About me: I have been performing magic since I was a boy and while I have been a professional humanitarian campaigner and programmer. My name is Jamie Balfour-Paul using the stage name Jamie Jibberish as I use a lot of nonsense magic language! I am a UK citizen living in Lebanon (and in the Middle East generally for the last decade). A year ago I become full time as a magician but still humanitarian - thus Humanitarian Magician - for deprived and vulnerable children mainly refugees in Lebanon.
The need: There are over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon; and almost half a million Palestinians (including those displaced a second time, now from Syria). 1 in 4 of Lebanon's population is a refugee.
Up to 30% of refugees - that is 450,000 - are children. whose lives along with vulnerable Lebanese kids are inevitably very hard.
What I have done to date:
For the last year I have done magic shows working with over 40 international and local charities, some with repeat shows. Work has been around the country in camps, activity centres, and overcrowded schools (shared with Lebanese kids). The objective is to help make the kids happy and smile and take stress out of their traumatised lives - hence the initiative is called Magic For Smiles. There is also potential for psycho social value through magic for which I am engaging with a university in ongoing research.
What I need funds for:
The initiative over most of the last year has been largely self-financed with only periodic modest fees, which approach I can no longer sustain. Your donations will help me expand and continue this work so more kids are reached, and possibly into Jordan. Costs cover: a) my basic living expenses in Lebanon b) transport to different centres and camps across the country and maybe Jordan c) production of promotion materials online and offline d) equipment and supplies e) marketing support f) outreach and practice time as far as resources allow. I am targeting another six months work time after which I will review both the market and further fundraising potential. I also seek limited private shows to subsidise the humanitarian, but so far have barely been able to tap that market which is also of far less interest.
I will be very grateful for any help you can give me in this opportunity before me - there are always too many kids eager for more happiness and possibility through a touch of magic in their tough lives.
For more details see Facebook MagicForSmiles and http://magicforsmiles.com/
See most recent newsletter - light on text heavy on pics so I hope this is attractive. MFS still relies a lot on your kind donations, self-financing and fundraising events. Formal NGO registration is awaited and this might better enable fundraising but no guarantees and no registration date in sight! Thank you!
To date I have performed 240 shows with 118 organisations working with children, since early 2016. Included in these have been 30 private shows and festivals which help subsidise the focus of the work which is humanitarian.
The majority of Lebanon has now been reached, most recently in the far south of Lebanon right next to the Israeli border, and in N. Bekaa near the Syrian border.
The smiles on the children's faces remain the driving force behind Magic for Smiles. The initiative continues to provide benefits beyond entertainment and de-stressing. There is ample evidence of potentially increased cognitive skills, concentration levels, interaction, imagination, self-confidence and motivation.
Promoting humanitarian magic is not without its challenges. The activity is still seen as of novelty rather regular value by some, other organisations may be simply too busy, and others are unable to be flexible enough. And of course, funding is a big constraint on sustaining programmes in general leave alone Magic for Smiles which depends mostly on its own funding. Across Lebanon funding for the Syria response has reduced and funding cuts (by the US) for UNRWA upon which many Palestinians depend is already being felt. Finally, a research institution has not yet been secured to front the research on the impact of magic.
Pipeline and opportunities:
Magic for Smiles still occupies a unique niche which represents a major strength. It is also currently undergoing a registration process - once registered as a charity, its profile will be strengthened and funding opportunities increased. The portfolio offered will diversify further looking to a greater extent at tuition packages, along with more concerted attempts to find partnerships with which the integration of magic within psychosocial programmes can be better explored.
The initiative is still largely self-funded but there is during late October a fundraising drive in the UK. This process has also rejuvenated the appeal for which the link is pasted here - all contributions really help however small https://www.gofundme.com/humanitarian-magic
Thank you so much for your interest and support
28 July: I have now reached 20% of my crowd-funding target I am so very grateful to previous and recent contributors – however these are now irregular which means that any future updates depend on contributions made.
In the period since May 5 to the early July (after which I took went to the Edinburgh magic convention and took leave), I have conducted over twenty shows. This was focused on the run up to and the month of Ramadan, and followed by a full week marked by World Refugee Day.
Further shows were delivered in several Palestinian camps under the auspices of Beit Atfaal el Summoud – in Shatilla, and camps in Tyre. Shows were also carried out in the grossly under resourced settlements in Akaar with Mishwar Amal and Relief and Reconciliation for Syria. As well as other schools in Lebanon Ramadan was marked by shows for street kids with Makhzoumi Foundation in the specially created Ramadan village in Beirut. For World Refugee Week I did shows with International Medical Corps, and Secours Islamique Francais in five areas around the country. Tuition work has not proved possible of late, such is the number of kids with a preference expressed by organisations for touching the many rather than focus on a few trainees.
I am expecting to do a mission to Jordan in August working with vulnerable refugee and local children. I am also on standby for a mission to Iraq based on the previous mission made in April - the focus on Mosul has been a distraction to many and busy organisations. At the end of August, I will be joining the Yellow Days festival in Leros, Greece with Syrian refugees.
Marketing is characterised by two campaigns on both humanitarian and private shows – through hashtags #comingtogether and #happysurprises respectively. Social media needs to be more targeted to generate bookings which are all the result of bilateral outreach. The research element looking at the impact of magic within psychosocial support has been ongoing, but the formal engagement of an academic institution has been put on hold for bureaucratic reasons.
Al Arabiya Al Jadeed expressed great and immediate interest and did the following coverage of the Makhzoumi shows in Arabic and English (a few bits not quite right) including an interview with myself.
And incase convenient, the crowdfund link is below – still open for business!
Many thanks and bye for now