Tuesday, December 17

Women take the lead at Family Meeting at Magic Bus, Bangalore

The first African-American President of the USA once said, “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself, that you realise your true potential.” These are the wise words of a man who, during his early years, found himself trapped in a cobweb of narcotics, poverty and, the worst of all, discrimination. Despite all the forces that were working against him to bring him down, he managed to do the unexpected: To achieve milestones that nobody had ever even remotely imagined.

And that is what Magic Bus is all about – empowering the underprivileged through means of sports, and transforming the world around them. It is about catalysing change in communities and children. It is about creating “magic”, as the name suggests to a plethora of districts all across the nation.

Some think that Magic Bus is all about sports and children. I thought so too until yesterday. But what happened yesterday brought about a different perception. It changed what I, as other partially-oblivious bourgeois people, think about Magic Bus. This NGO is different. It isn’t concentric to one cause. To put it metaphorically, it has one root, but many branches. It has one path – the power of sports – but many beneficiaries. Magic Bus uses its concept to not only pull children out of poverty but also to change the mindset of their parents and families.

As Shaona and Sonia briefed us on our first day of our internship, Tuesday, December 10, 2013, was a big day for us at Magic Bus Bangalore. We were to organise a first-of-its-kind family meet for all the Youth Mentors (YMs) and Training and Monitoring Officers (TMOs). This was a day for the families of the family of YMs and TMOs that have continued to support Magic Bus Bangalore through their hard work.

The day started with a rigorous set up. Appreciation Magic Bus tags and candles for all attendees, posters and banners sprawled across the venues, carpets, flowers and seats to add a finishing touch. As we eagerly waited for all the 13 YMs, our chief guests, to arrive with their families, we broke out into heavy chattering over light refreshments.

To see these simple, down-to-earth, yet confident and exuberant youth all dressed up for their big day was great. Amidst the bustle, I noticed something different. This day, for a change in an average Indian household, was one for the women of the family. As the proud TMOs entered with an air of importance, the men of their families followed. And that’s what felt good: the female domination that had scattered across the event. To see more women than men playing their own part to change their surroundings almost brought tears to my eyes.

The introductory session conducted by Lawrence was an exciting start to the event. Post the YMs introduction on their role in Magic Bus, family members were asked to speak of how their lives had changed since these women (and a minority of two men) started to spend a majority of their time outside their homes – interacting with other men, women and children. To hear the praises that went around as well as the words of encouragement from the families for these YMs really created an impact.

Following that great start, an ice breaking session was conducted through a balloon-bursting game. As Sonia cleverly pointed out, a concept as simple as blowing and bursting balloons in teams of two brought about creativity through ‘participation’ and all in all created a ‘fun’ and ‘experimental learning’ platform for all. ‘Mentored’ by Narsimha, all teams took part in a fair and fun game that brought a signature Colgate smile on everybody’s faces.

We then moved back into the room for an interactive session conducted by Anu on one of our core concerns – the Child Protection Policy. Comically asking Narsimha to translate her fluent English into the simplest of Kannada words, Anu cast a light on one of Magic Bus’ most important agendas: how to save your child from wrong. She brought about an active discussion and got many parents to voice their opinions.

Sonia, her eyes reflecting her many years of experience in this field, then conducted a recognition segment, which, in my opinion, was the most important of them all. The importance, praises and confidence instilled in the YMs through anecdotes of their collaborative experiences at the sessions not only made the YMs feel proud but also reassured their families. These YMs were working so hard to change the lives of a total of 9,123 children across Bangalore. That’s a HUGE number to achieve in just one year, with just a team of 13. To reiterate what Sonia said, it’s not quantity, it’s the quality that’s the focus. When one puts in their heart and soul into something, the outcome automatically shows. Sure there’s a target of 11,000 children – but with such women leaders, nothing is impossible. As Kavita Aka, a TMO, put it, “The aim for 2014 is to have each YM become a TMO, and for each of the 25 CYLs to have 25 more CYLs and multiplied number of children under the Magic Bus umbrella.”

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. That’s what I saw in the eyes of each of the attendees yesterday, and that is what makes Magic Bus so awesome. If the leader of this magical organisation is itself an epitome of an example, the rest will definitely create leaders of the same willpower. It’s a domino effect – Mr. Spacie left his well-paying CEO job to become a social worker, the YMs left their restricted lifestyles to change the lives of many, the families left their bread-winning jobs to support their kin, and I left my old perception to think afresh and, hopefully, 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.

Thank you Nidhi Singh (Magic Bus intern from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) for sharing this wonderful story. 

To find out more about Magic Bus, visit www.magicbus.org

Friday, October 11

Celebrating the Girl Child: My Life, My Fight and My Decision

Poornima made a difference to her life
10-year old Poornima from a poverty-stricken family in Jayanagar, Bangalore, has defeated difficult circumstances with her desire and exceptional talent.

Poornima, studying in grade 5 at a Government school, was a shy, reserved and softly spoken girl whose parents are separated. She stays with her “Amma” who works as a housemaid to meet the family's needs.

Her mother shares, "My daughter used to feel very isolated among her friends for not having her “Appa” around, however, her friends have been supportive and I can see a huge difference in her since she started attending Magic Bus sessions."

Putti (Poornima) now shows a renewed enthusiasm towards life and people around her, she has opened up, become friendlier and is more confident in herself.

Her school Principal has also noticed some changes, “Poornima was a very shy girl and used to always stay aloof from her classmates. Since joining Magic Bus sessions, she has more friends, her performance in studies has improved and she is now the Class Monitor.”

Inspired by her Magic Bus Youth Mentor, Poornima’s dream is to become a teacher and a footballer. She acknowledges the importance of education and wants to be a role model for her younger brother and help her mother financially by being a successful teacher.

Thank you Sheetal, Aarikiti, Urbashi and Sami (Magic Bus Interns from Christ University Bangalore) for sharing this wonderful story.

To find out more about Magic Bus, visit www.magicbus.org

Saturday, October 5

Pink and Blue: The possible signs of danger

(Names have been changed in this story to protect privacy).

