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.