1. About Magic for Smiles:
The charity Magic for Smiles (MFS) was registered in March this year. This is a cause for great celebration because MFS has hitherto been run on a largely voluntary basis for over three years. This remarkable initiative represents the skills of magician Jamie Balfour-Paul, now the performing magician for Magic for Smiles. Jamie’s stage name is Jamie Jibberish due to his extensive use of magical language to enhance the sense of mystery.
Jamie Jibberish immersed among Syrian refugees in disused buildings in Sidon, Lebanon
Although Jamie has been performing magic on the side since he was a boy, until 2016 he built a solid 30-year career working for major humanitarian organisations. In early 2016, when working in Lebanon, Jamie founded Magic for Smiles when he saw an opportunity to blend the power of magic with his commitment to humanitarian work. This enables him to interact more directly with people, in this case, vulnerable children, most of them refugees - hence the description "humanitarian magic". The rationale for this work is to harness the potential of magic to provide psychological (psychosocial) support to traumatised and stressed children in camps and other places of deprivation - making the impossible seem possible!
Unprecedented concentration as an example of psychosocial impact - Bar Elias, Lebanon: Syrian Eyes
These uninstitutionalised children had never sat in a classroom - their concentration was thus remarkable.
Magic happiness - Barouk school for Lebanese and Syrians - Lebanon
2. The need:
There are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, or 1 in 4 of the population which is the highest ratio per capita in the world (in UK, by contrast, the ratio is 0.001 in 10, making 10,000.); in addition, there are nearly half a million Palestinians and some Iraqi and Sudanese. Up to 40% of refugees – i.e. 600,000 – are children whose lives, along with vulnerable Lebanese kids, are inevitably very tough. Meanwhile, Turkey has almost 4 million refugees (or 1 in 20) of whom 90% are Syrian along with Afghans, Iraqis and others. Jordan has about 750,000 registered refugees (or 1 in 12), of whom 90% are Syrian along with Yemenis, Iraqis, Sudanese, Somalis and others.
Typical informal settlements for Syrians - Bekaa, Lebanon
Inside the courtyard of the camp leader's tent - Bar Elias, Lebanon
3. What Magic for Smiles has achieved to date:
For over 3 years, Jamie has performed over 300 shows on an individual basis for disadvantaged children in Lebanon via 120 organisations, some of them several times. He has travelled the country bringing Magic for Smiles to camps, activity centres and overcrowded schools (some shared with Lebanese kids). Shows are sometimes accompanied by tuition if numbers are small (which is rarely the case as his shows are so popular). The recent charity status, with the backing of its board of trustees, has enabled MFS (currently based in the UK) to reach out by taking performances to Lebanon's neighbouring high refugee-hosting countries, Jordan and Turkey, working already with a further ten organisations.
Typical magic show- Syrian kids in the Palestinian Shatilla camp, Beirut; Solidarity
Magic tuition of Syrian refugee children - the lucky few - Aley, Lebanon: Yalla Pour Les Enfants
Syrian kids in Turkey screaming with delight at simple water magic - Small Projects Istanbul
Azraq school - Syrian children amazed by the magic - Jordan: Help Refugees/Syria Fund
4. Why the funds are needed:
Prior to charity registration, Jamie's work relied on limited donations, some fees from large organisations, some subsidy through performing periodic private shows, but mostly on self-financing. Charity registration means that MFS can now expand its horizons, placing this inspirational project on a firm-footing and in a position to apply for grants. Your donations will help MFS to engage more fully in Jordan and Turkey as well as in Lebanon. The sky is the limit! Funds are required to cover international and domestic air fares, local transport, accommodation, equipment and supplies, organisational assistance and basic living expenses, notably during missions. Please note that while there is a Gift Aid option, MFS has not yet obtained a required Gift Aid number as the process takes many weeks.
We will be very grateful for any help you can give this unique charity at its point of exciting opportunity. There are very many children crying out for the happiness and possibility that a touch of magic can bring into their challenging lives.
Basmata NGO - the school management insisted that everyone (260 Syrians) must attend the fun!
5. Media coverage:
BBC coverage of Magic for Smiles
Al Araby interview with Jamie Jibberish of Magic for Smiles
6. Last word - a testimony:
From Aref, a Syrian refugee in northern Lebanon
For more details see Facebook and Instagram MagicForSmiles and http://magicforsmiles.com/