Teddy Clinic became a huge success in Helsinki

Teemu Ullgrén
Teemu Ullgrén
Teemu Ullgrén

Late May Finnish Red Cross opened an Emergency Response Teddy Clinic in connection with the annual World Village Festival, celebrating multiculturalism in downtown Helsinki.

Experienced Finnish Red Cross health professionals changed gear for two days and took care of the widest possible variety of health problems – some rare, some common – with soft toys and dolls.

Small children, from toddlers upwards, came to the Dollspital tent together with their parents and their toys which were affectionately taken care of by Red Cross nurses and physicians. The idea of the hospital was to allow small children treat their pets themselves, guided by professionals. Whilst doing this, like preparing a teddy for a vaccine shot for example, children were processing their own possible fears and concerns vis-à-vis various medical procedures.

– National television news ran a short report depicting our Teddy Clinic on Saturday, and on Sunday we were almost inundated with parents, children and a very interesting collection of soft toys and dolls carrying a pretty exotic selection of ailments, says Johanna Arvo, nurse and manager of the Dollspital.

Only a bit more than a month ago Johanna was treating patients at the Kenema Ebola Clinic in Sierra Leone wearing full protective Ebola clothes. At the Teddy Clinic her attire was a beautiful retro nurse’s dress. Doctors and nurses were all wearing hospital outfits of different sort.

Children got to treat their own teddies and dolls

Children got a paper nurse’s bonnet carrying the Finnish Red Cross logo. They colored the cross of the logo red and moved to the Child Health Clinic desk where details of their teddy or doll were written down onto a Clinic Card. Length, weight, diameter of the head and assumed ailment were all recorded meticulously. Doctor or nurse diagnosed their little patients based on the information written on the card, and wrote down instructions for further care at home.

– My little girl was wearing her paper nurse’s bonnet for the remainder of the day and, when we returned home, all her toys needed immediate medical attention. Your Teddy Clinic was an absolutely fabulous idea, one happy parent said in her email to the Finnish Red Cross.

Some of the children came to the Teddy Clinic without their toys. They were greeted by a selection of orphan teddies, donated by the Finnish Red Cross second hand superstore “Kontti”. Orphan teddies were more than happy to be treated by one child after the other.

Teddy Clinic received lots of positive feedback

While the children were attending their teddies and dolls, parents had the possibility to acquaint themselves with the actual international operations of the Finnish Red Cross, and ask questions from delegates with extensive experience from responding to practically all the major disasters of the past decennium.

– This was the second time we have put up our Dollspital. Feedback has been tremendously positive, and we have even started to think if maybe some variation of the Teddy Clinic might be added to the psychosocial support toolbox of the Federation, contemplates Johanna Arvo.

– Right now we have thousands of children in Nepal who have witnessed pretty unpleasant things as a result of the recent earthquakes. Red Cross’ PSS toolbox already includes many inventive elements aimed at allowing children to process their concerns and fears, Arvo explains.