Thursday, December 27

Connect Pilot in Mumbai

On 17th December 2012, at 10.30 am a small and visibly excited motley group of people sat down to
a conversation that marked the beginning of a new phase in the Magic Bus journey. The Magic Bus
Aajeevika Margadarshan Kendra is the organisation’s attempt to reach out to youth who may not have
had the opportunity to be part of the core ten year programme, but who do need the guidance and
mentoring crucial to help them move from childhood to livelihood. The centre is part of a pilot project
led by the Programme Development Unit, with Masood coordinating the Mumbai initiative.

Set in a corner of the sprawling BPT slum is a shuttered space, 15 x 15 feet, with a metal shutter and
a small office space on the first floor. Already, it has been marked off as a Magic Bus space, thanks to
an incredible effort from the administration team in Mumbai (especially Azeem and Vivek) – it is clean,
painted, there are neat chairs and laptops ready for students, electrical wires are being tidied up and
sealed. Significantly, Magic Bus did not stop with the center itself – the area outside was a garbage
dump last week. On Sunday morning it was almost a play space!

The inauguration was attended by Magic Bus staff including our community coordinators, peer leaders
and members from our Parents’ Collective. Sindhu had through extensive follow ups ensured that the
Corporator of the area, Mrs Samita Naik attended the inauguration with several of her party workers.
Masood initiated the process, inviting the group to sit together to discuss challenges that young
people in the area face in accessing livelihood options. In the highly engaged discussion that ensued,
community members shared their thoughts and experiences freely. Some of the comments and sharings
that emerged from the discussion are:
a. Children need positive role models who will enable them to see value in education
b. The main thing children require is guidance – how should they think positively, what can they
contribute and what steps should they take to progress
c. Most children here cannot speak English. So when they go to a prospective employer they
immediately lose out to convent-educated students who are confident and speak well.
d. Parents should be involved in their children’s lives, providing the support and check that is
required to ensure that they attend school regularly and act responsibly
e. Young people aren’t aware of how they should present themselves for an interview
f. The main thing children need today is to know computers and English. Our children don’t go to
college, so they don’t get this education.

Shanti and Pravina shared the work done by Magic Bus over the past twelve years in BPT focusing on the
long term engagements with children and parents, and the intensive mentoring that has enabled Magic
Bus to be seen as a friend and guide for young people.

Drawing from the sharings of the group, the Connect Pilot was then introduced:

Duration: 3 months
Age Group: for youth close to the age of 18 and above

1. Mon-Wed- Fri
2. Tues- Thurs-Sat

Sport for Development sessions for both batches to be held on Sunday

Timings: 6 – 9 pm
a. Functional English
b. Computer Literacy
c. Work Readiness skills
d. Sport for Development

Through this explanation, it became clear that the plan of the pilot has emerged from the needs and
requirements of the community itself. The centre will therefore be seen as a responsive and reliable
space for community youth who seek to make improved livelihood choices.

The Corporator, Mrs Naik, showed a keen interest in the centre, offering the assistance of her party
workers in mobilizing youth and directing them to the centre. She also invited the Magic Bus team to a
centre that trains women in vocational skills at Cotton Green. She mentioned the possibility of directing
women and youth to the BPT centre from other areas.

The high sense ownership and interest shown in the inauguration of this centre is a source of great
encouragement for the entire Magic Bus team. There is a level of trust and enthusiasm associated with
the organization that is both an inspiration and a call to accountability.

By Havovi Wadia, Head-Research & Development, Magic Bus

Wednesday, December 26

Children on a journey to a better future..

In India, the Magic Bus programme shows us how young people can realise their dreams, reports Tessa Jowell.
Published in The Telegraph, UK. For the original article, click here 

Sulhita (it is not her real name) looks at me with a measured gaze and tells me that her parents have forbidden her to take a job as a youth leader with Magic Bus. They want her at home looking after her siblings so that her mother can work – sorting and selling rubbish from the huge tip that is one of the main sources of income for the slum dwellers of Mumbai. The argument that by taking the job she would bring more money into the family misses the real point. She is a girl.

