Thursday, August 28

Magic Bus breaking the cycle of poverty, one child at a time

By Nidhi Singh, Guest Author at YourStory

The true potential of mankind is an unimaginable force that can do wonders if harnessed. As rightly said by the first African American President of the USA, “It’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself, that you realize your true potential.” And that is what Magic Bus is all about. It is about breaking the poverty cycle, one child at a time, and helping children transform the world around them. It is about catalysing change in communities and children. It is about creating ‘magic,’ as the name suggests, all across the nation.

How it all started 

A young player from India’s National Rugby Team, Matthew Spacie, used to practice daily opposite Mumbai’s famous Fashion Street, a hub for street children. Being the warm-hearted man that he was, he couldn't resist inviting the Fashion Street boys over for a game. As time passed by, Matthew began to notice positive behavioural changes in the boys — a direct result of being part of a team and overcoming challenges together. These boys, who had grown up on the streets, became more goal-oriented and wanted to improve themselves and their attitudes towards others.

Matthew discovered that the growing influence of this approach not only helped them transform their attitude towards life, but also taught them how to challenge their current realities and overturn their obstacles into a route towards well-being and success. Over a period of the next 10 years, this crystallized into a formal pedagogy that is now known as the Magic Bus Sport for Development curriculum. An approach that would go on to redefine the lives and destinies of many.

How it works

Magic Bus started in the year 1999 and has now expanded to 250,000 children as well as 8000 youth in 19 different states across the country. Supported by Cox and Kings and Cleartrip enabled an academically grounded ‘sport for development’ curriculum to be established.

By training local, community-based young people to deliver long-term programmes that focus on education, health and gender equity, Magic Bus enables children to have more choice and control in their lives to bring themselves out of poverty.  A comprehensive curriculum that uses activities and sport and a long term-engagement are delivered through a child-friendly mentoring approach. At periodic intervals, the mentor provides constant feedback, and monitors the child’s behaviour to bring about proven behavioural changes.

When the child grows up, she or he has the choice of joining Connect, a supplementary programme that links young people to higher education or job opportunities. As a result of this marvellous work, more than 250,000 children and youth have access to better education and improved health as they work towards strong livelihood options for themselves as adults.

Magic Bus uses its concept to not only pull children out of poverty but also to change the mindset of their parents and families. For this reason, the World Bank Development Marketplace Award was presented to the NGO during its formative years.

How obstacles are tackled

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. When a stranger enters a community where all is unknown and throws a ball in the air, everyone gravitates towards the ball. That’s the power and attraction of play. Despite this, the attitude towards girls remains a hurdle across geographies and regions. Getting girls out of their domestic duties and into the public sphere is a hurdle. To avert this in the best possible way, Magic Bus makes use of advocacy tools and tactics, including parents’ meetings, door-to-door campaigns and community-level tournaments to gain support for the intervention, and bring all stakeholders together to build a community that is gender-equal and child-friendly.

I left my old perception to think afresh and hopefully I can do a thousandth of what Magic Bus does to change my Motherland, my home — the nation of many with all hearts beating as one — India.

Original Article by Nidhi Singh at Your Story. Edited for this blog by the Magic Bus Communications Team.

"Nidhi Singh is a Computer Engineering student at NTU Singapore & a Global Evangelist at She has a passion for cars, non-fiction reads and music. Her hope is to create a dent in the universe, in her own way, some day. When she is not trying to find more opportunities to lay her hands on, you can find her writing, traveling or gorging on chocolate and cheese. ... read more on"

Thursday, August 21

Magic Bus Children attend 'Know Your Museum' Workshop

National Museum, New Delhi, India's largest museum, became a learning hub this summer. 360 Magic Bus children along with a group of our Community Youth Leaders (CYLs) and Youth Mentors (YMs) got the opportunity to participate in 'Know Your Museum', a workshop for children aged 11-16.

The workshop focused on developing children's critical thinking abilities and creative expression through art and craft. They learnt through activities such as clay modelling which require brain storming, and other creative group work to build self-confidence and a positive attitude.

The main objectives of the various workshop were:
  • To acquaint children with India's rich cultural heritage
  • To create awareness among children about various traditional arts and crafts
  • To motivate children to preserve and conserve their heritage and join hands in restoring some of the dying arts and crafts of the country
At the workshop, children were divided into 3 groups to participate in 3 different activities:
  • Clay Modelling
  • Paper Toys/Mask Making
  • Madhubani Painting

The workshop began with an introduction and captivating guided tour around the Museum. Children learned about the various collections of the National Museum such as Sculptures in Stone, Bronze and Terracota, Arms, Armour, Decorative Arts, Jewellery, Manuscripts, Miniatures and Tanjore Paintings, Textiles, Numismatics, Epigraphy, Central Asian Antiquities, Pre-Columbian American and Western Art Collections. Gasps and moments of awe were heard coming from the children as they appreciated the work in front of them.

