Friday, May 30

Mentoring India's Next Generation to Move Out of Poverty

Pratik Kumar is the CEO of Magic Bus, a TOMS Giving Partner distributing new, locally produced 
shoes to children in need in India. At TOMS, we’re proud to support partners like Magic Bus and their incredible programming, where shoes are just a small part of a much larger development program. We’ve invited Pratik to share some stories from the field in honor of One Day Without Shoes. Take it away, Pratik…

In just over a decade, 250 million youth will enter the Indian workforce. That’s the equivalent of the entire working population of the United States , all adding to India’s current labor pool by 2030 and all looking for employment.

When we started Magic Bus in 1999 in Mumbai, we started with one question: are these young people job-ready? Only 20 percent of Indian youth finish high school , with many dropping out because the basics are out of reach: food, supplies and clothes, including shoes. We all know that without education, it’s very tough for the poor to move out of poverty.

A very large number are extremely poor: 33 percent of Indians earn just $1.25 per day. Our solution to make them job-ready was simple, to work from within and change their behavior, arming them with an attitude that is set for success. Behavior change does not happen overnight, though, so we invest early and for the long-term.

To make this happen, we employ the Magic Bus “Childhood to Livelihood” model, bringing in partners whose core competencies fill a dire need in the lives of these marginalized children and youth on their 10-year journey with Magic Bus.

Consider shoes. In India, shoes are a clear marker of where you are on the economic ladder. At the bottom of the pyramid, chances are you are only able to afford second-hand flip-flops. Walking to school, walking to explore, walking to playgrounds — all of these basic activities become a challenge for children without shoes.

This is where the TOMS and Magic Bus story begins. We work with 250,000 children, and our strategic partnership with TOMS enables these children to have the one basic article of clothing that literally takes them places. The TOMS Shoes fill a crucial programmatic gap, giving children the safety, dignity and confidence to step out of the home and participate in the Magic Bus engagement model.

This holistic approach works to empowering individuals and entire communities to make better
decisions in the areas of education, health and hygiene practices, gender equity, leadership and
livelihoods. A shining example of that empowerment is Gulafsha Ansari who went from
being a school dropout to joining Magic Bus and returning to school and being a youth leader in
her community. In 2012, she told her story as a Huffington Post blogger,

Others, like Shanti from Hyderabad Old City, are taking their first steps. Shanti wears her TOMS
Shoes to school and whenever she steps out of her modest home in one of India’s largest slums. Her
Magic Bus journey began when she was just 10 years old and already a school dropout. We created local role models who encouraged her to join the program. She was attracted to our dynamic activity-based curriculum, which utilizes sport and play as the engagement catalyst. These sessions are designed to recreate real-life situations and challenges that Shanti can relate to.

Off the field, Magic Bus worked directly with Shanti’s parents and community to support them in
building a child-friendly ecosystem that takes care of every basic need, from health and hygiene to leadership and livelihood. TOMS will continue to give Shanti a pair of shoes every year, supporting her as she continues to battle the next challenges in her life, primarily fending off child marriage and completing her education.

The best part is that all of the shoes that Magic Bus receives from TOMS are locally manufactured
in India, continuing the cycle of community-centered development.

Over the last 15 years, Magic Bus’ unique ability to localize programming and help every child
reach his or her full potential has garnered the support of many strategic partners just like TOMS. Just last month, Magic Bus was proud to win the Laureus Sport for Good Award, bringing the award to India for the first time in history.

The task ahead remains difficult. The impact of a youth bulge in the population can be either beneficial or harmful, depending on how prepared they are and how we as a society respond. If we succeed, a larger number of educated, healthy young people will enter the workforce and will deliver major economic benefits to themselves and society as a whole. Strategic partners like TOMS help us break down our goal into achievable targets, which in Shanti’s case, means helping her go to school and reach her Magic Bus sessions
every day.

This year, we’ll be joining TOMS on One Day Without Shoes – the company’s annual day to raise
global awareness for children’s health and education. Like TOMS, we believe that with the complex issues surrounding poverty, there is not one solution, but many working together. We hope you’ll take off your shoes and join us.

For more information, visit

Pratik Kumar is the CEO of Magic Bus, Asia’s largest mentoring charity, working with 250,000
children and 8,000 youth mentors every week. Magic Bus USA is a 501(c)3
charity and focuses on building and developing partnerships in the USA for global program growth.

Original Article by TOMS.

Wednesday, May 28

Case story > Magic Bus Programme > Ritu Pawa, Girl, 14 years

Ritu exchanges traditional roles for girls with her friend Tanu 
from the Magic Bus Tughlakabad community.
About Ritu's family and her community
Ritu shares her small home in the slums of Tughlakabad with her 7-member family. Like all their neighbour’s homes, theirs too is a makeshift structure pulled together using plastic sheets and cement. Given the family's financial situation, that is all they can afford. Her father is working as a driver and mother works as a maid.

