Planting Seeds of Hope:

An Inspiring Afternoon of Culture and Magic with the
One-World Library Project and Magicians Without Borders

Sunday, April 25, 2010
1:00 – 4:00, Holley Hall, Bristol 

The One-World Library Project will celebrate their two-year anniversary on Sunday, April 25th with a special program Planting Seeds of Hope: An Inspiring Afternoon of Culture and Magic featuring Magicians Without Borders. Join us at Holley Hall in Bristol, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., for a talk and short film by Tom Werner and Janet Fredericks about their work in refuge camps, orphanages and hospitals around the world.  They will also perform a magic show later in the afternoon.  The One-World Library project will host a global bazaar with items from around the world, as well as an international silent auction, refreshments and a kid’s art project which will be sent with the Magicians to the children they visit in other parts of the world.  While the program is open to all we suggest a donation of $5 for individuals and $10 for families which will go directly to Magicians Without Borders to help fund their fine work around the globe.

Tom Verner, a professor of Psychology at Burlington College, founded Magicians Without Borders in 2002 after a trip to Eastern Europe, during which he performed magic shows to large, wildly receptive audiences in the refuge camps of Kosovo and Macedonia.  Inspired by the impact of his simple offering, he returned to Vermont, took a sabbatical from teaching and created a non-profit to support his future work. His wife Janet Fredericks, a teacher and internationally exhibited visual artist decided to apprentice under a British mime and her character “LaFleur” a gentle and mischievous clown, was born.  Together, with a few simple props they are able to weave a spell of magic and excitement over huge crowds of refuges who often have had nothing to laugh about for a long time.  In the past eight years Magicians without Borders has visited over 300,000 children in some of the world’s most troubled regions including war zones like Somalia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Burma and Sudan.  

Werner believes that it is important that he is both a psychologist and a magician.  “I’m more conscious of the impact that magic has on people.  It can bring amazement, but also fear. Like other performing arts, magic has this added dimension of the impossible.  Magic can awaken hope in people when they see the impossible is possible.”  In Ethiopia, Verner entertained a group of farmers who may never have seen a white man before, hailing it afterwards as “a miracle.” In Addis Ababa he amazed 300 deaf mutes who spent weeks trying to reproduce his effects.

Verner and Fredericks, along with other magicians and theater teachers travel to El Salvador every three months where they perform for children in the countryside and are teaching magic and theater skills to a group of very poor teenagers. Magicians Without Borders sponsors a week long Magic, Theater and Art Camp for these children who live in grinding poverty surrounded by brutal gang violence. These young magicians have already begun to perform in orphanages, hospitals and disaster areas in El Salvador. One day some of them may travel with Magicians to bring magic and laughter to other poor children in other parts of the world.

People are so touched that we're two Americans coming from a very wealthy country to give them a free show," Fredericks says. "It's much more than entertainment. We call it citizen diplomacy. Just the smiles on those children's faces - there's a real heart connection that happens. And that you can't quantify."

Several years ago Magicians received a request to meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. The late pontiff, frail from Parkinson's disease but a circus fan since childhood, had invited performers to an International Congress for the Pastoral Care of Circus and Traveling Show People. The pope wore white robes. Verner wore a black suit. Fredericks wore her red-striped clown costume.  "When he came in, Janet blew bubbles all over him," Verner recalls. His smile said everything he couldn't.

For a map to the library, click here.

The One-World Library Project is a “world library within a library” with a collection of books, films, and other media about world cultures. OWLP items are available for community members to check out at the Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol. The One-World Library Project also hosts regular programs at the library on the various fascinating cultures that fill our planet. For more information about the One-World Library Project please call 453-4147 or go to

The Lawrence Memorial Library, which hosts the One-World Library Project, is located at 40 North Street in Bristol and has a full listing of items in the One-World Library in their online catalog,

People are encouraged to recommend or donate items to OWLP that express the richness of their personal experiences with other cultures whether through family, study, travel, language, food, history, art or music. To purchase books or other media to donate to the project, the OWLP encourages the support of local bookstores such as the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.