Magic school conjures up hope for disadvantaged children

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    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Disadvantaged young people learning tricks at Cape Town’s College of Magic
    • Many young people say their lives are changed by the program
    • College founder says the art of illusion is about suspending belief in the realities of life

    Cape Town, South Africa (CNN) — It could be a plot straight out of a Disney film: a young person from a disadvantaged background stumbles on a magical place, and with a little abracadabra his or her life is changed forever.

    However, this is not a fairy tale, it’s reality not for one child, but for thousands who have been given hope for the future at Cape Town’s College of Magic.

    Founder David Gore says that for the last 30 years the philosophy has been that even South African’s poorest children can have a little magic in their lives.

    “The youth really needed hope for the future, something positive in their lives, and magic was just the answer,” he said.

    Magic brings in all that motivation and excitement that a young person really needs.
    –David Gore, Cape Town’s College of Magic

    “Magic brings in all that motivation and excitement that a young person really needs.”

    Nearly 4,000 children have learned tricks at the magic school since it opened its doors in 1980. Many are from disadvantaged backgrounds, their fees paid by benefactors from all over the world.

    “Our young people on a daily basis are experiencing a very dull existence,” Gore said.

    “They are lacking stimulation, very often in their family environment. Many of our students are orphans. They’re in schools which are known to be challenged in respect of what they are able to offer these young people, so they come away very deprived.

    “We believe that magic is a wonderful universal language. It appeals to all groups and it really attracts these young people and gives them an incentive and a reason to be motivated.”

    But the realities of the global financial crisis are threatening the existence of the school, with sponsors and donations drying up.

    The organizers hope that the mission statement on the college’s website inviting people to sponsor a child will encourage people to continue giving.

    One young woman who says magic has added a little sparkle to her life is Monica Nyakatya, from Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town.

    She says magic has taken her off the streets. As well as teaching some of the younger students at the school she also earns money performing as a magician.

    “I still live in a disadvantaged area, but my life has changed because I’m not sitting on corners doing silly stuff like smoking drugs,” she said. “I spend most of my time here, doing magic.”

    But the streets still inspire her routines. The latest one sees her transforming into a beautiful Cinderella.

    “South Africa as a whole, there’s many street children, so my story tells a story of a street child or child who has nothing and has this kind of imagination that says ‘one day I see myself there,'” she explained.

    Unleashing young people’s imaginations is one of the perks of magic, according to Gore. He says the skills learnt during the program benefit the young people academically and improve their attitudes within their families and the community.

    Vuyo, an orphan raised by his older sister, has learnt a routine based on the recent football World Cup in South Africa. He says magic makes him popular at school.

    “It makes me feel happy and it makes me feel like I’m important,” he said. “People like my magic and the way that I do it.”

    The school currently teaches about 150 people and tells all students that the art of illusion is about suspending belief in the realities of life.

    Despite the funding difficulties Gore says the show must go on.

    He said: “Magic gives you so many skills — just to start off with the presentation of magic requires love and respect, and this develops a politeness, good manners and gratitude.

    “Young people also learn to communicate well, they learn to communicate clearly, accurately and creatively. Young people have their self confidence and their self esteem built, and this is just such a positive force in their lives.”


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    Magic school conjures up hope for disadvantaged children