First ever online mission
The Emergency Smile online mission to Ukraine, that took place in November 2020 was a pilot project for the Emergency Smile programme to explore possibilities of working online. The online mission took place in the Red Cross centre of the city of Severodonetsk in the Eastern part of the country. We picked this city because the collaboration with the Red Cross team during our last in person mission in 2019 was amazing and we knew we would need their support to make this happen.
The mission lasted 2 weeks. A small group of children, due to the COVID restrictions, met during afternoons in the Red Cross centre. The team was the same that participated in the mission in 2019: Polina (DE), Florentine (DE), Michal (SK) and Sarunas (LT). This was very important to us as they already knew the children and the staff and we felt it would be easier to re-create a connection than to build a completely new one from scratch over the internet.
The team prepared and recorded on zoom an entire show, followed by 4 video tutorials showing how to juggle, make magic tricks with the red nose, create a costume and make a choreography. Every afternoon we had a short meeting online between the clowns and the children followed by one pre-recorded tutorial. The staff of Red Cross sent us plenty of videos and pictures of the children learning new skills that we included in the final show video.
On the last day, the children came to the centre, where they were treated like stars going to the premiere of their show. They had a press conference where the Red Cross Staff asked them questions and then they watched themselves helping the clowns!
This first online mission was very important for the Emergency Smile programme. After this experience, a set of online missions with a slightly different programme started in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it has grown since then. We realized that human connections are still possible even over the internet and we learnt that the most special moments where the online meetings with the clowns. We could see the confidence and creativity of the children participating increased over time and it was very hard to say good bye on the last day.