Second Emergency Smile mission to Greece’s largest refugee camp

23.April 2019

Second Emergency Smile mission to Greece’s largest refugee camp

Around 1300 beneficiaries were reached during our two weeks mission to the Greek island of Lesbos.  Our international team from Germany, Lithuania, Palestine and Poland worked in closed cooperation with Doctors Without Borders, Light Without Borders and Refugees 4 Refugees to bring some much-needed psychosocial support to the Moria camp and its surroundings.

Moria camp

Unlike the first mission we conducted in Lesbos, and thanks to the help of the organisation Light Without Borders, this time we managed to work inside the Moria camp performing two Parade shows. This camp, a former military base on the Greek island of Lesbos, is now the country's largest refugee camp and one of the biggest in the world, housing around 5,000 migrants as they wait, sometimes for years, their asylum claims to be processed.
The area has the capacity for 3.000 people, which means that the extra inhabitants are crammed in, making living area overcrowded and volatile. Just outside the camp walls, a makeshift extension named the "Olive Grove" has sprung up in a search for more space.
Although the situation in the camp is better than the last time we were there, thanks to the transfer of more than 3000 Syrian refugees to the mainland, there is still an immense need of psychosocial support as arrivals from neighbouring countries continue, and the dire living conditions are not improved.
During our mission, we also supported “Doctors without Borders (MSF) in their vaccination facility just outside the Moria camp, as they conducted a vaccination campaign for all migrant children on the Moria camp. More than 100 children were able to be vaccinated thanks to the common effort of our healthcare clowns and the MSF medical staff.  

Circus Smile for refugee kids

Our circus trainings provide a sense of normality in abnormal situations. Within the preparation of the final show, 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.
For instance, there was a seven year old girl, called Nur, taking care of two of her siblings like if she was their mother. During the trainings, the clowns managed to split the “babysitting” so she would get a moment to just be a child again.
Circus Smile offers an exceptional opportunity for self-expression not only to its participants but also to the people around them. Parents, as they accompany their children to the workshops, benefit from them in a collateral and positive way. Polina, one of our clowns in this mission, lent her accordion to an adult watching the parade show. She said that it was a beautiful empowering moment and added, “as a musician it was very important for me to share this moment with him and give him the possibility to be a musician again, even if it is just for an instant”.

Aiming for sustainability: Workshops for humanitarian aid organisations and local staff members

Year after year, humanitarian organisations provide lifesaving services in critical areas. The healthcare and humanitarian staff work uninterruptedly under lots of stress and tension, quickly leading to burnout syndrome and depression.
Thus, 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.
In special workshops, the clowns show how to integrate playfulness and humour into daily work routines, reducing stress levels for everyone.
This time, we succeeded to conduct one humour workshop for 15 humanitarian workers from Refugees 4 Refugees and two other workshops for 17 civilian staff members of the Moria camp. The workshops were a major accomplishment with big bursts of laughter accompanying every exercise.
By training both, local humanitarian workers, as well as staff members of the camp management, our missions have a multiplier effect, and benefit the main target group on a more sustainable basis.

Besides all the challenges we encountered throughout the two weeks we were in Lesbos, the mission was a total success. We manage to bring psychosocial support to hundreds of people, and ended up doing much more than we ever expected.