Our first Emergency Smile mission to Georgia

09.August 2023

In May 2023, a team of four RED NOSES clowns and one Head of Mission travelled to Georgia for an Emergency Smile (ES) mission. The mission was in response to the war in Ukraine, which forcibly displaced many Ukrainian people, of which 200,000 entered Georgia. Around 40,000 people per week continue to arrive in Georgia after fleeing the war, many of which are in urgent need of psychosocial and mental health support. As always, this mission was full of surprises and new challenges but plenty of special moments reaffirmed the power and importance of laughter during times of hardship.

An opportunity for learning

While we have plenty of ES missions under our belt now, each one is unique and requires special consideration. After an initial scouting mission in March 2023, the team conducted the first full ES mission in Georgia in May.

Working in a new environment often presents challenges and surprises. During this mission our experienced team were often required to think on their feet, rethink certain artistic formats, and form connections with those around them despite language barriers.

Along with the challenges presented by the environment, working with people who had been so affected by war also made the need for support even more urgent.

During this mission, we worked with many children from Ukraine, where it was very clear that they have experienced quite some traumatic experiences. Many of them were quite new in Georgia and it was clear that they haven’t received any (or very little) psychological support yet and some of them were autistic.Michal Kucer – Clown

Our ES clowns are specifically trained to work in a range of challenging environments. Our clowns on mission in Georgia were therefore able to understand the different needs of the audiences they worked with and conduct tailor-made artistic interventions.

©Ben Kaulfus

Measuring impact

Our ES mission to Georgia spanned just over two weeks. During this time, the team managed to reach 432 people in total, including children and older people. The team played 35 artistic formats, which they frequently adapted according to each audience and location.

Another way in which we measured our reach and impact on this mission, was to have members of the RED NOSES Research and Learning Department pay a visit to the team out in the field. Several evaluation activities were conducted, which created opportunities for reflection and improvement.

In response to their artistic interventions, the team received a great deal of positive feedback. The organisations the team partnered with on the ground were very receptive to the humour and laughter created by the clowns.   

We had an amazing week at our school as the organization Red Noses paid us a special visit. The atmosphere was filled with joy, laughter, and endless fun as the Red Noses team worked their magic to bring smiles to the faces of Ukrainian kids… For these children, who have experienced the harsh realities of war in Ukraine, the visit from Red Noses was a chance to reclaim their childhood and rediscover the simple happiness that had been stolen by war. The laughter and smiles that adorned their faces reminded us all of the resilience and strength that lie within each child. It was a reminder that even in the face of adversity, they deserve moments of pure joy and the chance to just be kids.” - School coordinator in Tbilisi, Georgia  

Despite the occasional bump in the road, our team of clown artists and Head of Mission were always able to rise to the challenges around them, adapting their clown shows, engaging with diverse audiences, and embracing flexibility. The mission in Georgia proved to be meaningful and touching, while also providing plenty of opportunities for growth and learning.

© Photo - Ben Kaulfus