Thursday, January 5

The Zeal to Excel

Johar and his family of seven members—including his paternal uncle—live in a make-shift tin shanty. He is the oldest among his siblings. His father and uncle are both carpenters and his mother is a housewife. The average family monthly income is between Rs. 8000 to Rs. 10000 ($118.8 to $147.8). Both is parents are school drop-outs (father is a Class 8 drop-out and mother dropped out in Class 5).

                                                                             Representative image. 

In 2011, Johar joined the Magic Bus programme and also got his three younger siblings enrolled. He got interested in the programme as it gave the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities and learn through interactive activities. There, he honed his interests in wrestling and kabaddi and went on to win awards at the zonal level competitions in both these sports. He also plays football for his school team and has brought laurels in inter-school football tournaments.

Academically, Johar is in Standard 9 and is appreciated by the Magic Bus TMO (Training and Monitoring Officer) for his hard work and sincerity. For Johar this appreciation and encouragement from his TMO constitutes one of the best memories associated with Magic Bus.

Magic Bus has transformed Johar in many ways. He has now become more punctual. His interest in sports has increased and proudly expressed that. The activity based learning approach of the Magic Bus programme has strengthened his inclination towards education. He is quite motivated by the encouragement received from the Magic Bus staff, and aspires to serve his nation.  

We wish Johar all the best for his future endeavors.   

Friday, December 23

Walking Towards a Brighter Future

Salman Sheikh is a young boy in class 7, having a problem of a small foot. This made him extremely self-conscious and non-participatory in play activities, despite being quite interested and intelligent in his studies. He also faced a lot of peer pressure wherein, he used to be bullied for his small foot problem.

                                       Representative image. Picture courtesy: Heena Patel

He along with his four siblings, and parents are economically sustained, through a moving and makeshift, multi-purpose store. His father has completed his Class tenth and his mother is a seventh-grade drop out.

In 2014, during a Magic Bus mobilization event, Salman enrolled in the Magic Bus programme. Initially he was very hesitant regarding Magic Bus as to how it would be. But after a couple of sessions he saw that senior children and those his own age who never allowed him to play due to his small foot, were now also including him play.
This encouraged Salman to start running and practicing despite his foot problem. He now plays kabaddi too and handles pressure in play quite well. After Magic Bus sessions, he started participating in expressing himself positively and frankly. Salman has come a long way since then, he has even participated in multi role drama performed by a single person. Besides drama, Salman enjoys playing football.  

Salman is very positive about Magic Bus sessions, and has managed to overcome his lack of confidence about his small foot.  His parents’ to remark, “Earlier he was hesitant to play with other children, but now he has not only started getting involved but also plays quite well with other kids”.

A very smart and hardworking child, he aspires to become a doctor, as he loves the idea of how helpful doctors are, and the hard work they put behind in saving someone’s life.

Magic Bus wishes Salman a world where he can confidently walk with his head high, without any apprehensions. 

The Freedom to Play, The Freedom to Dream...

Shrutika Bandu Devgade is a Class 7 student, and hails from a family of 3 siblings and her parents. Shrutika’s father (Bandu) and mother (Kalpana) are both B.A. (Bachelor of Arts – Year 2) drop outs.

Her father is a daily-wage earner; a painter by hobby, which later transformed into his career option. He earns a minimum Rs. 300 (US$ 4.45) per day, and post digitalized flex making the work frequency as a painter has further decreased and the family income has become irregular. Earlier he made a lot more money, especially during elections. To supplement his income Shrutika’s father, engages as a wooden handicraft worker. Her mother, does a few odd jobs in stitching and sewing work, as a casual labourer and not as a professional.

                                                                Representative image. Picture courtesy: Heena Patel

Shrutika enrolled into the Magic Bus programme in 2013 and since then, her father and mother say that, “There have been many positive changes in her behaviour, after she has joined Magic Bus”. She has started participating in dance and drama, story-telling, drawing, and many other extra-curricular activities. Her confidence levels have grown, and she forthcoming in making conversations with new people, quick in her replies and exhibits gender confidence when engaging in interactive activities.

Shrutika’s enthusiasm is infectious as she skips to school every day, even when she is unwell. This positive attitude has won her a gift for having 100% attendance in school. Shrutika also stood first in a drawing competition in school, and she credits her interest in art to her father. She recently participated and won the first position, at the Village Block level in the Navratna Puraskar Yojna (a competition organised by the government). She is currently attempting to win the District level competition as well.

