A HUMANITARIAN magician is hoping to conjure up some positivity for children who are struggling with self-isolation.

Jamie Balfour-Paul (or his stage name Jamie Jibberish) runs the charity Magic for Smiles, an organisation which helps child refugees in countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

The Oxford resident however has found himself stranded in the UK, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is unable to head out to these countries.

The 58-year-old was due to go to Turkey and Jordan, however these trips were cancelled because of Covid-19.

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“Coronavirus is affecting us - I’ve been looking at magic tuition online and how that would work,” Mr Balfour-Paul said.

“With the online tuition, I could develop my work in the UK and do them on Skype or Zoom.

“Hopefully kids will be able to do tricks at home with their families.

“We are all affected by coronavirus but through something like this, you can be taught a set of skills.”

Oxford Mail:

Mr Balfour-Paul, who was born in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, is trying to exemplify the good magic can bring to child refugees.

“Magic provides a great opportunity to bring Turkish and Syrian children together as a social cohesion,” he said.

“The buzzword in the business is social cohesion.

“Ways to achieve this include magic, which brings the two populations together in the same room.

“Everyone can enjoy magic.”

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In addition to performing shows, Mr Balfour-Paul focuses on magic tuition for refugees.

He says that the use of magic in hospitals in America and the work he has done in the field highlight the positive influence magic can have.

“It provides emotional benefits such as happiness and hope, cognitive benefits like analytical skills, imagination and concentration, and there are also social benefits such as improving confidence and self-esteem, and trust building.

“The challenge is trying to prove the idea as it’s still a novelty.”

Oxford Mail:

Mr Balfour-Paul has been involved in magic since he was a child, but it was only in 2016 when he became full-time.

Before then, he worked as a global campaigner for Oxfam.

He said: “I wanted to bring the two sets of skills together and just do something that was a bit different and directly involved with the kids.

“The smile on the kids’ faces is very rewarding.”

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Mr Balfour-Paul has held charity positions including country director, campaign manager and advisor in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

During that time, he helped farmers in northern Sudan grow vegetables for the first time and was attacked by rebels in northern Uganda.

In March last year, Magic for Smiles was formally registered as a UK charity, meaning it can apply for grants.

However, this is proving to be difficult, obtaining only one so far.

To continue the work of the charity, Mr Balfour-Paul is currently crowdfunding.

To donate, visit: crowdfunder.co.uk/magicforsmiles