“First I thought I would become a teacher because it is an easy profession, and as people say one doesn’t need to study much. But now I think I will be in the police and help the victims of domestic violence. Will you cast me as a heroine in your film?” 11-year-old Ruhee asks with a twinkle in her eye. Ruhee has had a change of heart, as she flirts with trading the confines of her gender for her aspiration...

Like so many other families, Ruhee’s family migrated from their ancestral village in Bihar, in hope of work and better educational facilities. Their new home, Bhanwar Singh camp, like many other Delhi slums, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes, open drains, community water taps, and pastel colored squalid mud and brick houses with roofs made up of cemented slabs and plastic sheets.

The neighborhood is dotted with shopping complexes, and posh houses of some of the city’s rich. Just like a typical slum, locals strive to make an honest living doing everything from driving auto rickshaws or taxis, cleaning houses, selling vegetables or as daily wage labourers working on the booming city's many construction sites.

A study by [1] International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) reveals that there are more cases of gender-based violence reported in urban areas than rural – urban areas not unlike the neighborhood Ruhee now calls home.

Women and Girls Lead Global, a documentary film and trans-media initiative to affect lasting change in global gender issues, aims to positively redefine gender role stereotypes in Indian society. With this goal in mind, we set out to explore the conditions that cause girls like Ruhee to worry so much about domestic violence and community protection, and to fear dreaming of anything beyond the practical.

Ruhee and other children from her community congregate to share their own childhood rituals of growing up and aspirations. “My brother doesn’t even clean his plate. I am the one who helps mother with household work. At times if he’s forced to work, he creates heaps of mess for me to clear. So I’d rather not have him work at all. He is better off doing what he does on most days, i.e. to eat and play”, said Ruhee, sheepishly, escaping the eye of her mother and brother standing next to her at the doorway of their one-room dwelling.

Children in this community, like anywhere in the world, learn very young to play a role. Girls are taught to be obedient and submissive. “Hide n seek, and three claps”, gleamed 10-year-old Meena with excitement on the games she likes to play with her friends.

“My brother and I always fight over the Television remote, he wants to watch wrestling matches and cartoons, while I love Hindi film songs and soap operas”, asserted Meena, with her head down in embarrassment, as the rest of her female friends giggled in secrecy over her love for Hindi film songs. “But I hate boys”, she added.

“Last week, my brother broke the head of my favourite Barbie doll. He hates them. I do not know why. Can you scold him?” complained 7-year old Asha.

“No! Girls don’t like cricket at all” exclaimed the three girls in chorus.

Boys, on the other hand, are taught to be competitive, physically strong, and often oppressive.
“Why should I train myself in cooking, when I have a sister”, asserted 11-year old Gautam, with a hint of wryness.

“I think I need to balance my brawn with my height and age,” chuckled Manish while seeking reassurance from his all boys’ gang. “Yes, girls do not need to exercise and be muscular, they have the police and their family to protect them”, said Amit in confirmation with Manish.

These innocent and playful confessions are often accepted as rites of our passage of life and growing up. But what happens when young girls and boys accept the roles set out for them? What impact do sports, entertainment, and household responsibilities have as children grow into adults? We are often oblivious to the fact that these seemingly simple childhood experiences point towards a looming danger of gender based violence.

I have three brothers and I hate them because they abuse and bully other girls and the kids younger to them” said a relatively irritated Renuka.

“Last week a boy asked if I could be his friend. I slapped him because friendship with boys makes you weak in studies. It is good to be friends with only girls” she added.

10-year-old Renuka is seen as the leader of her all girls’ gang. She is what her community calls a ‘Tomboy’ for her roughness and outspokenness.

Gender socialization continues throughout the life cycle. Society defines the boundaries of the gender roles. At an early age children’s minds are molded by the values and behaviors of their gender, and identify what is socially acceptable as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’.

Boys who have less muscular strength, or are emotionally weak are considered to be ‘sissy’ and effeminate, while girls are expected to be weak and emotionally submissive. This chips away the possibility of building a healthy and equitable relationship with the opposite sex, and hinders the development as a person.

When girls or boys, women or men, are seen stepping outside the rigid definition of appropriate male and female behavior they become easy and socially-acceptable targets of violence.

I can easily wear a short and a t-shirt, but it is unacceptable for my sister to wear such short clothes, it will be outraging modesty. Girls must cover themselves properly” declared Gautam.

I will never allow my sister to roam with a boy in any park, alone in the evening” he added.

The expectations set out by their families and communities continue to affect the way boys and girls treat each other as they grow up. Likewise, exposure to violence can have a profound impact on children’s development. “I see my parents fight almost every night. My father comes drunk, and at times hits my mother if she forgets to do her work. It is normal for married couples to fight. I do not like seeing that, but I am used to it now” said Megha, fidgeting nervously with her fingers as she talked about her dad.

A study by [2] UNICEF indicates that as many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home. It further adds that children who grow up in a violent home are more likely to be victims of child abuse, and there is a strong likelihood that this will become a continuing cycle of violence for the next generation.

When children learn to expect violence in their homes as “normal” like Megha has, they become much more likely to accept other forms of gender-based violence as well. At the end of 2012, a tragic case of sexual violence on a New Delhi bus made international headlines. When the horrific story ignited a movement across India, children of Bhanwar Singh camp believe that had the girl not stepped out of the home late evening with her boyfriend, she could have avoided her brutal sexual assault and eventual death.

There is a desperate need to intervene, to introduce and to help these children discover the vicious process that makes them, their minds and their society vulnerable to violence. By working with local and international partners, this is where Women and Girls Lead Global hopes to make an impact in India. By engaging boys and girls through film and other forms of media, as well as through connections with mentors and role models, we encourage them to re-think their identities, their relationships, and their responsibilities. Perhaps by introducing a girl like Ruhee to positive role models – both on film and in person – she can indeed become a policewoman – or a teacher. Either way, she will be a heroine.