Best moment in Magic Bus:

She describes her best moment as the freedom to play games. She wants to be an inspiration to others just like a Magic Bus Youth Mentor was to her. Her ambition is to become a software engineer as she has interest in computers. 

Magic Bus is hopeful that her grit and enthusiasm will help her achieve her dreams, one day. 

Thursday, December 8

We are on instagram!

Are you addicted to Instagram? So are we! 

Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, we don't want you to miss out on any of the lovely images we share. 

Here are a few of our recent posts you may like:

1. Kaustubh Khade raises funds for Magic Bus

#Repost @paddlehardindia with @repostapp ・・・ Miles to go before I sleep. We've reached Diu. But it's not enough. We have a long way before this expedition is over. So tomorrow we will set out again. Back to Conquer the Coast. Conquer the Coast. Kayaking from Gujarat to Kanyakumari while @travelbelleindia is cycling the same distance. We are raising money for a NGO called Magic Bus. So do go to their page and donate for a good cause. #paddlehardindia to be featured #paddlehard #nofilter #nofilterneeded #sfconquerthecoast #sf #kayak #seakayaking #paddling #kayakadventures #kayaking #paddles #kayaks #kayakers #paddle #seakayak #kayaklife #kayakgram #oceanlife #kayaker #lifeatsea #kayaklyf #kayakingadventures #paddlingmixtape #getoutside #adventureculture #modernoutdoorsman #simplyadventure #getoutstayout
A photo posted by Magic Bus (@magic.bus) on

2. Equal Opportunities 

3. Etihad Volunteers

4. Ranbir Kapoor with our children 

A photo posted by Magic Bus (@magic.bus) on

5.International Youth Day with Being Indian

There are many more! Go follow us now: @magic.bus 

Monday, December 5

Boarding the Magic Bus


The experience which followed stepping on board (literally and figuratively) for an internship with Magic Bus in Delhi was something more than what I had anticipated. Holding a small badge in my hand, I couldn’t understand back then what the shiny, red bus symbolized suspended there in the yellow reflective plastic. After pinning it to my back pack, I stepped out onto the slick wet roads intrinsic to Delhi’s monsoon season, and approached my first Magic Bus session.

These lessons promote personal hygiene, gender equality, the importance of education and finishing school past the twelfth standard. This is done through engaging students in interactive activities. Community Youth Leaders (CYLs), as the adolescent/ young leaders from the children’s communities are called, encourage the children to work together and achieve different objectives.

For many children and youth, Magic Bus represents not only a path to dignified living, but rather an implicit effort to give those who have been marginalized beyond recognition, a chance at life. I have come from an admittedly privileged background, and currently attend New York University in New York City for Global Public Health and Communications. I have always had enough to eat, always had a roof over my head, and have always been guaranteed a desk in the school classroom every coming September. Receiving a high school diploma was an opportunity that I viewed more as a burden - a stepping stone to better things – rather than a grand achievement.

But, for many children I read about, met and played with in Delhi, their relationship with education was that of utmost importance, one of surprising dedication at times. Education is the tool that divides the undignified and the dignified, it defines the life these children will lead.

As many have said, Delhi is unlike any other place on earth. It resides in a spectrum of its own. Nothing can compare to the driving, the smells, the colours and the collision of human existence that inhabits the unique city. From an objective, or possibly entirely subjective viewpoint, Delhi can come across as utterly chaotic, completely unapologetic and apathetic. However, at a closer glance, amidst the chaos lie countless organizations and individuals working to loosen the knots of social unrest and smooth the jagged edges of this ever-growing city. One of these organizations is Magic Bus.

Walking through the sodden grass as the sun protruded through the clouds, I was apprehensive and excited about my first session. As a crucial cornerstone of the Magic Bus mission, each session serves as a time to teach slum children life skills and lessons that may be lacking in other aspects of their lives.

Boys and girls held each other’s hands tightly as they jumped through chalk-drawn shapes on the dew-filled grass during an interactive session, which focused on teamwork. Their laughter filled the enclosed park, being the testimony to a lesson well learnt.
My eyes began to see, and to understand, the happiness and growth that this hour of educational play allowed these children. This time served as a break from the unfathomable pressures these young children face. During this hour these children were not the primary provider to their parents, school drop-outs, potential child-brides, or a marginalized member of society, they were simply children. A kid just like I was when I was ten or eleven, playful and indulgent.

