Greek Islands

Lesbos and Samos

Emergency Smile mission to refugee camps in the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos

Around 1200 beneficiaries were reached last month during our three weeks mission to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos.  Our international team from Germany, Palestine, Slovakia and Slovenia worked in cooperation with the organisations Doctors Without Borders, Refugees 4 Refugees, SOS Children’s Village and Still I Rise to bring psychosocial support to the refugees living in these islands.

As of February, the UNHCR reports that over 90,000 refugees are currently living in Greece. Many of them are children who were born in conflict zones and have never experienced anything but war, exile and life in a refugee camp.

The Mavrovouni camp (AKA Moria 2.0), the new camp set up last year in Lesbos after a fire destroyed Moria, is overcrowded with over 10.000 people living there. Like in Samos, there is poor basic sanitation, insecurity and a lack of medical and psychological support. Access to the camp is restricted and the Greek authorities do not welcome visitors. There is absolutely no shadow, the heat is nearly unbearable, and the list of challenges the refugees face every day goes on.

This hideous situation is what motivates us to keep going back. Our activities offer the over 1200 children living in these islands a much-needed stimulus; it gives them something to look forward to and allows them to exercise their play predispositions, thus distracting them from their difficult living situation.

Our healthcare clowns create an enabling and supportive environment that encourages and promotes the children’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 children are exposed, giving them vital psychosocial support.

Shows and Parades

During our mission to Lesbos and Samos, we had several clown shows and parades. We succeeded to conduct parades inside the camp thanks to our cooperation with the organisations working in the field. As the camps have no child-friendly spaces, our activities come to fill a great void in the life of these children whom always seem eager to participate.

The most inspiring thing about these parades is that the whole atmosphere in the camp changes as soon as the clowns start going around filling the air with songs and laughter. The parades are also the best way to invite all the children to join the clowns’ show, which in the case of Lesbos had to be done in the seashore since, although very hot, it was the only place with enough space.

At the end, the clowns came up with a clever way to say good-bye to the kids whom in the past did not want to let the clowns leave. Understandably, the kids did not want to separate from the only nice distraction they had in months.

Circus Light: SOS Children’s village day-care centre

Besides the shows and parades, our clowns also manage to go, several times, to a day-care facility from SOS Children’s village in Lesbos where, small children, can go to have a safe and child-friendly space.

Our circus trainings provide a sense of normality in abnormal situations. Within the workshops, there is a strong reintegration component as the activities aim to reconnect the children with some forgotten, or never developed, skills. It gives a safe space for the children to be children again- carefree and happy.

This time, the clowns divided the kids in three groups where they could learn magic tricks, acrobatics or juggling. “The magic was where the kids were most engaged. They really loved it and participated, but also the other two activities were really well received. The kids wanted more and more. It was interesting to see that one group really wanted to have challenging acrobatic numbers, choosing advanced things from the card deck” shares one of our heads of mission, Natalie Porias.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in Lesbos

One of the tasks of our clowns during the mission in Lesbos was to support the nurses in the MSF clinic in Lesbos where refugee children can get their vaccination and check-ups. One clown would be inside making the vaccination smoother while the others would be in the waiting room lightening the mood and making the kids laugh while waiting to get vaccinated.

“The clowns assisted me at the clinic as I vaccinated children from Moria 2.0. They distracted each kid in a gentle and playful way, so I could focus more on my work. I noticed that the kids where much calmer and relaxed during the vaccination itself. It seems that the kids felt less pain as their arm muscles were relaxed. The work of the clowns was very helpful" - Carola Liebe-Harkort, nurse at the MSF clinic in Lesbos.

Humour workshops for humanitarian aid organisations

Red Noses shares humour expertise with fellow humanitarian aid colleagues to help them cope with the difficult environment they have to deal with every day and to integrate playfulness and humour into daily work routines.

In this occasion, we succeeded to conduct three humour workshops for humanitarian aid workers from MSF and Still I Rise. By training local humanitarian workers, our missions have a multiplier effect, and benefit the main target group on a more sustainable basis.

Besides all the challenges our team encountered throughout the three weeks they were in Lesbos and Samos, the mission was a total success. We are very proud to say that they managed to bring psychosocial support to hundreds of people, and ended up doing so much more than anyone ever expected.

*This Emergency Smile mission was partially supported by Wir Packen's an.