By Abhishek Srivastava, ITVS Country Engagement Coordinator, India - 'Women and Girls Lead ' Campaign

This story was written following a visit by ITVS' India Engagement Coordinator to the Bhanwar Singh community in Delhi, with Magic Bus. Magic Bus develops local community mentors who empower children from marginalised communities across India to break out of poverty, taking them on a journey from childhood to livelihood. Children (aged 7 and above) from Bhanwar Singh are enrolled in a sports for development curriculum incorporating 40 sessions a year, tackling critical issues such as gender inequality, health, hygiene and education, delivered by trained volunteer community youth leaders. These experiential learning activities are used as a metaphor for change.

ITVS and Magic Bus have partnered to incorporate the 'Women and Girls Lead Global' series of documentaries into the Magic Bus programme. By harnessing the power of media to improve the lives women and girls across India, the collaboration seeks to inspire action and drive change among children, parents and their communities on pressing issues such as child marriage and gender-based violence.

Tuesday, September 3

Summer workshop for children from Delhi resettlement communities

168 children from four resettlement communities we work with in Delhi, enjoyed a visit to the National Museum this summer, where they engaged in various arts and crafts activities. 

Aimed at opening children's eyes to their rich cultural heritage, and motivating them to conserve some of the dying arts & crafts in India, the day's activities also developed logical thinking, problem solving & brain storming skills, as well as their creativity.

Activities also focused on developing self-confidence and a positive attitude. The experience also helped to build trust and rapport between our staff, mentors, children and the community.

Thank you to the National Museum for hosting our children and giving them such a wonderful day's experience. http://www.nationalmuseumindia.gov.in/

Thursday, August 1

Magic Bus & ITVS putting the power of media to work for women and girls in India

9 Magic Bus youth mentor leaders responsible for training our volunteers in the field were brought together to take part in a new and potentially ground-breaking initiative using the power of media and technology to drive disadvantaged young people to become change-makers.

They were shown a documentary film, the first screening in India by ITVS, about how a group of children challenge dire circumstances in their community, a squatters’ settlement in Kolkata. The idea is to encourage children, girls in particular, to become agents of change, a concept our mentors are familiar with since the Magic Bus sport for development programme is about empowering youth to challenge and break the restraints of tradition and poverty, to rewrite their future.

Through 40 lessons a year delivered to children by youth volunteers living within their own slum communities, the Magic Bus curriculum and its field-tested methodology, focuses on 7 key inter-related domain areas of Health, Education, Right to Play, Gender, Socio-emotional learning, Leadership and Livelihood. 250,000 children from the most marginalised and deprived parts of India are currently enrolled on the programme, with the mission to create long-lasting, sustainable community-wide change taking 1 million children from childhood to livelihood.

Similarly, the film "Revolutionary Optimists" set in the notoriously squalid Rishi Aurobindo Squatters’ Colony in Kolkata, profiles 4 youth living among 9000 slum dwellers, Shikha and Salim, Priyanka and Kajal. Their stories are followed over 5 years to demonstrate the empowerment of children to become educators and advocates for creating sustainable movements in areas such as child labour, sanitation, disease prevention, early marriage and gender. Whilst this award winning, longitudinal documentary is a success story aimed at inspiring monumental change, it doesn’t fail to acknowledge that some of these challenges require even greater levels of determination and patience.

Much like Magic Bus Founder Matthew Spacie, Amlan Ganguly, creator of the NGO profiled in the documentary, Prayasam, is a social entrepreneur and former Ashoka Fellow, who through sheer determination, instinct and passion, single-handedly initiated his programme with the belief that education and child empowerment are crucial keys to lifting entire communities out of poverty. Ganguly’s holistic approach suggests “If you want to start any kind of change, start it with the children… they have the power to become agents of change if their aspiration level is raised to believe that they deserve more. If you change your mind-set, you can change your surroundings. Slowly the children’s consciousness is raised: Why shouldn’t they have access to clean water?  Why should a young girl be forced to choose marriage instead of education and a career?”

Taking the concept of placing youth at the heart of the change-making process seriously, Amlan has gone as far as including children from Rishi Aurobindo on his Board of Directors.

Film trailer

Map Your World
Youth + Technology = Change

“Revolutionary Optimists” profiles “The Daredevils”, a group of young girls and boys who have made a dramatic improvement in the health of their slum community, a place that could not even be found on a map, using innovative new “Map Your World” technology to track polio vaccination rates and water quality.

This potentially radical innovation enables young people in any part of the world to collect and record interactive data and story maps highlighting critical issues through the use of proven technologies including Google Earth, GPS, Android phones, and an open source tool, Formhub.

By mapping and sharing these powerful stories, young people in any part of the world are empowered to become change agents in their own communities.

About the Women and Girls Lead Global campaign

'Women and Girls Lead Global' is a three-year, nine-country, thirty-film media project to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, created through a public-private partnership between USAID, the Ford Foundation, and ITVS, and in collaboration with CARE. The campaign plan is to create a 10-episode documentary film series each year about women and girls rising above extraordinary circumstances to seek better lives for themselves, their families, and communities.

Abhishek Srivastava (pictured left), India Engagement Coordinator for ITVS, responsible for leading the implementation of the "Women and Girls Lead" project in India talked about the partnership with Magic Bus, "I am excited to understand that our film, Revolutionary Optimists, resonates very strongly with the Magic Bus youth mentor training team. They also see our film as a strong tool to address various issues, including gender, within their communities".

"ITVS and Women and Girls Lead Global have a series of such films that will seek to address gender-based violence with the prism of redefining gender role stereotypes amongst youth and children".

"It is very interesting and disappointing at the same time that the youth mentor leaders and their communities have little understanding of words like masculinity and patriarchy. It makes our task even more important and nuanced. It is about time we use such narratives to prevent gender-based violence".

Excited to share their film with youth worldwide, filmmakers Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham write “We hope that the story will inspire youth to feel empowered as potential revolutionaries, which is why we have developed the multiplatform tool ‘Map Your World’ in partnership with the children in our film - so that youth everywhere can become agents of change in their communities.”

