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.

Wednesday, November 2

Where there is will: Pooja Kashyap from Bhalswa, Delhi

Pooja started working the day she completed her higher secondary. “I had no option but to earn. The entire family of seven was dependant on my mother. She works as a cook in Nizamuddin.” 

Nizamuddin is at a distance of 27 kms from Bhalaswa, a resettlement colony in north-west Delhi where Pooja lives. “She earns Rs 9000 a month. It is simply not enough to feed a family of seven let alone paying for each of our education. I didn’t want my little siblings to stop going to school. As the eldest daughter, I wanted them to have the basic education I had.” Pooja explains.

On asking what her father did, she takes us back to the days when her family lived in a makeshift settlement (locally known as a ‘juggi’) in Nizamuddin. The family lived the longest there ever since Pooja’s grandparents moved to the city from Uttar Pradesh, in search of work. “I don’t remember my grandparents at all. They passed away when my father was young. When they died, he was in the sixth standard. He quit school and started looking after my grandparent’s vegetable stall in the locality. He married early and continued with the family business till we were asked to leave our home one day,” she narrates. 

A flyover was coming up and residents of Nizamuddin’s squatter colonies were given a piece of land for Rs. 7000 in Bhalaswa. “It looked like an attractive offer at first. To have some land of our own for such a little price. We had some savings to pay from. Father was optimistic that he can continue his business even in Bhalaswa. Just before we left Nizamuddin, father had begun making and selling papad and it was quite a successful venture. He would make the papad in the morning and sell at India Gate in the evenings. Business would pick up during late evenings and he would return home late in the night.”

With the family moving to Bhalaswa, Pooja’s father had to abandon the papad business. The distance was a deterrent.

 “We had no idea of Bhalaswa. Initially, we were just happy to own a piece of land at such a low cost. The conditions were appalling. There was a huge dumping ground nearby, and the entire area was this vast, marshy, land. But we had no place to go back. We were doomed to live here.” Pooja was in the third standard when the family moved to Bhalaswa. 

Although she could barely make sense of the new development in her life, the first thing she acutely missed was a play space. Meanwhile, Her father struggled to find work. He tried running a vegetable stall with his wife’s help. It failed. Their savings ran out. 

The family of eight was on the brink of a serious crisis.This is when her mother started working in Nizamuddin. She would cook in people’s homes and manage to put together some money to feed her children. Frustrated by repeated failures, Pooja’s father took to tobacco and gambling. When Pooja completed her 12th standard, her father left the family and disappeared.

“My elder brother had just finished secondary school. There were no jobs for him. It is here when Santosh bhaiya told me about this vacancy at Magic Bus,” she recalls.

It was not this crisis that brought Pooja to Magic Bus. Their association dates back almost six years ago when Magic Bus began working with children of Bhalaswa. It was a difficult area – a resettlement colony of migrants facing some of the harshest conditions of living. Children were exposed to an unhygienic environment and lack of basic necessities like clean, drinking water and a space to play and learn. As families struggled to make ends meet, children would be pulled out of school and sent to do odd jobs.

“I am grateful to my parents to have never taken me or my siblings off school. We struggled but my mother was very clear never to compromise on our education,” she says. Pooja became one of the earliest girls to be selected as a youth leader in her community.

“Initially, it didn’t mean anything. I thought it to be an opportunity to get out of my home and do something new. I loved teaching children. When I went through the Magic Bus training and curriculum, I was plumbed. There were so many things in it even I didn’t know. I was worried I would never be able to teach children. I was so grateful to have Santosh bhaiya guiding me through the entire process.” For Pooja, her proudest moment as a youth leader was when she would lead a group of girls from a minority community in her neighbourhood who would never be allowed to step out of their homes otherwise. 

“Ask a girl in Bhalaswa what freedom means? They would say, to be able to see the world outside their little homes, to be able to make friends without being asked questions about their character. Magic Bus gave us this sense of freedom. And purpose.” Pooja points out.

Before long, mindsets were shifting at the home front too. “My parents were conservative. While growing up, my sisters and I were not encouraged to interact with people outside our relatives. It was mostly safety that my parents were worried of. After I decided to become a Community Youth Leader and lead a bunch of children, both boys and girls, their reservations gave way. They saw how well-respected I was in the community because of my work,” Pooja explains.

“When I see myself now, I am surprised at how confident I have become,” she breaks into a smile. Four years ago when Pooja got an opportunity to work at Magic Bus, she was thrilled and relieved. 

