SITizens Taking Charge: Touching Lives with Magic

In this ‘SITizens Taking Charge’ series spotlighting exceptional student leaders, we speak to winners of the 2020 Student Life Outstanding Student Leader and SIT-DNA Awards to find out about their leadership journey. This week, Year 3 Occupational Therapy student Chan Kuang Hong, who won the Outstanding Student Leader (Male) award, shares his story on using magic to empower others.

Why did you start the Magical Hearts club?

I started Magical Hearts as an interest group in September 2018, with the dream of changing society’s perception of people with disabilities to focus on their abilities through magic. This dream became a reality as my team materialised the idea and we became an official club in July 2019.

What does the club aim to do?

The aim of Magical Hearts is to empower beneficiaries with magic. Although the idea started with people with disabilities in mind, I believe that magic has the potential to change society’s perception for a broader group. We’ve empowered beneficiaries from organisations, such as Aphasia Café, MINDS, Children Cancer Foundation, SADeaf, Club Rainbow, Darul Ihsan Orphanage, SASCO@Khatib, Lion Befriender’s Senior Activity Centre, Sunbeam Place, COVID-19 Migrant Worker Support Coalition, Institute of Mental Health, and SPD. At the end of the day, my hope is for magic to be a tool for people to show that anyone can do the impossible, regardless of their status.

Kuang Hong (in blue shirt) demonstrating magic tricks to new SIT students during a recruitment drive by Magical Hearts at SIT Arts and Culture Week.

What are some of the challenges that you face running the club? How did you cope with them?

The greatest challenge was having our club’s vision recognised. Initially, not many people believed in Magical Hearts as it had never been done before. On one hand, many people wrongly assumed that our club was solely about learning magic.

Fortunately, I had the support of an incredible team that shared my dream. They worked hard to translate this dream into reality by advocating Magical Hearts through word-of-mouth recommendations and organising Magic Outreach Workshops with several organisations. Thanks to their resilience and hard work, the identity of our club began to grow, and we became recognised for empowering our beneficiaries through magic.

Can you share a memorable experience with beneficiaries?

We had a Magic Outreach Workshop with Club Rainbow in 2018, where we taught the children some magic tricks and invited them to perform in front of their peers. After each performance, there was a little surprise at the end where the children were passed a magic wand to wave at a light bulb, which lit up on their command.

Initially, we tried to approach this little girl to ask if she wanted to perform, but she declined the request. Just when the workshop was about to end, she whispered to the volunteer, requesting to perform. She performed the magic effortlessly. As the rest applauded, she revealed a little smile.

When I asked her if she believed in herself, she shook her head. I then passed her a magic wand and told her to wave the wand at the bulb. She took the wand and gently waved. Just then, the bulb started to glow, together with the smile on her face. So, I asked her again, “Do you believe in yourself?” She nodded, smiled brightly, and hopped back to her seat.

It is these magical moments that have the power to transform our self-perceptions. In this case, a shy and introverted girl slowly grew into a more confident girl, who believed that she could do the impossible.

Magical Hearts' members empowering the elderly from SASCO@Khatib with magic.

What have you learnt from this experience?

Communication is a two-way street. Founding Magical Hearts opened up the opportunity for me to connect with others and invite them to join the journey to turn a dream into reality.

Through my journey in Magical Hearts, I have come across several powerful communication tools, such as copywriting and storytelling. I realised that the key to communicating my dream was not just the message we want to send, but understanding our listeners.

The skills and knowledge that I have learnt in Occupational Therapy also helped in Magical Hearts. For instance, Occupational Therapy taught me to analyse activities and evaluate how our clients will perform these activities. Likewise, we analyse different kinds of magic and choose magic for beneficiaries, keeping their conditions in mind.

How do you balance club activities with your studies?

Honestly, I am not the best at time management. In fact, I found it challenging to manage my time. I have tried several time management techniques and tools, such as Pomodoro, To-Do lists, Google calendars, etc. At the end of the day, like my peers, I am trying my best as a student too.

What helped me the most to fulfil my duty as a student and student leader was the people around me. I am very fortunate to have an amazing team supporting Magical Hearts. They helped us manage our time and deadlines better, supported one another in running the club and studying. Having the right people around me made managing my commitments a lot more pleasant.

Members of Magical Hearts.

What advice would you give fellow students who aspire to take up leadership roles?

It is important that we recognise that leadership is always a choice. There are plenty of resources available in the libraries and the internet on leadership. What kind of leader do you want to be? How do you want to grow? Are you ready to put in the effort to use these resources?

But most importantly, be kind to yourself and your peers. Everyone has their own struggles and we all make mistakes. Let us be patient with ourselves and others when managing these challenges.

In your own words…

Being awarded is a testimony to the lives that Magical Hearts has touched. Thank you so much for those people who have been part of Magical Heart’s journey. It has been our privilege to serve SIT and the community beyond.