Magic Bus team feedback

Rajni Rani (pictured right), a female Magic Bus youth mentor trainer who watched the RO documentary screening shared her thoughts, “I’m looking forward to using this film in our monthly community youth leader refresher training to motivate my team, and facilitate a discussion around gender. Showing this film within the communities could also have a positive and inspiring impact since so many of the issues raised are relatable to our own such as early marriage, which I myself had to fight against when I was only 15.”

Debjit Paul, a male Magic Bus youth mentor trainer from South Delhi, shared his views on the discussion around using the documentary in their training programme, “I hadn’t heard or understood the term ‘masculinity’ prior to this session and I think it is an interesting topic in terms of its relationship with gender equity and gender-based violence. With further briefing I would like to incorporate this theme into our training, using the documentary as a tool to facilitate the initial discussion among our youth leaders, and where appropriate within the communities we work in.”

Santosh Gupta, another mentor leader from North Delhi commented on the ‘Map Your World’ tool, “I’m keen to explore the potential use of this new technology in the communities we work in to record and track issues, and to use this data to advocate for making changes.”

Source: http://www.itvs.org/films/revolutionary-optimists/engagement-resources

By Heena Patel, Magic Bus Communications Team

Thursday, July 4

A consultation on Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health with the Government of Bihar and Development Partners

Magic Bus organised a two-day State Consultation on Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health with the Government of Bihar and other NGOs at Patna in Bihar on the 6th and 7th of June, 2013. The Consultation was part of a planning grant provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to Magic Bus.

“We started this as an earnest attempt to initiate an innovative programme focusing on adolescents and youth of Bihar using the unique Sport for Development approach,” said Yuveka Singh, who manages the programme from Magic Bus. “Over the two days, however, we saw this transform into a rich dialogue among representatives from the Government including the State Health Department, Women and Child Development, international donor agencies like UNFPA and UNICEF, and a range of NGOs who have been working for years in Bihar on the topic.”

The main objectives of the Consultation included:
  • Laying the foundation for building new partnerships to meet the needs of adolescents in Bihar and create a better tomorrow
  • Becoming aware of the Government of Bihar perspective on adolescent health and development- Policies, Programmes, Schemes and Vision for the future
  • Reviewing the situation of adolescents in Bihar – their issues, needs and concerns; their reproductive and sexual health needs and the need to have adolescent-friendly policies, programmes and strategies
  • Sharing experiences of NGOs working with adolescents in Bihar
  • Creating a shared vision for working with adolescents in Bihar
  • Outlining possible programme strategies to collaboratively work towards developing an adolescent-friendly programme model that builds the self-confidence, knowledge and skills of young people and empowers them to begin to shape their own sexual and reproductive health outcomes and well-being
Six adolescents spoke about themselves to set the tone for planners and project implementers to better understand what’s going on in the lives of those for whom such work is planned.

The highlight of the consultation however, came in the form of the clear voices of 12 adolescents from significant intervention programmes in Bihar. As individuals and as a collective representation of the voice of 10-to-19-year-olds, they expressed their hopes, aspirations and their challenges, exhibiting a combination of insight and candour that was a tremendous motivation for the other attendees.

This session was called Hear Our Voice and was moderated by Binod Bihari Singh, Project Leader, PRACHAR, Prachar, Pathfinder International. Main observations of this session were:
  • Adolescents are interested and capable of being peer leaders and change makers on a range of issues related to the lives of those between the ages of 10 and 19
  • They are able to rationalize and have a thoughtful discussion on complex issues pertaining to reproductive and sexual health, when they are mentored and invested in systematically
  • They are willing to make changes in the ways they think about sex, marriage and gender relationships, and are able to explain the journey that enabled this change
  • They can be reflective and are able to articulate their feelings. Sometimes they need help to understand why they feel a certain way
  • While technically, there is some amount of education regarding the body and emotional issues during adolescence in school, little of this is actually explained or discussed in the classroom. So sources of information remain peers and youth, who do not always have access to complete information
  • They all wanted to learn more, and expressed an enthusiasm to do so through play, rather than through classroom learning
Chaired by Dr Veena Pandey, Ex State Health Education Officer, Government of Bihar, the next session aimed to understand the Government of Bihar’s perspective in view of policies, programmes and schemes for adolescents as well as its vision.

“At Daily Yuva Clinic at Patna Medical College youth were counselled and also provided with medical advice when required. However, there is a lack of trained counselors for Yuva clinics and there exists a clear need for the same,” said Dr Devendra Prasad, Assistant Clinical Pathologist, Patna Medical College and Hospital. Dr Prasad also highlighted the importance of counselors in medical institutions, as often this gap has to be filled in by the doctor.

Dr MP Sharma, State Programme Officer, State Health Society Bihar shed light upon the four components of the Adolescent Health Programme in accordance with the Government of India provisions. “Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health, Rashtriya Bal Suraksha Yojna, Menstrual Hygiene and Weekly IFA supplementation form the four components of the programme,” he said. He emphasised on the substantial role that Magic Bus’ Sport for Development model could play in identifying and training peer educators for Yuva Clinic, a potential innovation in ARSH programme. “24% of the total population in Bihar comprises of adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years. Adolescent Department of Health and Family Welfare has taken the initiative to improve the health of adolescents in Bihar,” Dr Sharma explained.

Dr MP Sharma deliberates on the State Health Society’s initiative in the field of ARSH in Bihar

“There is an immediate need to create many more platforms where the adolescents can discuss their issues and problems freely,” pointed out Radheshyam Ram, Manager, Capacity Building, WDC, while sharing his experience on adolescents programme.

The next session sought to share experiences from the field from the NGOs’ Perspective. Models, best practices, lessons learned and impact of working with adolescents in Bihar were discussed and deliberated upon.

Malay Kumar, Programme Manager, BVHA apprised the participants of his organisation’s efforts towards spreading knowledge around ARSH and shared the status of health indicators of Bihar. “Early marriage is followed by early pregnancy. Most girls were married by the age of 16-18 years, and one of them even had a son. Married adolescents are less aware about contraceptives and also have family pressure to conceive early,” said Mr Kumar.