“Relieved that the family wouldn’t have to go hungry and thrilled because it was Magic Bus – it was like working with people I know and cared for,” she explains. However, she did not get to be the Youth Mentor of Bhalaswa. Instead, she was supposed to take charge of Timarpur, 10 kms away from her community. “I was ready for the challenge,” she says, giving away a certain firmness in her voice, a character she feels guided her through the difficult times in her life.

In the last four years, Pooja has worked with 750 children and mentored more than 27 youth leaders in Timarpur. She has also completed her Bachelors in Social Work and has enrolled in a Masters course with IGNOU. 

She pays for her education and also contributes to the family income. Her father has returned. But few months ago, his right leg had to be amputated because of gangrene. Pooja and her brother Madan, who works as a Centre Coordinator in Magic Bus’ Livelihoods Centre, stood by their mother during this entire phase. They continue to do so.

Pooja plans to build her career as a development professional. “If you have lived the life of an underprivileged, how can you not work for and with them?” her parting answer is an inspiration in itself.

Wednesday, September 28

Choosing to be independent despite odds: Bi Bi Sara Fatima

21-year-old Sara Fatima belongs to Mysore and has been in the city all her life. She lives with her parents, a younger sister and her paternal grandmother in Shanthinagar slum cluster of Mysore. There are 8,843 such slum clusters in her city; she and her family are a part of the 4.24% of the population who live in slums, shorn of the most basic of necessities.

This is Sara Fatima
Sara lives with her family of five in a one-room house, whose monthly rent is three thousand rupees. Most people in her locality work as labourers in garment factories or are vegetable hawkers. Women and children are mostly employed in household businesses of rolling bidis. Although she feels at home here, the colony comes with its own share of problems. “We get drinking water on alternate days in a week, and the supply lasts for not more than three hours.” she says, “In summers, the water shortage is nothing less than a crisis. Lack of electricity adds to our difficulties.” There is no regular process of garbage disposal exposing the locals to a host of diseases.

But Shanthinagar also has its own share of some deep-rooted problems. Women in the community are discouraged from earning their own livelihoods; instead they are married off at an early age. 

“When girls in my community go out and work, it is considered to be a matter of shame,” says Sara, “Although most of them attend school, they are not allowed to study beyond the tenth grade, and are instructed to take up household responsibilities instead.”

Closer home, Sara’s family continues to remain fraught with some long standing issues around health and well-being.

Long before she was born, Sara’s father severely injured his leg in a road accident. He had an intramedullary rod inserted in his leg. Although the doctors instructed him to have it removed a few years later, the family didn’t have enough money to get the surgery done. It now causes him immense knee-pain, so much so, it gets difficult for him to walk at times.

“I hate seeing my father in such unbearable pain,” says Sara, “We are helpless. The government hospitals don’t have the adequate equipment, and we cannot afford expensive surgery.”  His father now paints automotive parts for two-wheelers. But the job is far from regular - he only works when there is a demand for it

Sara's father at work
“On months when there is work he makes Rs. 2000. It is a painful situation to be – we all want him to recover but we don’t have the means to do that or relieve him from working at least,” she explains.
Sara and her family of five survive on a little more than Rs 2000 every month. And, sometimes, when there is no work for her father, even lesser than that.

Her mother is just one among the several beedi workers in their colony. The women are provided with the raw materials, instructed to do the job at their homes and deliver the finished products at a local shop. She earns seven hundred rupees on a monthly basis, all of which is spent on Sara’s sister’s education, who is presently in the ninth grade at a government school. The other somewhat steady income is the money that they receive by availing the government-provided Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, but the entire sum of five hundred rupees is spent on the treatment of her grandmother’s prolonged gastritis.

Sara's mother making beedis
In 2008, Sara had to drop out from school because her family could afford the education of only one daughter. She was merely thirteen years old and in the eighth grade.

“Back then, I wasn’t upset because I didn’t think that quitting my education was a big deal, I had never valued it.” she says, “It took me a couple of years to realize that my life was utterly meaningless. Besides helping my mother with a little household work, I used to be at home all day and do absolutely nothing.”

When Sara turned eighteen in 2013, she decided to bring about a change in her life. With the little savings they had, she registered herself in a 3-year long Urdu diploma course, as she’d always taken a keen interest in the language.  She also pursued two tailoring courses from the Umad Polytechnic Institution, over a span of one year. It cost her seven hundred rupees.

When asked why she didn’t spend the same savings on her education in school instead, she said, “I thought it would be a selfish move. I can always study later, but by opting for the courses I could make use of my skills and contribute to the income of my household at the time. Staying in school would’ve been relatively more expensive.” 