Behind the unfathomable will for social good and progression to livelihood that Magic Bus stands for, lies the simplicity of human interaction and the ambition for dignified work that every human being strives for. 

Magic Bus gets on board children and youth across age, gender, religion and caste, and drive them towards a brighter future.

By: Charlotte Moore, Magic Bus Volunteer

Thank you Charlotte! Your lens has beautifully captured the happiness and zeal of children and youth associated with Magic Bus Programme. 

Volunteer Diaries: A Thousand Paper Cranes

What difference can I make? Thats what I first thought when my father suggested flying out of Singapore to work with an NGO in India. At that time, to me, Magic Bus was just another organization that a group of students in my school claimed to be passionate about. I had no connections with Magic Bus, which is why I was taken by surprise when my father mentioned it. Nonetheless, I decided to venture into it once I recruited my friend Joya who was up for the challenge too. 

I must admit that I initially walked into the Magic Bus office quite blindly. I could barely cough up a sentence as to what the NGO was or did. The only answer I could give to those who asked was one that I relate to, "It's got to do with empowering kids through sport”, basketball and soccer being two of my passions. 

While this was probably an oversimplified understanding of the activity based learning approach of the organization, I had left out a whole otherand significanthalf of the Magic Bus family: The Childhood to Livelihood Programme.

The Youth Livelihood Center nurtures some of Indias most 'needy' candidates into first generation earners by teaching them IT, English, Life and Core skills necessary to survive the real world. 

Joya and I spent a week at the livelihood center teaching two classes of both English and IT.  We had a class of 18 students aged 18-24 and started with the basics of English. We were dumbfounded at their knowledge of the language, which was much better than we had anticipated. So instead, we moved on to teaching them “polite words” that would come in handy when they went for their job interviews or meetings. Most students caught on quite easily, so we introduced some sentence games to help build their confidence in using these words. 

The second English lesson began with a quick revision game, and the rest of the lesson was devoted to a seminar which let the youths converse in English. The classroom quickly transformed into a call center, and we took the youth step-by-step through a job that they might find themselves having to tackle in their near future. By the end of the session, everyone had successfully been on a 'call' with either me or my friend. 

With the IT classes, we let the students use the whole lesson to work independently on presentations explaining various job types. The following class, when the students gave their presentations, the improvement in each and every student was quite obvious.

One youth, who barely spoke at the beginning of the week, was eager to come up and give his presentation (in English that too). Another, a bright but shy young girl, finally worked up the courage to present, and the sense of accomplishment shone through her smile when she was, quite deservingly, given the loudest applaud. 

This energy was then applied to the 'bang' game, which Joya and I taught them, and the 'dancing'  game, which they taught us in return. It was a great way to end our time together. 

Something that I will never forget are those 2 hours we spent in our last English class with the youth. We had decided to introduce the Japanese art of Origami. You could virtually smell the excitement in the air as we handed out the neatly squared pieces of paper, which soon transformed into beautiful and elegant paper cranes. Some decided to keep theirs, others to gift them, but the majority went along with our idea of hanging them up to personalize the classroom. 
Overall, my experiences with Magic Bus have encouraged me to continue my involvement with the NGO and I intend on doing so in my upcoming December break. Having the chance to work with young adults from very distinct economic and social background shaped me into a more open-minded and appreciative person. 

There’s a Japanese saying that if you make a thousand paper cranes, your wishes will come true. That is my hope for each and every one on the Magic Bus journey.

By: Riya Narayan, Magic Bus Volunteer

Thank you for spending time at our Livelihood centre, Riya and Joya! You indeed taught our youth the precious art of carving hopes and aspirations for themselves. 

Tuesday, November 22

Turning Tables: Priyanka’s journey to becoming a young leader in her community

16-year-old Priyanka Kumari lives with her family of six members in Tughlaqabad village, a slum cluster that grew on a disputed land and still continues to bear the brunt of fear and dispossession. People living here are mostly migrants, employed in daily wage work and devoid of access to basic necessities like clean, drinking water.

