilities makes that the situation for the people on the island remains particularly challenging.

In these circumstances, our healthcare clowns create an enabling and supportive environment that encourages and promotes the community’s active participation. By turning the performances into restorative experiences, and not merely recreational moments, we seek to attenuate the tension and vulnerability to which these people are exposed every day.

Clown Parades

Parades are the best way to let people know that we are back in the camp and invite them to our activities.

“During the parades you see the unexpected, you walk through random paths filling them with the melodies of a musical instrument and songs breaking the profound silence. This though, changes rapidly as the children start to follow us forming a parade of joy.

The best thing about it is when adults also start interacting with us. They dance and clap. Some of them you see from afar, sullen until they see us. Their facial features change completely into a smile that hides grief. Little by little they start approaching, to find out who these red-nosed people are. And why are they here? As soon as they feel the warmth, they start interacting with us.

Most of the times, our parades are spontaneous and interactive. We feel in the moment when we must create a comic situation. It may be a concrete block we stumble over. It may be a clothesline covering our faces. It may be a baby in the hands of their mother, a barking dog or various coloured objects across the ground.

Our eyes are open 360 degrees as we try and understand what is going on around us making everything a story.

Our connection as clowns is very high. Eye contact is permanent, making us a force despite all our differences.” - Ezzat, one of the clowns on mission.

Community Centre for men in Mavrovouni camp

Last time we were in the camp we had the opportunity to host a musical workshop for single man, so we were pleased to learn about the new community engagement program that Eurorelief opened for single men in the camp.  

We were invited to participate during the opening week and then to have another session with them the following week. We did circus skills teaching, set up a slack line, danced with them, played music, table tennis, and performed magic tricks.

This designated area for activities for men kept expanding in the weeks we were there. This new community centre serves as a meeting place. Men can get their hair cut, play a game on the PlayStation, learn to make pottery or paint, lounge on the couches, but most of all—they can get to know each other over a cup of tea and a game of chess. Every day, a few of the male volunteers spend the day with the men playing cards, competing in video games, and connecting over highs and lows. We are honoured to be part of this beautiful improvement.

Our work can impact not only the children but the whole camp community. Children, women, families, aid workers, single men, everyone can benefit from joy. As we have shown throughout every single mission, we are able to create safe spaces and bring people together.

Humour Relief Workshops

During an Emergency Smile Mission, we regularly offer several Humour Relief Workshops for aid workers, medical staff and volunteers working in crisis settings. These workshops demonstrate how humour can create a powerful emotional connection between people, enhance and stimulate social interactions, reduce stress and anxiety, and foster a better professional environment.

“I had no idea what the Humour Relief workshop was going to involve but I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened. The mix of meditation, laughter and creativity left me feeling refreshed and relaxed. A mid-week rarity when working in the often-overwhelming humanitarian sector. Our team of 12 was already tight-knit, but our appreciation for one another, and the ability to communicate, has grown thanks to the off-duty clowns running this session.  

I have a newfound respect and understanding for the amazing work RED NOSES do. Their presence – in clown form or workshop mode – should be welcomed in any environment where people’s spirits need a boost” - Sam Stewart, Communications Coordinator for Movement on the Ground, Lesvos.