The courses helped her learn the nuances of zarri work and hand embroidery, and she engaged herself in tailoring for the colony needs, earning a little more than a hundred rupees every month.  She also provided Quran tuitions to seven children from neighbouring homes, earning three hundred rupees in the process.

But the turning point in her life came when she joined Magic Bus in November 2015. She learnt about it from her old school. The principal from her school recalled Sara’s economic plight and through her sister reached out to Sara. She promptly came to meet the Magic Bus volunteers. The Magic Bus volunteers convinced her about the importance of getting enrolled in the Livelihoods programme. 

Although her parents were hesitant at first, they eventually gave in. She was given vocational training for three months, which helped better her speaking and writing skills. She was also taught to operate an Urdu software when the volunteers learnt about her fondness for the language. She is now a paid staff member, earning five thousand rupees on a monthly basis.

“The people here treat me with respect and as one of their own.” says Sara, “I am given an opportunity to learn something new every day. It’s like I’ve started my life all over again.” She serves as an office assistant, often writing articles on the Magic Bus workshops, preparing reports and interacting with other volunteers on a daily basis. Even then, her monthly family income barely manages to cross eight thousand, against an average monthly expenditure of ten thousand. It is a constant struggle to afford their basic needs.

But it isn’t like only financial restraints constitute the problems in Sara’s life. “Even though my parents’ attitude towards my job has considerably improved, they’d still rather have me at home,” she says, “Even to this day my parents feel that I should get married and settle down. But I’ve vowed that will never happen until I’ve helped my sister complete her education.”

There is a silver lining. For the first time in her life, Sara feels independent, self-willed, and happy. “Magic Bus has helped me in ways I cannot express. Besides providing me with a steady job, it has helped me overcome my anxiety and become a confident person.” she smiles, “A few months back, I had never even seen a computer for myself; now, I am able to effortlessly work on one, that too daily!”

Even in the face of ongoing struggles, Sara has learnt to never let go of her optimism. She has high aspirations for the future.

“I think people need not give up on their education even after their circumstances might have forced them to do so. I plan to save as much money as I can and take up correspondence courses and complete my education. Furthermore, I want my father to be relieved of his pain, and never want my sister to compromise with her dreams.” she says, “Initially, I wished to be an Urdu teacher. But I now want to continue working with Magic Bus and make a difference in others’ life like they have done for me,” she signs off.

You can help create a better future for the children and youth of this country, Click here to donate.

Tuesday, September 20

Sofya and Reyna’s Magical Birthday

Birthdays come with such joy and happiness – all your loved ones gathered around that scrumptious cake to celebrate you! It also comes with the inevitable question – What gift would you like for your birthday?

Many of us would jump at this question with a long list of items but one of our longest supporters, Kavita Mehta’s daughters’ Sofya and Reyna had a simple and heartwarming answer. They wanted to help children living in extreme poverty get an opportunity to live a better life.

They chose to forego gifts and requested their friends and family to pledge support for Magic Bus through AllButCake instead and helped us raise funds to move children out of poverty.

Their mother Kavita Mehta said, “When we were finalising plans for the girls’ 10th birthday celebrations, the girls were clear that, instead of getting and receiving gifts, many of which would remain unused, they would rather give to an organization that could use the funds to do good. Since we had celebrated their older sister’s 10th birthday at the Magic Bus Centre at Karjat three years earlier, they thought this time we could donate funds to the NGO.”

She also added, “While our donation is only a drop in the bucket, we hope that Magic Bus can use it to extend their fabulous, life-changing programs to reach more young people.”

We are delighted to have been a part of Sofya and Reyna’s birthday. On behalf of our children, we thank Sofya and Reyna.

Inspired by this story? You can pledge your birthday too – Just head to AllButCake. 

Thursday, September 8

Behind the scenes: Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy

Bhavna (in the middle) with her friends.

Twelve Magic Bus children travelled all the way to USA to attend the prestigious soccer training by Julie Foudy. “It has been a month since we all came back. And I am still to wake out of the reverie,” says 17-year-old Bhavna of Trilokpuri in east Delhi. For her, it was her first journey outside Trilokpuri. “I haven’t seen much in Delhi except the place I live in,” she says.

