Thursday, September 25

Magic Bus: Changing lives through sports

Published in IANS Live, by Santosh Rao. For the original article, click here

For Englishman Mathew Spacie it all started in the bylanes of Mumbai's Parel area in 1999. His aim was to take children out of poverty and give them a purpose in life through sports.

Spacie's love for India, in fact, began as a 17-year-old when he took a break from his studies and worked in the Howrah Leprosy Centre in Kolkata. His next port of call was Mumbai.

Playing rugby at the Bombay Gymkhana Club, he thought he could make a difference to the lives of street and slum children through sport. Fifteen years down the line, what started as a mere distraction has grown into a massive Magic Bus, an NGO encompassing 300,000 children in 3,000 locations across 19 states.

Magic Bus is now a major initiative, taking care of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls and Spacie has big plans to convert his dream project into a sports-based volunteer force to work among the needy children in various countries.

Magic Bus' curriculum on sport for development has won national and international recognition - the latest being the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award, which it received from President Pranab Mukherjee last week on National Sports Day. It came within five months of the organisation winning the Laureus Award, the first Indian entity to get global acclaim.

After receiving the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Award from its chairman and champion hurdler Edwin Moses in Kuala Lumpur in March, Spacie in his acceptance speech said: "Fifteen years ago the Magic Bus was started because outside my office there were 15 street boys who one day decided that they wanted to change their journey in life.

"It is now an organisation which has 300,000 children every single week attending our programme on this amazing journey from childhood all the way to livelihood and out of poverty."

The small, humble beginning has grown into a multi-discipline non-profit organisation where the target children engaged in personality development through structured play sessions, which sought to draw them towards issues of social relevance.

"Our motive has always been to take these children away from their under-privileged lives and use sports to instill values and influence behavioural and social changes," Magic Bus CEO Pratik Kumar, who has over 24 years' experience working with the United Nations, Government of India, International NGO and private sector, told IANS.

"Sporting activities and games are structured into each session to make them fun and appealing. There are specially designed sessions to represent real-life situations and challenges so children are able to relate these back to their daily lives," said Kumar, who joined the Magic Bus in 2009.

Kumar thanked the volunteers, who he said were the actual heroes of the organisation.

"Magic Bus works with close to 8,000 trained volunteers. Community youth leaders are trained and mentored to lead young children and through these volunteer-led programmes, we have been able to expand our reach," he said.

Kumar moved quickly to quash any comparisons to Physical Education (P.E.) classes in schools.

"Yes, we do indulge in physical activity, but this is very different from P.E. classes. We use sport only as a developmental tool, a metaphor, to deliver our message of development to kids."

"Through sports we try and bring kids together and then impart lessons on a wide array of subjects, from hand washing to gender equality and more," said Kumar.

One of the biggest successes has been 'Connect' -- a supplementary programme that provides livelihood options to grown up children.

Through this programme, Magic Bus offers leadership and employability skills training as well as counselling services to help them decide on their next steps. They are then linked to further education, vocational courses, and entry opportunities into the job market.

But not resting on their laurels, Kumar wants to take the number of kids to a million in the next two/three years.

"So much more has to be done. Our ambition is to reach one million children. We have started programmes in Britain, Nepal, Singapore, and Sri Lanka and we want to grow further and do much more," said Kumar.

Thursday, September 18

From India to South Korea: My experience at a UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp

This is a blog by 21-year old Radhika Jeenwal's about her experience at a UNOSDP (UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace) Youth Leadership Camp in South Korea. Radhika is a Magic Bus Training and Monitoring Officer in charge of a team of 64 Community Youth Leaders who work in the field every day delivering the Magic Bus sport for development programme to 1800 children across South Delhi.

Radhika shares her experience of the camp here.

"The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) organised its 12th Youth Leadership Camp in Gwangju, a beautiful city in the Republic of Korea from August 19th – 30th 2014. I feel extremely happy and fortunate to have been chosen to represent Magic Bus at this camp.

               Youth Leadership Camp held in Gwangju, Republic of Korea               
Over 33 young boys and girls from all over the world participated in the Camp. In these 12 days, I learnt a great deal. I left the camp with a deeper understanding of how sport provides a forum to develop discipline, confidence, leadership, and other core principles such as tolerance, cooperation and respect. I learnt that sport is a powerful vehicle through which the United Nations can leverage as a tool to achieve its goals, in particular the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sport should therefore be seen as an engine for development, not as a mere by-product.

The Youth Leadership Camp emphasised the potential that youth have to invoke change in their community. By helping youth develop their leadership skills in Sport for Development this programme not only contributes to the personal development of young people, it also contributes to community development. By providing opportunities for young people like me to develop and exercise our leadership skills, we are better able to build the capacity of our communities and respond to their pressing needs.

I have tried to capture the most significant learnings from my experience at the Youth Leadership Camp, below.

Day 1: Introduction, leadership and peace and Right To Play

It is important to know what kind of communication is needed for different situations. There are five basic types of communication:

·         Interpersonal
·         Intrapersonal
·         Group or team
·         Public
·         Mass media

Types of leadership:
  •         Inclusive leadership
  •         Authoritarian leadership
Day 2: Sports and peace-building with the International Table Tennis Federation

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the governing body for all national Table Tennis associations. The role of the ITTF includes overseeing rules and regulations, and seeking technological improvement for the sport of Table Tennis. Table Tennis is one of the most popular sports worldwide. For many amateurs it is an economical and easy way of having fun and for professional players, it’s a passion.

