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