Bhavna belongs to a family of five. Her mother was thrown out of her in-laws house because she failed to conceive even a year after her marriage. “She was 15 years old during her marriage. It was because of my grandmother that we got a roof over our head and the inspiration to study. She was the reason my parents never pulled us out of school despite severe economic hardships”. Bhavna’s father is a chauffeur with a salary of Rs. 7000 per month. Her brother had to drop out in the tenth standard to support the family. “He wanted a government job. He drives trucks now.” Bhavna and her two sisters could pursue higher education because of her brother’s sacrifice.

Bhavna joined Magic Bus four years ago. Her Magic Bus mentor encouraged her to pursue her dreams to become a footballer. She also advised her to never let go of education. With her support, Bhavna played as a part of Delhi’s under-19 women’s football team. “I was the only girl in the team from an economically weaker family. I felt lonely. No one wanted to be friends with me. My performance won them over,” she reminisces. At the JFSLA, she no longer felt alienated. “On the contrary, people here were warm and curious about me and my country. I spoke, listened and experienced. I learnt how to communicate with people without fear,” she puts it simply.

Back home, her economic struggles are far from over. Although there are three earning members, the combined income barely puts an end to the regular struggle for basic necessities. She still borrows money from her friends to pay for practice at the Noida stadium. She wants to study but her ambition is to become a footballer. “I want to help street children go back to school. It pains me to see them begging on the street,” she says.

Bhavna’s parting message is an encouraging insight into how young people living in poverty want to change the world around them. 

Monday, July 25

Inspiring a generation of girls in her community: Nazmeen from Delhi

19-year-old Nazmeen lives at Haiderpur in north Delhi.

Her father migrated from Bihar in search of better livelihood opportunities leaving his wife, Nazmeen’s mother, behind. Nazmeen was not even born then. “This is how it happens. Initially, men marry, leave their wives and go to the cities in search of work. They seldom return, consumed by the attractions of a city life and unreasonable working hours,” she explains. 

After three years of her parents’ marriage, Nazmeen’s mother decided to follow her husband to Delhi. She had three children by then. With no source of income and little-to-no support from her husband, it became increasingly inconvenient for her to just depend on relatives.

Her struggles followed her to Delhi where she lived at Anand Parvat slum cluster with her children. Her husband worked as an ice-cream vendor with little to no income. There were days when the family of five would go without food. Yet, Nazmeen’s father would give no more than Rs 500 to support his family. The rest of his income went into alcohol and gambling.

Nazmeen with her parents

On a neighbour’s advice Nazmeen’s mother decided to move to a juggi at Haiderpur with her children. She also started working as a domestic help, earning Rs. 2,500 per month. The family was saved from starvation; but it meant that her elder brothers had to stop going to school and take up daily wage work at construction sites instead.

In her mother’s absence, Nazmeen’s elder sister discontinued schooling and took up domestic responsibilities. At 17, Nazmeen’s eldest sister got married. 

“She is 30 years old now, and has four children. She was pregnant within a year of her marriage, at 18. I could never find out what her dreams could be. I shudder to think of life like hers,” her voice breaks as she recalls her sister who was almost like a mother to her.

Nazmeen got a chance to go to school at the age of six. She would see children in the neighbourhood go to school and plead with her mother to send her to one. Following her footsteps, her younger brother also got enrolled. “I remember both of us went to get enrolled. We were the last ones and the school refused admission. On pleading with them, they said one of us could get enrolled. 

My brother asked me to take the seat. “I will get enrolled in the next year, behen,” he said. I would never forget that moment. It was then that I vowed to make the most of the opportunity I got, ” her voice struggles to remain steady.

Throughout school she worked hard, never forgetting her brother’s sacrifice, her mother’s struggles and her resolve to make the best out of the opportunity she alone had. She never came second in class. “I worked hard. No one forced me to. At home, my mother and elder brothers could only think of putting two meals together. I struggled to learn so that I could put an end to their suffering. When my eldest brother got married, my mother loaned Rs. 2 lakhs to build a brick-and-cement home with two rooms. She worked harder to pay back,” she remembers.

When Nazmeen came home with a glowing report card at the end of each year, there would be no one to share her happiness. Her mother, worn out by financial troubles, would ‘place her hand on her head, utter a blessing and wipe a tear from the corner of her eyes’.

“It would leave me with a biting sense of guilt that I was not supporting her financially. But, I would console myself by saying that a time would come when I would support her better with better pay and working conditions,” she explains.
Nazmeen's mother reflecting upon her daughter's journey.

Nazmeen scored 75 percent in the tenth standard. Her teachers were happy with her performance but she was sad. She knew her family would not support her dream to study further. Her mother confirmed her worst fears. 