Day 3: Adapting physical activities for those with a disability with Play&Train - partners of International Paralympics Committee

The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) has an exceptional track record of using sport to showcase what can be achieved by people with disability, on a global level.

Sport is a powerful tool for changing perceptions. It is an opportunity to recover/rediscover life.

Day 4: Leadership through Football with the English Football Association

The Association’s international leadership and volunteering programme, Changing Lives, was established in 2005 to provide an opportunity for young football leaders to experience volunteering abroad whilst leaving a legacy by sharing their own leadership skills with other young leaders from the host country.

The activities included:
  •         Introduction about Football
  •         Warm-up games
  •         Organising and managing a Football activity session
  •         Organising and running event with NW SWAGS Swimming Club, South Africa
Day 5: Swimming session and water safety games with NW SWAGS Swimming Club, South Africa

The first water experience of children is crucial, and therefore games play a big part during teaching. Knowledge of water safety games is very important for 'Learn to Swim' instructors.

Day 6: Peace and friendship in every corner of the global village through Taekwondo with World Taekwondo Federation

The World Taekwondo Federation works to provide effective international governance of Taekwondo as an Olympic sport. The federation helps promote, expand, and improve the practice of Taekwondo worldwide in light of its educational, cultural, and sports values and to promote fair play, youth development and education as well as to encourage peace and cooperation through participation in sports.

                                                   Taekwondo session led by World Taekwondo Federation
Day 7: Child protection/ Safeguarding youth and Sport for Development with Right to Play

This self-audit tool is an ideal way to measure how far (or near!) our organisation is from meeting international standards on safeguarding and protecting children in sport, and where we need to improve.

Day 8: Gender equality in sport with Korean Air

Gender is a social construct that outlines the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a particular society believes are appropriate for men and women. Gender differences between men and women do not necessarily imply inequality. However, globally, women are particularly disadvantaged by gender constructs which prevent them from fully realising their rights, accessing resources, and harnessing opportunities.

Day 9: EPICS Forum

This forum is organised every year in Gwangju and is based on the concept of ‘Sports meets Art & Culture’ aimed at University students and other youth. At the end of this forum, Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to the UN Secretary-General, asked all of us if we were aware of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was a proud moment for me since I was the only one amongst the 33 participants who knew all the 8 MDGs and earned Mr. Lemke’s open appreciation along with a UNOSDP badge. This moment was really special. :o)

Day 10: Excursion day

We went around the city to explore and understand the culture, tradition, cuisine and rituals of South Korea.

Day 11: Action Plan/ prevention of HIV-infection and HIV-related discrimination among young people with AIDS

We were given some basic knowledge about HIV and AIDS, after which we took part in a quiz on the same topic. I scored well and was also rewarded with special appreciation.

Day 12: Promising practices

The concluding session saw representatives from each participating organisation demonstrate the work that their organisation does on Sport for Development. Like everyone else, I took this opportunity to share a glimpse of the innovative activity-based sessions that the Youth Leaders at Magic Bus hold every week with children from marginalised communities on the Magic Bus programme.

Certificate of participation in the Youth Leadership Camp
This was a 12-day journey in my life which I feel has really changed me, not only as a youth leader but also as a person. I would like to express my gratitude to Magic Bus once again for giving me the chance to take part in this camp. Last but not the least, I would  like to thank our Magic Bus CEO, Pratik Kumar, who left me with very encouraging words that filled me with a sense of confidence and ownership just before I departed from Delhi to South Korea.

Thursday, September 4

A historic time for sport for development in India

From the desk of Magic Bus CEO, Pratik Kumar

I am very happy to share that Magic Bus has been awarded the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar (National Sports Promotion Award), by the President of India, Hon. Sri Pranab Mukherjee, at his official residence, the Rashtrapati Bhawan, on 29th August 2014. The award recognises corporate entities, institutions and individuals who have played a significant role in the area of sports promotion and development. It is the first time that an award has gone to an NGO for promoting Sports for All and using sports as a tool for achieving serious development goals.

We believe that this award is a strong endorsement of our internationally recognised curriculum and methodology of using sports as a tool for bringing about social development. It is a recognition of our tried and tested 15-year old approach where we train local young volunteers to deliver our unique activity-based programme to children by becoming role models and mentors to them. Sports acts as the perfect hook to keep children and communities engaged in our programme as we embark on a long journey of bringing about changes in behaviours and practices in the areas of education, health, gender, nutrition, sanitation, leadership all the way to livelihood.

President of India, Hon. Sri Pranab Mukherjee, presenting the Award to Pratik Kumar, CEO, Magic Bus
The national award comes within months of Magic Bus winning the prestigious international Laureus Sport for Good Award, the first Indian entity to win this global recognition.

I believe that this national recognition will be a turning point in our history as we poise to take the next big leap in our endeavour to make a positive difference to the lives of a million children and youth in India and across the globe.

We are very grateful to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, for their recognition of our work and approach, which is today changing more than 260,000 lives in 19 States across India. We are also indebted to all our supporters and partners who have believed in us and been a part of this wonderful journey.

Find out more about our work at

Pratik Kumar, CEO, Magic Bus