This is Priyanka Kumari

Priyanka, her four siblings, and parents live here, in a one-room house overlooking a makeshift bathroom. “We pay Rs 1600 plus electricity per month for this space,” she explains. A 60-watt bulb hangs from the corner of a dilapidated wall. Priyanka’s mother, Pratima Kumari, switches that on whenever visitors come to her house. It is just enough to light up the stove where she cooks. When she is at work in a nearby garment factory, the sisters huddle together under this light to go over their lessons and textbooks.

Priyanka's mother, Pratima Kumari.

Pratima Kumari firmly believes in educating her daughters. 

“Only education can make them independent,” she says emphatically. 

She studied till the tenth standard. After her marriage, she gave birth to three girls. “No one values a girl in our community. They are looked down upon as a burden. Each time I gave birth to a girl, my in-laws tortured me, reminding me of my duty to bear a boy,” she shares. Unable to bear the torture any further, she ran away from her in-laws house in Bihar. 

She had the support of one of her uncle. He found her a single room in Tughlaqabad’s Kamgar Mohalla with a rent of Rs. 1100 per month. “After all that he had done for me, I couldn’t ask for more help. I stayed hungry for the first 17 days here. I managed to find work in a nearby garment factory. I was paid Rs 1800 per month on my first job,” she recollects.

Her mother’s experience left a deep impression in the mind of young Priyanka. Back home, she saw her father’s nonchalance towards her mother and his conviction that it was “all her fault that the family is broken up”. When her mother visited them after six months, she was accused of deserting her family. “No one understood my mother’s plight. No one took her side. Only I decided to come to Delhi with her. I was in the sixth standard when I came to Delhi with my mother,” she says. Her father followed them after seven months.

“It was unbearable to live with both of them under the same roof. My father would regularly beat her up in front of me. We lived in a small one-room house. Even if I tried to shut the images out of my mind, I couldn’t,” she says. 

Meanwhile her two younger sisters were brought up in their native village by her maternal grandmother. It was only two years ago that the entire family reunited in Delhi. With her father getting a job in a factory as a guard, the monthly income has increased to Rs. 10,800 to sustain a family of six.

When Magic Bus sessions first started in the area, no one was willing to send their daughters for it. “It is so common for girls of my age to be teased and groped in our neighbourhood,” Priyanka shares. But when Anurag bhaiya (local word to refer to a Magic Bus Community Youth Leader) approached parents with a request to send their children to the sessions, Priyanka’s mother relented. 

Anurag Bhaiya speaks to Priyanka's mother.

“On my first day, I felt alone and nervous. I had never seen much beyond my home and neighbourhood. In the sessions, I was supposed to interact with so many other children. As days went by, I relaxed, made friends, and actually started to enjoy the sessions.”

Her happiness was short lived. Soon her neighbors started gossiping about her friendship with boys of her age during the Magic Bus sessions. “It is so unfortunate that boys and girls of my age cannot interact with each other without raising eyebrows and questions on character and morality. It is true that my community sees no value in bringing their girls up to be independent, free, and confident. It is as if they want us to be mute and demure in all that we do.” Priyanka says.

Her mother was repeatedly harassed with threats and insults about her daughter’s character. Fed up of all the allegations, she asked Priyanka to stop going to the Magic Bus sessions. “I struggled. I cried and pleaded with her. I appealed to her better sense of judgement. But my mother did not budge from her decision.”

After almost three years, Priyanka’s mother realized her mistake. She understood that her daughters could only flourish if she supported them in all that they wanted to do. Priyanka had leadership qualities and always wanted to work towards the betterment of women and girls in her community. 

Priyanka with her sister

She decided to stand by that dream and asked Priyanka to take up the role of a Community Youth Leader.

“When Arif came home and explained what a Magic Bus leader is, I was convinced that my eldest daughter could be one. I also realized that my earlier decision of stopping my daughter from doing what she really liked was actually wrong. Mothers should not cave in to societal pressures. They should stand by and support their daughter’s dreams. I am so proud to see Priyanka scaling new heights with each passing day.” Pratima Kumari explains.

Priyanka’s vision is clear. “I want my community to value women and girls and not to look down upon them, or restrict them from following their heart. I want to resist any effort to deny girls equal rights.” she signs off.

Help girls like Priyanka move out of poverty - Donate here.