“She asked me to learn Urdu and take sewing lessons instead. She was concerned that I did not have any skills to become a suitable bride,” Nazmeen laughs.

She was admitted to a madrasa but couldn’t continue beyond one month. “I was simply not interested. I pleaded with my mother to send me to school. After a lot of fights, she permitted me to study for two more years. I was relieved,” she says.

Nazmeen paid her school fees from a scholarship she had won for her academic achievements in the tenth standard. “I came first in the 11th standard examination and scored 86 percent in the higher secondary examination,” she says, a hint of pride in her voice. However, she knew her mother would not allow her to go to college. But she wanted to make a last desperate attempt to convince her. She requested her mother to accompany her to the school to collect her higher secondary report card. At school, her mother met Nazmeen’s teachers. All of them heaped praises on her daughter’s performance and appealed to her to let Nazmeen study further. But she was not convinced.

“My brothers supported my mother’s decision to not allow me to go to college. They were worried that I would become “too educated” to get any groom," she explains.
Nazmeen soon found a way to go to college. She was aware of Rs. 6000 in her bank account from a government sponsorship (Ladli scheme) for adolescent girls in Delhi. She got herself enrolled in an open learning course (BA in Political Science) in Delhi University. 

“No one in my family knew about it. I wanted to study further. After coming so far, I didn’t want to stop. I chose this course because there would be no regular classes, just one examination in six months. I thought I could make an excuse and give my examination,” she explains. 

However, her little secret was soon out in the open. Her family was going through a financial crisis when her mother asked her to withdraw the money from her account. This is when she confessed that the money was gone; she had used it to get enrolled in a college.

 “My mother was angry and upset. She stopped talking to me. I pleaded with her. I agreed to do all housework if she would allow me to sit for the examination once in six months” she says. After a lot of convincing, she relented.
Nazmeen studies at her house

A year ago, another opportunity came her way. Magic Bus’ programme had just begun in her locality. Pooja, Magic Bus’ Youth Mentor, approached her with an offer: How would she like teaching children the importance of education through activities?

“I loved the idea of Magic Bus. I thought I could make use of my free time and teach children. But my mother refused to allow me to step outside. She was not comfortable with the fact that both boys and girls would come for these sessions and I would be wearing the Magic Bus uniform in front of the entire community,” she explains. 

Pooja, however, succeeded in convincing her mother to send Nazmeen for the sessions. But, on the first day itself, her brother told her that such freedom is not ‘honourable’ for adolescent girls and strictly forbade her from going to the sessions ever again. “I was a Community Youth Leader for a day”, she sighs.

Pooja never lost touch with Nazmeen. She would often visit her and talk to her about her career plans. It was from Pooja that Nazmeen first heard about Magic Bus’ Livelihoods Centre. Pooja convinced her mother to send her for these classes, assuring her that she would be under strict supervision.

Nazmeen started attending the training at Magic Bus’ Livelihoods Centre from November 2015. She started classes on life-skills, computer lessons, and English literacy. The staff helped her plan her career ahead. But Nazmeen seemed to have hit a dead end. She didn’t want to dream any further.

“I was exhausted fighting at home. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to do a job. I knew they were looking for a groom for me. I shared my problems with the counsellor. I shared my dream to become a teacher one day. She listened to me. She gave me the confidence to negotiate with my mother again. She assured me that she would even come to my house to meet my mother. I have never received such support from anyone in my life,” she shares.

Nothing Nazmeen said could convince her mother to allow her to work. “She told me clearly that our neighbours would start looking down on my brothers if I start working outside. I was crestfallen. I thought my luck had run out,” Nazmeen says. 

The next day, she was surprised to find Magic Bus’ staff at her doorstep. The Centre Coordinator and the Counsellor visited her house, and spoke to her mother and brothers.

 “If it hadn’t been for Mithilesh sir, Avinash sir, and Jayata ma’am, I would have been stuck at home now. All my efforts would have gone in vain,” she says.

In December 2015, Nazmeen got her first job with the HDFC bank for a salary of Rs. 10,000 a month. “I couldn’t believe myself. For the first time, my mother was happier than me. She knew I could support her financially,” she says, adding, “I don’t fault her for being difficult with me all these years. She had never seen any better during her youth. She was my sole confidante all this while. My father was never there for any of us, but she was.”
Nazmeen with her Mother

Nazmeen gives a part of her salary to her mother and saves a small part for a teacher-training course. 

“I haven’t forgotten my dream yet. It is to be a teacher,” her voice sparkles with silent excitement as she looks forward to her dreams with renewed vigour.