“The main characteristic of the PRACHAR project was community approach. To bring about a significant change in the life of the adolescents everything cannot suit everybody. What needs to be checked is that we promote age-appropriate, need-based and life-stage specific messages and skills,” said Binod Bihari Singh, Project Leader, PRACHAR, Pathfinder International.

M K Verma, Director, IDF shared his experiences of working on ARSH in 2001. He emphasized on the approach: “A focused approach is needed to work with the adolescents. We need to segregate the groups for specific messages. In the age group 10-19 years there is a segment of married and unmarried adolescents, school going and non-school going, having one child and no child etc. Their curriculum should address the needs of all these various groups,” he said.

Pravind Kumar Praveen shares Oxfam India’s approach towards ARSH

Arpan, State Coordinator, CEDPA said, “As part of the Tarang project which operates in 9 districts and 809 secondary and senior-secondary schools and is incorporated in class IX and X curriculum, teachers are trained and the parents, media and the civil society are sensitized. Consequently, an Adolescent Education Cell has been established at SCERT with a Nodal officer in charge.”

Pravind Kumar Praveen, Regional Manager, Oxfam India said, “Even if we want to do the 100% delivery in the institution it’s not possible as the state is not sufficiently equipped to handle the same. There are some societies which are excluded from the mainstream in every aspect. In these situations, a more holistic approach needs to be followed aiming to uplift these types of communities.”

The session was followed by some real-life stories by young people from the Magic Bus programme.

Rameshwar, a 17-year old local youth volunteer at Magic Bus shares his experience

Disha from Magic Bus shares her story of change 

Rameshwar, a 17-year old local youth volunteer at Magic Bus from North Delhi said while sharing his experience, “My outlook towards women and specially girls has changed significantly since I joined Magic Bus over three years ago.” Disha, also a 17-year old local youth volunteer shared that she has gained immense confidence in the last two years, since she joined Magic Bus. “My awareness about sexual health helped me to prevent one of my friends from getting married at the age of 17,” said Disha.

While discussing the global perspective on working with young people, Rupali Tripathi, Consultant, UNFPA presented the UNFPA Global Adolescent and Youth strategy, which includes:
  • Evidence-Based Advocacy, Policy Development and Accountability
  • SRH Services
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • Adolescent and Youth Leadership
  •  Innovative Initiatives to Increase Inclusion
She also shared some of the strategies for implementation, which include establishing management structure for programme implementation and supportive supervision; capacity building of service providers to deliver quality adolescent friendly health services; awareness creation and generation of demand for services; making available quality and accessible adolescent reproductive and sexual health services; and establishing efficient monitoring system.

Day 2: Participants penning down their vision for an ARSH programme in Bihar  

“Peer educators, ASHA orientation, incentive for ASHA, ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) and Adolescent Health Day are some of the innovations in the context of Bihar,” Rupali said. The concluding day comprised of a workshop with participants divided into groups to discuss:
  • Areas in which interventions for adolescents exist in Bihar and possibilities for further work
  • Their vision for an adolescent programme in Bihar
  • Action plan for the same
The day began with a warm up game and a guided visualization exercise that enabled participants to tap into their own memories and experience as adolescents. This helped ensure that the perspective for the day was firmly through the lens of adolescence, rather than adulthood.

This was evident in the kind of visioning statements that the groups came up with. Each statement included the sentiment of ‘empowerment’; each one saw the adolescent as part of a larger context that must be engaged with in order to ensure change.

Each organisation then participated in a quick activity, putting colour coded bindis/stickers on a huge map of Bihar – thus enabling the group to know where interventions currently exist, and where they’ve existed in the past as well. This exercise revealed clearly that there are some districts which are heavily invested in (Patna, Vaishali, Gaya, Nawada, Jahanabad) while in others there is negligible NGO intervention (Rohtas, Saran, Bhabua, Shivhar).

Dr Arundhati Misra facilitated the session on adopting an adolescent-friendly lens 

Magic Bus received an encouraging stream of positive feedback from participants on the Sport for Development approach. Many found the workshop participatory and freeing, enabling all to delve upon the topic. The strong adolescent-centered focus was appreciated, as was the extent to which Magic Bus heard and encouraged the sharing of on-ground experiences and challenges.

Wednesday, June 5

Akash Verma – Magic Bus’ Youngest Volunteer

Akash with the children he teaches tennis
It’s Sunday morning. I’m in Laxmi Narayan Park in the posh Vasant Vihar area of Delhi. A young boy walks into the park carrying two bulky bags on each side. An excited group of children, aged between 8 and 12, come huddling in from a nearby Bhanvar Singh Camp, one of the many slum settlements in the city. The young boy hands over the bags to them, upon which they reach a spot and swiftly assemble two nets, grab the tennis rackets and eagerly wait for their trainer Akash to teach them a new tennis skill.

The Bhanvar Singh Camp community largely comprises of migrants from Rajasthan and the remoter parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They live in small huts with roofs made up of cemented slabs and plastic sheets. Men are mostly engaged in daily waged labour work or are cooks, sweepers, drivers and helpers.

Akash’s mother, Monica Logani got in touch with Magic Bus in September 2012 when she was looking forward to getting her three children, 13-year old Akash, 11-year old Priya and 8-year old Shailen into Magic Bus’ volunteer programme.  “I heard about Magic Bus from my sister who was there in New York for a Fundraiser and it’s always been at the back of my mind. She told me how Magic Bus works with marginalised children and youth at such a grassroots level teaching them important lessons through sport. When we shifted here, my son Akash was moved by the poverty he saw around him. He told me that he wanted to help less-privileged children. This innocent desire of my young son prompted me to get in touch with Magic Bus. Soon after, Akash became a volunteer at Magic Bus and started out with weekly tennis training for the Magic Bus children,” shared Monica enthusiastically.

Akash teaching one of the young boys how to get a good grip of the racket
Akash Verma has been an avid tennis player from a very young age. He has been trained by one of the top tennis coaches on the East Coast of the U.S. and has frequently been cited for his solid fundamental strokes and footwork. He has competed in United States Tennis Association Tournaments for the last few years. In 2012 he was ranked #2 in the State of New Jersey for boys aged 12 and under. Last year, he stood 2nd in the U.S. National Grass Tennis Tournament.

