Jill Maglio founded CircusAid in 2016. Jill is a certified occupational therapist and the director of Holistic Circus Therapy (HCT), a registered and accredited private practice that combines occupational therapy with circus arts to address the unique health and well-being needs of individuals and communities.
Jill has been researching circus and occupational therapy for over 12 years in Australia, Europe, South East Asia and the United States. Upon the completion of a Master of Occupational Therapy Practice degree from La Trobe University in 2007, Jill continued to investigate the effects of circus on the health and well being of children and adults impacted by cerebral palsy, physical and developmental disabilities, learning differences, environmental injustice, marginalization and occupational deprivation. Additionally, Jill has international experience directing, producing and performing art pieces that combine multiple disciplines of dance, circus and theatre with youth possessing varying abilities and social pressures.
In December, 2015 Jill went to the Greek island of Lesvos to address the general needs of refugees and provide support for the increasing crisis. She supplied clothes, medical supplies and camping equipment to people within the Moria Refugee Camp. As Jill distributed material goods, she discovered there was a great need to provide constructive ways for refugees to occupy their time in the camp. The refugee experience can be an uncertain, lengthy and a juxtaposed breeding ground for mental instability and illness. What happens when life is unstable and we have nothing to occupy our minds? We worry. We ruminate about the past and project fears into the uncertain future. This type of mental anguish inevitably deteriorates mental health and motivation to positively move forward.
In an interview with Vice, Jill said:
“I bought equipment to make 25 hula hoops and as soon as the guys in the camp saw what I was doing, they rushed over to help. They wanted something to do. I also brought feather balancing feathers and juggling balls with me from the US. The objective wasn't that people learn circus skills, but that people were interacting, and laughing, and smiling. The objective was to provide a bit of respite from the trauma the refugees were experiencing and therefor promote their resilience for the next stage of the journey."
As a result of this experience CircusAid was developed to provide an art based refugee support services. In its founding year, Circus Aid served approximately 600 refugees in Lesvos, Greece and Calais, France including men, women and children. CircusAid’s 2017 Residency Projects included two visits to Athens, Greece including a seven-day pilot project in April and a six-week summer residency. During this time, Circus Aid delivered over 30 days of social circus programming (3 to 6 hours/day). Workshops engaged approximately 2400 Afghani, Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Eritrean, and Ethiopian refugee children and young adults aged 5-25. CircusAid’s 2018 Residency Project, has been invited to return to refugee camps surrounding Athens for a 3-month residency taking place from June - September 2018. It is projected that we will be providing ongoing circus workshops throughout the residency, which will engage approximately 4,800 refugees in over 250 hours of social circus workshops.
CircusAid has been established as an all inclusive refugee support service that provides relief from mental anguish while helping build resilience through engagement in circus arts.
Holistic Circus Therapy (HCT) is a registered and accredited private practice that combines Occupational Therapy with circus arts to address the unique health and well-being needs of individuals and communities. HCT partners with educational institutions, community centers, and disability service providers to enable people with varying abilities in the opportunity to access and benefit from circus and performing arts programs. HCT has been in existence since 2007 and runs as a social enterprise donating 100% of profits from individual and group client services and professional development trainings to generate funds for CircusAid projects. CircusAid is the non for profit and social justice branch of HCT that provides services for refugees. The refugee experience can be an unstable and lengthy breeding ground for mental illness. The programs we run are informed by an occupational science and social circus perspective focusing on the benefits of participation in physical and social activities to mitigate the effects of occupational deprivation.
Occupational Therapy (OT) is concerned with the connection between the activities people pursue for self-care, productivity, leisure and their overall health and well-being. Health is veiwed in occupational therapy as more than the absence of disease, and is strongly influenced by what people do in everyday life (CAOT, 2002). Occupational therapists share the belief that engagement in activities, which provide a mix of challenging and acheivable tasks, promotes health and well-being among individuals and communities. The OT sector strives to incorporate innovative and and creative methods to assist clients achieve balance and a greater sense of well-being in their lives. Occupational therapists work with people who have various differences and limitations in physical, cognitive and emotional functioning. The benefit of combining circus and occupational therapy lies in the ability to enable increased function in these areas with activities focusing on coordination, body awareness, teamwork, problem solving, perseverance, fitness, strength, and life skills acquisition.
Holistic Circus Therapy pioneers the use of circus within the field of occupational therapy for various populations. Some areas HCT works in include; mental health, functional capacity, motor control, executive functions, community development, marginalization and political asylum seeking backgrounds.