After the tour the children were taken to the Creative Work Gallery where they were divided into three groups for a skill building workshop. The primary goal of the workshop was to inspire interest in archaeological artifacts and Indian history. They were introduced to exploring, experimenting and expressing themselves in the form of art and craft, and constantly guided and helped during the workshop.

At the end of the workshop children thanked the National Museum workshop staff. They left with significantly greater knowledge about the importance of Indian history, arts and culture. Just like in their sport for development sessions, this experiential learning workshop has given them a platform to build capabilities in active engagement, motivation and depth of learning.

To find out more about Magic Bus, please visit

Thursday, August 14

Delhi Begumpur Community’s Girl Child Star: Sonu

Sonu attending a Magic Bus session 
Sixteen-year old Sonu lives in the Begumpur Community in South Delhi. Health, hygiene and education issues affect the community, and most children don't go to school regularly. 

Residents are mostly forced migrants from the East Indian state of Bihar, fleeing the agricultural crises that had left millions impoverished. In Delhi, they find jobs as guards and drivers. Those with neither the skills nor capital to open their own petty shops end up working as daily wage labourers. 

I grew up almost like a boy in the company of my two elder brothers. Use of foul language and picking up petty fights were my forte to the point where other children feared me. I was rowdy and always adamant to have things my way. Most of my day was spent whiling away time just doing this and that, I eventually dropped out of school after sixth grade - attending school just never interested me,” says Sonu.

Sonu at a Barclays 'Cricket for Change' session
Then things started to change. “I enrolled onto Magic Bus sessions a year ago. It was great fun, from day one,” said Sonu, sharing her excitement. The sessions that Sonu is talking about are held 40 times a year, and last for 2 hours each. The entire learning-through-games approach is called the Sport for Development curriculum, and is designed specifically for children like Sonu.

Sonu in her school uniform with Magic Bus mentors
It was during one of the Magic Bus sessions where the importance of education and going to school was being addressed that Sonu felt the penny drop. “I realised that over the first few months of attending sessions, I had become different.  I observed an immense change in my attitude and behaviour. I stopped picking fights with other children, I was becoming friendly and kinder, and started to respect and care for my parents,” expressed Sonu.

She has gradually developed an interest in studies and spends her evenings trying hard to understand the lessons taught at school,” adds her proud mother with a smile.

Youth Mentor, Amar, and Community Youth Leader, Deepak, in-charge of the Begumpur Community, spotted a spark for cricket in the young girl during Barclays Cricket for Change sessions. “The energy and enthusiasm Sonu brings to the playground has boosted confidence in many other girls". 

The Begumpur settlement, like any other poor neighbourhood in Delhi, is not quite open to developing girl children, but the change in Sonu is so significant that every friend of hers is inspired. "You could say that she has single-handedly inspired other girls to enrol on to Magic Bus sessions”, said Amar.

Today Sonu is back at her local school studying in the eighth grade. When she grows up she wants to open a commodity store in her community to make life easier for the residents who have to travel far to make every day purchases. 

Find out more about Magic Bus at

Thursday, August 7

Letter from 16-year old Magic Bus volunteer

Slums in growing mega cities have drawn various responses from onlookers; from outright anger and disgust to passing nonchalance or complete resignation to their inevitability. We have found their inhabitants to be an object of our sympathy, a subject of our idle solution-rich, tea-table conversations, and a protagonist to numerous Bollywood and Hollywood inspired rags-to-riches stories.

How many of us have ever looked at them for inspiration? How many of us have ever thought that there is a lesson or two we could learn from them?

Here is a letter from a 16-year old whose life took an unforeseen turn when she decided to volunteer in one of Magic Bus' intervention areas.

Dear Mr. Thomas,

I would like to thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity. My time at Magic Bus was an experience of a lifetime. I felt like I was a part of something that mattered, that was meaningful and gave me perspective to be a better person.

The enthusiasm and positive outlook of these children gave me so much to think about. They knew how to experience joy from the common pleasures of life like being with others and participating in play. Even though we come from such diverse backgrounds, we still had so much in common. We were all kids with dreams and aspirations for our lives. 

Initially I was nervous that I might feel guilty for having the life I did and that they would judge me for that, but the warmth and excitement that they welcomed me with took all that nervousness away and made me very comfortable in their surroundings. Infact, they were all quite fascinated about me being from America and wanting to spend time with them.

It was so touching to learn that some of the mentors were people who had grown up on the Magic Bus programme and now wanted to give back to the community in whatever way they could. 

This was an India I had never seen before and I must admit I was a bit scared. After my time at Magic Bus, not only have I widened my horizons but I have also learnt that it is important to enjoy the simple things in life and appreciate whatever it is we have. These kids taught me more than I could ever teach them. I only wish I was there longer to continue working with them. 

Nevertheless, I will certainly remain a part of Magic Bus here in New York.  I would love to help promote the organization and I hope to see you and the children in the near future when I return to India. 

Please give my thanks and appreciation to Prachi and the rest of the Magic Bus team. 

Arya Bhalla

Would you or anyone you know like to volunteer with Magic Bus on exciting upcoming events and projects? Contact