Bogata, Colombia

For a year Ryan Bart sent e-mails to Magicians Without Borders asking how he could get involved in the work we were doing.  He was an undergraduate pre-med student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA and has been a magician for eight years.  He performs every week at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane and has come to realize how powerful magic is to bring hope and help healing through this hospital magic work.

In March of 2012 he called and told us that he had received a Fulbright Scholarship to spend a year in Bogata, Colombia.  He told Tom that he wanted to start a Magicians Without Borders project in Colombia–he had convinced the Fulbright Committee to allow him to use some of his time in Bogata to work with poor children teaching them magic. The telephone conversation was very exciting and we decided it would be great if Ryan came to Vermont and we spent some time together and planned the Colombia project.  I hung up from our telephone conversation and walked down the driveway to the mailbox.  In the day’s mail was the most recent copy of The Linking Ring, the monthly journal of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.  The cover had a photo of Gustavo Lorgia, the premier magician of Colombia.  Seemed like the universe was right on time; the life of Magicians Wihtout Borders has been filled with these “angel moments.” I finished the article on Gustavo by the time I got back to the house. One sentence in the article struck me: Of all the magic that he has performed over the years, one trick still eludes him, ‘Reducing the misery of so many people in Colombia…my magic wand is helping people.”  Gustavo seemed like our kind of magician.

Immediately I sat down and wrote him an e-mail about our dream of starting a project in Bogata.  Within two hours I received an enthusiastic e-mail from Gustavo Lorgia’s daughter, Maria Paula who was a documentary film student at the New School in New York City.  “My father would love to help you in any way he can. He agrees with your project very much and will support you completely.”  Once again I felt our work was being held and guided my great invisible magic hands.

A few weeks later I went down to NYC and Michael Six Muldoon, vice-president of Magicians Without Borders and I had a delightful supper with Maria Paula at Chimu, a cozy Peruvian restaurant in Brooklyn.   I took pages of notes on the names of organizations and contacts in Bogata.  Maria Paula has been immensely helpful in getting the Colombia project from a dream to a marvelous reality.

Ryan meets weekly with a dozen teenagers at Bella Flor, an NGO working with very poor children from the Cuidad Bolivar slum of Bogata.  Bella Flor has been immensely supportive hosting the project, recruiting magic students and dealing with any problems that come up.

Ryan along with a fellow Fulbright scholar and juggler perform weekly in a hospital in Cuidad Bolivar near Blla Flor.  The young magic students have begun do a bit of magic for the children in the Pediatric ward on some of these visits.

Ryan has met regularly with Gustavo Lorgia at his home, often with other magicians who are getting involved with our work and will provide continuity after Ryan’s Fulbright year is completed. We are involving Colombia magicians so that the magic club at Bella Flor will continue to grow.  We will stay involved by visiting a couple of times each year.  But the dream is that the Salvadoran magicians will support the Bogata project.

We are planning on bringing two of the Salvadoran magicians to Bogata to teach and perform while Ryan is still there–another opportunity to expand their world and provide them with opportunities to give back some of what they have been given. The dream of these young magicians we have trained carrying on the work is becoming a reality.  To read more about the Colombia Project see Ryan’s regular posted blog:  www.ryanbart.com