How did Ritu become a part of the Magic Bus programme?
Ritu was one of the community’s girls who are traditionally discouraged from going to school. Consequently, the child was mostly left to fend for herself. “At first glance itself, you could make out that Ritu was not very well taken care of. She was dirty and unkempt, one of the hundreds of girls who grow up with no future,” says Niraj Kumar from Magic Bus. “As an unschooled girl, she was fated to follow in the footsteps of her mother and become a child bride.”

When Magic Bus started sessions in the area, Ritu was among the group of children who would stand on the sidelines, watching. She soon picked up the courage to talk to the volunteer running the programme here. “I told Bhaiya that my parents will not allow it, but I wanted to be part of the group that seemed to be having so much fun together,” she recalls.

Magic Bus’ staff approached the parents and held meetings to explain that girls playing and studying is not a bad thing at all, in fact, as a child, Ritu’s right is to learn and grow as well as any boy.  Her parents eventually agreed, but on one condition: there should be separate groups for girls and boys.

What impact has the programme had on this individual young person's life, and also on the lives of other young people in that community?
One key takeaway for children in the Magic Bus programme is that girls have the same abilities as boys. This was a lesson Ritu learnt herself, as part of the Magic Bus sessions. Within as little as 2 months, she decided to call for a boys-vs.-girls match, at which she invited her parents too,” says Niraj about impact created on Ritu’s life.

Watching all children together on the ground went a long way towards breaking age-old stereotypes about divides along gender lines,” says Niraj. “Ritu explained to her family that nature had not meant for girls to be “the weaker sex” and that given a chance, she could do as well in life as any boy. Her new found confidence was visible to all, not just her parents but her entire community.”

Soon, Ritu became a regular school-goer and an avid learner. With health tips from her Magic Bus mentors, she learnt to take care of her own health and hygiene needs, including basics such as bathing, cutting nails, wearing clean clothes.

Ritu is now part of an advanced development programme at Magic Bus that teaches her English language and computer skills. She continues to be a keen footballer.

Wednesday, May 7

Inauguration of Youth Development Centres for our Karnataka programme

Our world is fraught with social, cultural, political and environmental challenges. This scenario is an opportunity for societies to transform their value systems and create a more sustainable and equitable present and future. In this context, the role of youth is of critical importance, as young people are the most important building blocks of a society: They are an important source of creativity and enthusiasm, and are drivers of social change.

Towards this, Magic Bus, through nurturing one of its impact areas – livelihood, is striving to improve disadvantaged youth’s economic and social well-being by empowering young people to identify their targets, develop themselves personally and professionally, and ultimately take up and sustain employment.

The Magic Bus programme in Mysore has around 650 Community Youth Leaders. In light of this, a youth development programme was required to help young people visualise and achieve their goals, and move into employment, training or higher education. Taking this into consideration, two Youth Development Centres were inaugurated in Mysore on March 8 and 9, 2014, in Shanthi Nagar and Haleem Nagar respectively.

MV Krishnan from Vodafone, in collaboration with Magic Bus, supported the centres with computers and furniture. Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) extended their support by engaging their trainers who will train enrolled youth in spoken English and basic computer skills. Roshan School and Milath Trust provided space for the youth development centres in the two communities.

The programme in both communities started with cultural performances by children, which included singing, a fancy dress competition, group dances, quawwali performances and skits on the importance of education.

In their speeches at the inauguration event, the guests mainly emphasized the need to empower and create a group of youth leaders who can positively explore themselves and are commit to making changes in their community. Guests also pointed out that youth need a positive and constructive environment where they can develop themselves socially and economically, and can ultimately lead successful, independent lives.

Youth Development Centre – Shanthi Nagar
The inauguration programme started with a great buzz in Roshan School, where 120 children, 80 parents, 60 youth and 20 teachers participated.

Inauguration event guests included Ayub Pasha, Corporator, and Raju Desai from Ace Foundation, and Amith, Aafaq and Chandini from Hinduja Global Solutions

At the opening of the Youth Development Centre in Haleem Nagar, around 150 children, 80 parents and 60 youth participated.

Guests at the event included Nagraj, Secretary of MESCO School, Shafi from Milath Trust, Shree Krishnan from the Vodafone Foundation who played a vital role in making it possible to open the two centres, and Kusum Mohapatra, State Head for the Magic Bus' programme in Karnataka.

Children, youth, parents, teachers and other community members came forward and supported the inauguration of both the youth development centres. The event was solely supported by the communities.

Thank you to all that made this happen!

To find out more about Magic Bus and how you can help us to make changes in communities like these, visit our website at