Magic is not just about the tricks and illusions that Houdini, David Blaine and Chris Angel have dazzled us all with. It can also bring people closer, bringing joy and satisfaction to the magician and the audience alike.
This is the philosophy of Markus Mak, founder of One Magical Step (OMS), a non-profit organisation that teaches magic to all children, including those with special educational needs (SEN).
Young Post had coffee with Markus last week to find out what inspired the 17-year-old St Paul’s Co-Ed College student to establish this organisation – and what surprises he has in store for the future.
What inspired him to learn magic?
Markus was not only keen to explore the relationship between physics and magic, but also to help others in need.
“Physics is about understanding natural occurrences around us,” he said. “With magic, this defies the laws of physics and makes impossible occurrences seem possible.”
“When I was a child, I was shy but gradually, I discovered that magic performances made me more confident, open and happy. I want to share my experiences in learning magic and help the underprivileged children improve their self-assurance and happiness,” Markus said.
Magic School, meeting David Copperfield and One Magical Step
Markus was also inspired by what he learnt during a seven-day summer programme in Las Vegas two years ago.
“I received a scholarship from Jeff McBride’s Magic Mystery School and was taught by two famous international magicians and teachers, Eugene Burger and Lawrence Haas,” Markus explained. “I stay in close contact with both magicians, who still help me with consulting whenever I am stuck.”
“During my study of magic in Las Vegas, I was very lucky to [get to talk to] world-class magician and entertainer, David Copperfield. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet my idol. Copperfield taught me how to be confident in front of the audience and also to be meticulous about everything – from what I wore to how I presented myself to others. I remember that Copperfield would check his props seven times to make sure his show was functioning properly,” Markus added.
“Copperfield’s charity programme called Project Magic was aimed at improving the morale and mental health of patients through magic.” Encouraged by Copperfield, and enlightened by his programme, Markus founded OMS as soon as he returned to Hong Kong. “After a lot of effort, OMS attracted a group of young volunteers who also had the same purpose as me. We offered free magic classes and workshops to children from low-income families, minority groups and children with SEN at charities such as Caritas Hong Kong, Heep Hong Society, Hong Kong Children & Youth Services.”
Experiences with children and homeless people
There is a misconception that magic is done solely for the magician’s own benefit, but not for Markus, who simply wants to help others. “I get great joy in bringing about a positive impact to the local community. At first, the children were nervous about performing in front of the class – only one or two would raise their hands. But as they practised, they became much more eager to contribute. By learning new, simple magic tricks, children can build up their confidence; improve their communication and coordination skills, which can enhance their performance at school and in real-life situations,” Markus explained.
Markus was also deeply moved by an experience he had working with homeless people in Hong Kong. The young magician said, “It was my first time going with my students to visit homeless people in Sham Shui Po. Our mission was to give food to them and to perform magic for them. At first, I felt uneasy being in such an environment, but a few magic tricks broke down the barriers for me. I realised how much luckier we are than them, so I put more effort [into my tricks] so that they felt appreciated and cared for.”
The future revealed
Through One Magical Step, Markus hopes he will be able to reach out to more children in need, locally and internationally.
“OMS has successfully organised more than 100 teaching classes for more than 200 students,” he said. “Through OMS, I want to raise Hong Kong people’s awareness of SEN, and promote the Hong Kong spirit of helping and caring for each other. Also, I want to be able to encourage more young people to participate in voluntary services as a way to improve their social responsibility, and brighten the lives of others. I want to gradually expand this initiative into North America and eventually across world.”
Edited by Ginny Wong