Miguel Leitão: giving children a reason to smile again

In only ten minutes, Miguel transforms himself into Mikas, the clown. All he needs is some white powder, a brush and some ink, cool clothes and lots of energy. Miguel is apparently just a normal young guy, but he has been dedicating his life to help others, while studying and working at same time.

The 23-year-old from Portugal recently won a Portuguese Award called Cidadão Nobre (Noble Citizen) by the Nobre Casa de Cidadania (House of Noble Citizens), a prestigious foundation that distinguishes citizens for their good actions.

His social work with sick children has been featured in television, newspapers and magazines.

Miguel Leitão walks around London bridge as Mikas clown

Miguel Leitão walks around London Bridge as Mikas clown

Miguel explains that the will to help others started in very early stages of his life.

“I love everything that involves getting to know people and networking.  It was always very easy to me to communicate with others, even when I was just a kid,” he says.

Miguel believes that the reason why he is so good with people is because of the way he was raised.

“My family is a great support, it always has been, and my school was amazing.  It taught me more things than anyone else would.  I’ve learned how to be a better citizen and that, if I want, I can make a world a happier place.”

The young humanitarian is doing a Masters degree in Communications in one of the best universities in Portugal.  Before, he studied Marketing and Public Relations and did a short course in the International House in London and another one in Brazil.

Six years ago, Miguel created the social project called Palhaço Mikas (Mikas clown).

“At some point I decided that organising parties and local plays wasn’t enough.  My decision in starting this social project was the best decision I have ever made,” he admits.

This is how Miguel created Mikas, who is seen by the children as a teenage clown, who wears a bowler hat and trainers.  He walks around hospitals in Lisbon and visits his best friends, children and teenagers suffering from diseases like leukemia.

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“I have met such incredible children.  They have taught me so much about strength and love, and their families too.  The moment that we share is pure happiness; there is no time for sadness or pain.  Of course the pain is still there, but for a moment the child forgets about it.  For one moment, that child is happy, and that’s everything to me,” says Miguel with the biggest smile on his face.

He has around 50 people working with him, either organising trips, parties, contacting hospitals and, more importantly, thinking of new ways of how Mikas can make an impact in more and more children’s lives.

Mario Barbosa Meneses is one of the project’s ambassadors.

“It’s an honour to be part of the project.  I lost a friend recently and Mikas gave me a reason to smile again by making other people smile.”

Mario travels with Miguel to any place he needs to go.  Recently, they travelled together to London for a weekend, where the Kudos magazine met them. Their plans are to expand the project internationally, starting with the UK.

Miguel recognises his job requires a great ability to deal with difficult situations.

“Sometimes it is difficult to look so cheerful and happy when clearly that family is going through a lot.  But people really appreciate what I try to do.  I simply want to help the others, even if only for a short period of time.”

Miguel works with Make a Wish, a foundation that tries to make sick children’s wishes coming true.

The best moment Miguel experienced during his career as Mikas clown was recent.

“When I was with a child who suffered from cancer, he said to me ‘I want to be like you, but I don’t have hair like you do.’  I went home thinking about that. So I decided to shave my hair and in the next day I went back to the hospital.  When the child saw me without hair just like him, he started crying and I said ‘now you are just like me.’ This way I broke the barrier between us. Mikas is his best friend.”

Jessica Fino