Since moving to New Delhi last summer, Akash was admitted into the very prestigious Tennis Academy at Siri Fort, which prepares young tennis stars for the Davis Cup.  From there he came up with an idea and told his mother, “Hey Mom, what if I was able to take a bunch of kids and teach them how to play tennis, teach them a new sport and how great sports is and the important lessons you learn through sports like hard work, team spirit and being able to relate to each other?”

Tennis training in progress
“It’s been a beautiful and adventurous journey for me since then - meeting these enthusiastic children who have so much potential. I have had a great experience and have learned many things. Before I came here I didn’t know the face of poverty and what these children looked like and I thought that they would be very different. But the children are so enthusiastic. They are very kind, they always want to help one another. You can tell that great values have been instilled in them like they always let the girls go first,” shared Akash quite excitedly.

Akash continued, “most of them have great athletic ability, probably better than some kids in the U.S. being trained by some of the greatest tennis players.”

The raw athletic ability and the enthusiasm being displayed by the children coming forward to learn the new sport are immense and surprising. “It’s very overwhelming to me and it makes me also so excited to come here every Sunday and spend time with them, to get to know them better. I am aware that I am having an impact on these children but in return I am being impacted by them too. They are helping me to believe that I am able to do something good, and in turn I can see that these kids just need somebody to believe in them and they can soar the skies,” shared Akash.

By Harshita Arvind, Communications, Magic Bus

Tuesday, June 4

Incredible Stories on Empowerment - Parvati Pujari

"I, Parvati Pujari, am a National Junior Trainer with Magic Bus in Mumbai. My struggle to reach where I am today is a story worth sharing.
I was born on 16th August 1990 at Bhabha Hospital in Mumbai. This was a first for my mother – her three first children, my elder sisters, had all been born in the shanties she lived in at the time. I was the first one to be born in a hospital.
My father worked on a construction site as a mason, and my mother looked after me and my six siblings. We didn’t have a home to call of our own. Mostly we stayed in shanty housing in the different construction sites where my father would be employed. After my youngest sister was born, we were nine members in the family and it was getting impossible for us to survive on just one income. So my mother also started working for a living. During that time my father was a construction labourer in a huge upcoming complex named Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel. My eldest sister never went to school, she was in charge while my parents worked. 
Parvati with the prizes she has won over the years

My parents did not really think education was important, not when getting the next meal was of topmost priority, so none of my elder sisters went to school. A small NGO named Sunbeam taught me basics like alphabets and numbers in Hindi. We loved the teachers there because unlike at school, these volunteer teachers paid a lot of personal attention to each child and ensured that their concepts were clear. My curiosity and enthusiasm made me continue attending the classes. My younger sisters used to tag along too.
My eldest sister was married off at an early age of 12. If only she had been educated or received proper guidance as I did later in my life, she could have been saved from the clutches of this child marriage.
One day, Sunbeam took us on a three-day excursion organised by Magic Bus. It was a unique experience for me – I had never been on a picnic before. Those three days I still remember as absolute magic playing and learning with friends in a safe environment. It was here that I understood the meaning of bonding, of what it means to have friends.
Later, Sunbeam helped me get an admission in the Lower Parel Municipal School where I completed my 3rd and 4th grades. I realised I could be an athlete when I received my first prize money of Rs. 21 in the annual sports day held in the school.
Parvati on the training field

I was 9 years old when I started attending the Magic Bus weekly sessions, on Wednesdays. The sessions at Magic Bus made me relive the magic of the three-day excursion – we were all playing, learning, sharing and caring. Over the years, we learnt complex things like communication skills and teamwork, and also simple things like hand-washing, which keeps germs away.
Because of my skills I was given specialised training. I was just 10 then. I used to travel alone from lower Parel to the park in buses. This training helped me enhance my skills in sports later. By then I was also becoming an avid footballer.
When I was in 9th grade, my parents refused to let me pursue my studies any further. They felt it was my age to be married. My elder sisters had been married at the age of 12, 13 and 17 respectively. After marriage all three of them settled in different villages. I did not want to end up like them, bound to the home  in a village, so I decided to fight for what I believed in. My father complained of the burden that my education had caused him; he said because of the expenditure on my education, he did not have enough money to feed my younger sisters. After a whole two months of resistance, my parents let me continue my education.
I finished my 10th grade and my family began to pressurize me for marriage again. My mentors from Magic Bus spoke to my parents and offered me the job with Magic Bus. Magic Bus gave me a fellowship and paid me a stipend of Rs. 2500 per month. I was 15 and I was thrilled beyond belief. I used my income to pay for my college tuition and support my family. I worked from 9 am to 5 pm and enrolled myself in a junior night college where I completed my 12th grade.
I had done all my schooling in a Hindi medium school so when I joined college, it was a big challenge for me to cope with the English-language classes. Most of my friends would attend coaching classes but I did not have any time as I was working during the day.
I received my board results while I was at a refresher training camp with Magic Bus. I had managed to score a 59% in my Boards and I was satisfied. My parents were proud of me. By the time I came back from the camp, the admissions in all the colleges were closed. I decided to test my luck and visited Siddharth College where I got admission on the basis of sports quota for a Bachelors degree in Commerce. During the same time, I got selected as a National level Rugby player.

Interview with India's famous talk show host and acclaimed Director, Karan Johar, at a fundraising dinner organised for Magic Bus.
Also, I started playing football for various clubs like Magic Bus Football Club and Body Line Club. I stood first in an essay writing competition held by Laadli, an organisation that worked for the welfare of women. 
While I was in my second year of under graduation, I was awarded with the “Active Woman in Sports” award with prize money of Rs. 15,000 from my college. Magic Bus promoted me to the Training and Accreditation team. In my 3 years of college, not once has the championship cup gone to any other college in inter-collegiate sports tournaments.
It was during this time that I made my first trip abroad to London with Matthew Sir, the founder of Magic Bus for a fundraising program. It was a memorable experience, telling everyone how I had missed the life of a poverty-stricken woman by a whisper, and how their support can make sure girls like me don’t grow up to be uneducated mothers. I also got the opportunity to attend the Julie Foudy Leadership program for football training during the same time.
Right now, I am awaiting my final semester results. I am considering doing a sports management degree . My parents are still coaxing me to get married while I work relentlessly to fulfill my goals. For me, accepting responsibility for my life, knowing it is only me who can get me where I want to be has helped overcome my challenges."

