Posts Tagged ‘refugee’

Magicians Without Borders

magicrabbitIn the world of voluntourism, and even more often in the world of travel writing, hyperbole and cliché can, sadly, be the rule and not the exception. The word “MAGIC” is tossed off without much thought–an entry level descriptor meant to evoke wonder and transformation. I can assure you that wonder and transformation abound on volunteer service trips…if only we had the vocabulary worthy of the experience.

This time, magic is the exact word, correct for meaning and implication, both describing and naming this organization that has spent more than a decade traveling to under-served communities—those in refugee camps, orphanages, and hospitals, often in war-torn regions. Magicians Without Borders strives to lighten hearts that are stuck in dark places. Since 2001, this merry band of magicians and theater teachers has gone to India, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Iran, El Salvador, the former Yugoslavia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Thailand, Burma, Colombia, and disaster-struck regions of the United States (plus tours of US Veterans organizations). Sometimes it is with intent to delight and spark laughter, sometimes there is an underlying message with HIV/AIDS education themes or other relevant social and health content, and always it is with the desire to provide respite for heavy lives. So much of magic is in the skill of misdirection, or skillfully leading attention away from what is at hand, and toward something else you want an individual to see…if only for a moment…and that’s everything in these populations.

Find out more, and support the great heart-work of Magicians Without Borders.


This is Lovetta Conto. She’s 16 years old, and I just got something from her that I treasure.

Lovetta was born in Liberia but fled to Ghana with her father as a refugee from her home country’s civil war. She grew up in the refugee camp, attending school as best she could, required to spend hours a day fetching water. She says, “…going through the war gave me my strength, and I knew it was not the end of my life. I envisioned myself as a tree growing up, growing fruit and giving my fruit to other people who needed help. My imagination saw me as more than I was. I knew I had to create a future for myself.”

Bringing her tree imagery to life, Lovetta has created wearable art that I love. The Akawelle necklace (AKA=also known as, WEL’LE=love) has two parts: a small leaf pendant stamped with the word “LIFE” and a round pendant that is the bottom of a spent bullet casing. The leaf pendant is also made from the melted casings of bullets. The area of Liberia where Lovetta is from was riddled with bullets—there were places where so many fired and discarded casings littered the ground, you would have to shuffle to avoid stepping on them and slipping. They were like fallen leaves covering the earth. The war ended in 2003, and still, spent shell casings can be found all around.

The bullets are collected for Lovetta by a man in her former region who splits each one open by hand. She buys the bullets from him for her jewelry and he uses the money to keep his kids in school.

100% of the profits from Lovetta’s Akawelle necklaces goes to the Strongheart Fellowship and the Strongheart House, a home and healing shelter in Liberia for children orphaned by war and other circumstances.

I wear mine every day.