Sulhita’s is a common story for girls in India. Often indentured to domestic work, faced with child or arranged marriage, subject to routine physical violence, kept out of school. It is with the young lives of such girls – and boys, too – that Magic Bus has been engaged for the past 10 years.

In a journey described as from childhood to livelihood, the programme’s activity-based curriculum uses a combination of games and teaching about education, gender, health and hygiene. The games build the physical, social and personal skills. Young people like Sulhita are trained as mentors and role models for other children in their community. Children who graduate from Magic Bus have a distinctive self-confidence and presence. Nearly all end up pursuing higher studies or enrolling in a vocational employability programme. Today, the Magic Bus programme is run in 10 states in India and reaches 250,000 children. The immediate ambition is that it should reach one million children by 2015.

For the past seven years, I have spent about a week each year with Magic Bus as a volunteer. I have participated in all aspects of the organisation, from taking children on camp to feedback sessions with the young mentors and being an ambassador with potential investors in the organisation. Crucially, Magic Bus is alone among non-governmental organisations in having access to communities where there are so many young children who can benefit from its work.

My involvement came about in part from the frustration at the “hit-and-run” visits I made when a Cabinet minister and which are part of a Secretary of State’s programme. My first visit was a scheduled half hour with “opportunity for the Secretary of State to interact with children”. I wanted to do more.

The conditions in which the children live in the slums of Mumbai or Delhi are appalling. Rubbish everywhere; tiny shed-like structures that are home to thousands of families; the stench; up to 10 people living in 10 sq ft. All this in a country with an economic growth at a rate of which the UK can only dream but where inequality is brutal, with just 50 people controlling a quarter of India’s wealth.

In trying to inspire youngsters from such deprived backgrounds, it is always easier to stimulate ambition than to see it realised  So many of the young people I meet want to be doctors, lawyers, footballers, air hostesses, nurses, accountants. But there are no role models or mentors who can be the guides up this ladder of aspiration. The schools that teach slum children are not geared to their level of expectation. So while in the first instance the best mentors or role models come from the community, after that outside resources are essential. Hence the importance of the links gradually being developed with BMW and other major companies. Two per cent of Indian young people undergo vocational training; in South Korea it is 90 per cent. But training loans are charged at punitive interest rates of anything from 30 per cent to 36 per cent.

It is clear that the future of India is girls. As one business leader observed: “Put money in the hands of women to make microfinance work.” But when one thinks of how much girl talent remains unrealised in every one of our schools, how we have a persistent gender pay gap and how there are still so few women in senior positions in business, you will appreciate the scale of the problem in India.

Magic Bus is making a difference – and it does so by getting the best possible value for money. It is careful to avoid duplication with other charities but helps maximise its impact in partnership with organisations such as the UN’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef). And this approach is working, with Magic Bus children 75 per cent more likely to be in school than other children, 40 per cent more likely to understand that violence or abuse towards them is wrong, and 70 per cent more aware of the vital importance of health and hygiene.

Magic Bus and its success is part of our 2012 London Olympic legacy. The sport and development programme International Inspiration was created to honour the promise we made when awarded the Games in Singapore in 2005 to transform a generation of children around the world through sport. Now in 20 countries, the programme has touched the lives of 12 million children, including those from the Indian slums.

These are not just examples of help for the disadvantaged being delivered from thousands of miles away. They also remind us of how the childhood of so many of our own young people can nurture dreams that against all the odds they can, with help, realise.

Dame Tessa Jowell is a Member of Parliament & former culture secretary of the UK Government (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) and an ardent Magic bus supporter.

Celebrating The Girl Child!

Magic Bus is thrilled to have participated in the International Girl child day celebrations organized by the Asian Girl Campaign, as their strategic partner for India.

As part of the celebrations, Magic Bus held events and activities in several districts. This was marked by football and cricket tournaments, an elocution competition, an essay writing competition, a drawing competition and two rallies. Each competition was theme based - emphasizing the discrimination girls face and the need to treat them as equals. Two skits were also created based on the need for equality between boys and girls, in terms of the opportunities for them in school and in sports. These events succinctly captured the principles behind Magic Bus' mentoring program, fitting with the Asian Girl Campaign theme.The activities that were organized received wide-ranging participation and were well received.

Read more on how the International Girl child Day was celebrated in different countries at