Tuesday, May 21

Buy One - Give Light Program

Help MPOWERD tackle Energy Poverty and purchase a Luci light for someone in need through Magic Bus.

MPOWERD is committed to giving light to the people who need it most. They do this by encouraging customers to purchase a Luci light at a discounted rate and choose an NGO Partner to distribute it to communities in need. Magic Bus is one of these NGO Partners.

The lanterns, named Luci, provide a unique renewable-energy solution for the nearly 1.6 billion people living in energy poverty around the world. For those living off the grid, everyday challenges can have devastating consequences. Women spend precious time collecting fuel when they could be earning an income. Children cannot study inside after the sun goes down, and indoor air pollution from burning fuel substantially increases the incidence of cancer, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Luci can provide these families with safe, clean and reliable lighting for up to 12 hours after just 5-6 hours of charging in the sun.

Making a difference to communities in India that suffer from energy poverty is easy.
Visit http://bit.ly/giveluci
1. Click on Add to Cart and select the number of lanterns
2. Choose Magic Bus from the drop down menu
3. Complete your purchase and Give Light!

“Energy is the thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity and sustainability. But, widespread energy poverty still condemns billions to darkness, ill health and missed opportunities for education and prosperity.” – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Thursday, May 9

Back to school with Farhan Sharif
Mysore, Karnataka

Farhan Sharif at home in
 Haleem Nagar, Mysore
It was over 15 months ago that Magic Bus mentor Shahbaz Pasha, in his constant endeavour to reach out to more and more children in the Haleem Nagar community, approached Farhan and his family to enrol him into the Magic Bus programme. Farhan’s parents readily agreed. “Pasha is a local boy and when he said why don’t you send Farhan for this new initiative, we thought it was a great idea. We knew Pasha beforehand and trusted our son with him,” said Tajuiinisa Sharif, Farhan’s mother.

However, Farhan’s participation soon met with the realities of his life situation. Around November 2012, just a few weeks into the Magic Bus sessions, Farhan’s school closed for vacations. This seemed a good opportunity to make some pocket money as well as add to the family income, and so, for a sum of Rs.50 per month, he started assisting at a Mobile Repair shop at the local market. By the time his school re-opened, Farhan found the extra money was needed at home – he couldn’t very well stop bringing in that extra bit. He decided to drop out of school.

When his mentor Pasha found out about this, he organised a few special sessions in the field where everyone discussed the importance of education in their lives. Magic Bus community volunteers shared the day-to-day problems they faced in their work life due to a lack of proper education. “A Magic Bus Community Youth Leader (CYL) revealed that he encountered extremely difficult situations at work as he could not even write his own signature. He had to depend on others and hence, would consume more time than necessary to complete his tasks, always lagging behind,” said Pasha.

Over a period of a couple of months, Farhan not only evolved into a sincere, well-behaved boy himself, but he now also tries his best to help his friends with their studies. He’s now a favourite amongst them.

Farhan with his friends and Magic Bus Mentor Pasha

Farhan with his mother
His parents, too, see visible and considerable improvement in their son. “He never used to listen to me. He would run away if I called after him. But now, after being with Magic Bus, he has become responsible and obedient. He helps me with daily household chores such as cleaning, buying groceries, etc. In his spare time, he also helps his father in his daily work. I’m very happy with this transformation and have no complaints,” Tajuiinisa shared with a smile. “There’s visible improvement in him. He has a better sense of cleanliness and hygiene now, much more than earlier,” added Tajuiinisa.

Farhan inspired his older sister Ruksana to join the Magic Bus programme as well and continues to share what he is learning with other children.

If you would like to help children like Farhan, open up their chances in life, please visit http://www.magicbus.org/donate

By Ritika Sen, Communications, Magic Bus

Tuesday, April 23

Moving forward with Magic Bus in incredible India

Blog post source: http://www.cricketforchange.org.uk/ written by Alasdair Ramsay

Earlier this year (March), a trio of Cricket for Change (C4C) staff headed out to India to continue the development work on a 3-year programme in partnership with Magic Bus India (the programme is supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports).

The C4C trio on this short but productive trip included experienced and talented coaches, Danny Baker and Beth Evans along with overseas development trip debutant, Alasdair Ramsay. The trip was split into two parts with the first being in India's capital, New Delhi and the second involving a visit to Bangalore.

In Delhi, the C4C team ran a two day 'workshop' in the Noida area of the city, with a fantastic group of 18 Magic Bus Youth Mentors and 5 Training and Monitoring Officers. The two days involved some classroom work along with plenty of outdoor led sessions and activities. Over the two days there were numerous discussions about how to further engage with the young people they have in their sessions as well as learning about the experiences of the volunteers and mentors, and how they feel best to take things forward.

C4C have the skills and experience to facilitate programme growth and development but ultimately it is the people on the ground (in a particular country) that have to deliver and it must be right for them.

Cricket for Change visit to Magic Bus India
(Click on the image to see more pictures from the trip)

For the outdoor activities, space was limited but it was a good example of the sort of areas that most, if not all, of the Magic Bus community sessions take place within. The two days in Delhi also included visits to two community based sessions, where the C4C staff had the chance to see the Magic Bus mentors in action (and make use of some of the new skills they had learned over the 2 days). Each event was well attended by very excited, welcoming and happy children.

At the end of second community visit in East Delhi, the C4C trio were invited to have some 'chai' tea at the home of one of the Magic Bus volunteers near to the community session they run. The C4C team were naturally very warmly welcomed into their homes and had a great time along with having the best 'chai' in India!

After leaving Delhi, the C4C team made the short flight down to Bengaluru in southern India. The team weren't running any sessions here but had the chance to meet the Magic Bus Bangalore team in their new offices and discuss the possibilities of developing a programme looking to increase female participation amongst and in the community sessions run in parts of Bangalore.

The C4C guys visited a couple of volunteer run community sessions in Banglore, which included a visit to a school where regular sessions are organised. This visit in particular highlighted the desire of local schools to want to be involved but that there needed to be long term plan and objective that gave the children a positive activity led hook to want to return week after week.

Cricket for Change visit to Magic Bus India
(Click on the image to see more pictures from the trip)

The three C4C staff were also shown the homes and community of a two of the Magic Bus volunteers in which again they were warmly welcomed into.

As is always the case, C4C had a very positive time in India and are extremely proud to be partners with such a progressive and groundbreaking charity in Magic Bus along with the family of friendly and energetic staff and volunteers. The programme promises to go from strength to strength, including looking at a UK/India Coaches exchange programme, more sharing of best practices and youth work and engagement games and plans for greater inclusion of girls and disability cricket activities.

Footnote by Alasdair Ramsay
The excitement of being a part of a development trip to a country that I have always wanted to visit can sometimes overshadow the true nature of why C4C are working on development programmes such as the one with Magic Bus India. There can sometimes be more of a focus on the after trip report or write up and the person doing the report than the importance of the work. That's not a bad thing as exposure to different places and their people can have a profound and positive impact upon one's life.

However, with this in mind, whilst I was there, I wrote a number of blogs that detailed my thoughts and activity from each day we spent working with and getting to know wonderful people, their activities and communities.

I will leave it up to you to view each one by clicking on the following links:
(1) Should I take my Hoody?    (2) Same but Different   (3) The Pride of Delhi  (4) New Beginnings in Bengaluru (5) Incredible India

Cricket for Change visit to Magic Bus India
(Click on the image to see more pictures from the trip)

Tuesday, April 2

My “World of Difference” Journey

by Sreekrishnan Manjeri, Vodafone India Foundation

50 days ago – I set out on my journey, with trepidation.  A journey into the unknown, a journey full of challenges, more internal than external, a journey into the ‘World of Difference’.

My assigned NGO partner was Magic Bus and I was to be stationed at their Vishakhapatnam (also known as Vizag) district office in Andhra Pradesh, which turned out to be my home away from home until the end of February.

Being a sports aficionado, my joy knew no bounds when in my very first interaction with Sandhya, the State Head of Magic Bus at Andhra Pradesh, she explained the Sports for Development programme to me and how Magic Bus uses sports as a medium to impart life skills to marginalised children and young adults. This vital input made me pack my football shoes as well!

Sports is a universal favourite with kids and at every Magic Bus session that I attended (I must have attended at least about 30 of them) it worked like a magnet. The children would arrive well before the Magic Bus Community Youth Leader (CYL) to start the session. One could not have found a better medium to connect with children.

What I found very interesting is the concept of CYLs devised by Magic Bus. These are volunteers who administer the sessions in the field and hail from the local communities where Magic Bus conducts its programme. With about 3000 CYLs in Andhra Pradesh and still growing, I was extremely curious to understand as to what attracted these young volunteers to Magic Bus.

I found the answer when I attended a local sports event that was being conducted by the Magic Bus team at a Government School in Islampet, about 35 kms from Vizag. This entire programme was devised, coordinated and executed by the CYLs under the close supervision and monitoring by the Magic Bus team. Speaking to a few of them was a revelation. They told me that being a CYL gives them a higher “social standing” within their community am among peers. When their friends are whiling away their time, these mentors keep the Magic Bus children engaged and teach them about life skills. This is a huge success among the parents who look upon the mentors as responsible individuals. Some of them also shared that being a CYL has opened the doors to a work opportunity with local corporations, the school Head Master and the community decision-makers, which would not have happened if they were not associated with Magic Bus.

However, the common thread that all the CYLs had was the opportunity that Magic Bus was creating for them to give it back to their society.

Another fascinating feature that I discovered in the Magic Bus sessions was the use of ‘cheap & cheerful’ games. I had never imagined that a regular game of dodge-ball or KhoKho or Football could be modified so beautifully that the children could play and learn with ease. Experiential Learning as it is called in Magic Bus. This is perhaps one of the key reasons that the programme cost of Magic Bus is so low-as low as Rs. 1200 per child per annum.

The de-briefing sessions that the CYLs conduct with the Magic Bus children after the games are over is a well laid out process. By connecting the games with life skill messages and again linking them to instances back at their home, Magic Bus has ensured that the intended message is delivered- straight and simple.

The ‘Corporate like’ organisational hierarchy in the Magic Bus programme team starting with a State Head, District Head & all the way till the CYL is probably the reason why their operations on the ground are sowell structured, delivered and monitored. This hierarchy has ensured that decision making is decentralized but yet accountable without slowing down the programme implementation.

Of the many communities that I visited, the one that will stay etched in my memory for a long time to come was the visit to the ‘old city’ in Hyderabad. Given the political, religious and other local challenges here, I was astonished to see the way Magic Bus has been accepted by the community.

House to house, parent to parent, the Magic Bus team went convincing them of what the Magic Bus mission was and asking for permission to allow their children to participate in the sessions and more importantly, permit their daughters to become Magic Bus volunteers.  Fighting prejudice with optimism of change, fighting social barriers with the hope of breaking through, street by street this Magic Bus community has been built. If ever there was a prize for fortitude and perseverance, the Magic Bus team would win it hands down.

The World of Difference journey for me has been a Journey of Discovery.

Discovering that a game of dodgeball or kho-khoor relay or football can be more interesting and engaging than Angry Birds or Temple Run for so many children.

Discovering that pain and distress, dreams and aspirations speak the same language. They make no distinction based on gender or geography.

Discovering joy, hope, positivity, contentment in such unimaginable difficult environment.

Discovering the amazing world of Magic Bus that is touching the lives of children in such a wonderful manner and helping them take on the world with confidence.

To find out more about the award winning Magic Bus' mentoring programme, visit www.magicbus.org. To support Magic Bus programmes, visit www.magicbus.org/donate