Pardeep lives with his parents and four siblings in a single room in JJ Colony within one of the largest resettlement slums in Delhi, Bhalswa. This 14-year-old community is mainly inhabited by migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Although they live in concrete homes which usually consist of 1 small room, they are in close proximity to a landfill area which creates a significant health hazard. To make things worse, the community is forced to use open spaces as their chamber pots. The drainage system is ill-maintained with open manholes, which carry risks for people living in that area.
Many children work as rag pickers helping their families to earn a meager sum of Rs.100/$1.5/£1 a day, which can barely provide a family of 4 with 1 meal a day. Employment opportunities in Bhalswa are limited and most men are involved in manual, daily wage labour at the construction sites and nearby wholesale vegetable market. Women in this community support their families by working as domestic maids in nearby houses.
Pardeep’s mother is a homemaker, and his father is a daily-wage earner who just about manages to make ends meet.
In 2010, when Magic Bus first set up a programme in J.J. Colony, Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO) Santosh Gupta noticed Pardeep, who came across as bright, positive and eager to make a difference to his community. He stood apart from other young boys in Bhalswa who tend to have little direction or guidance in life, and often fall into the trap of drug addiction and substance abuse.
Santosh asked him if he wanted to join Magic Bus as a Community Youth Leader (CYL). Excited at the opportunity to bring about change, Pardeep accepted. In October 2010, he completed his CYL training and started conducting Sport for Development (S4D) sessions for younger children in his community.
Pardeep enjoyed his work, and the fact that children and parents in his community started to look up to him. However, after a short phase of excellence as a Youth Leader, Pardeep’s enthusiasm and energy levels dropped. Over time, the situation became worse. Local youth had to request him to be prompt and active at sessions, but he retaliated, got angry and often argued with them. He also stopped communicating with his CYL co-workers.
When Santosh, his Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO) asked him why he was distracted, he would get irritable. Pardeep’s behaviour at home changed too. Pardeep’s friends and parents also tried approaching him about his changed attitude, but he said nothing. Soon, Pardeep stopped relating to the children in his sessions, and the programme altogether.
As a way to address the situation, he was asked to take part in a Community Youth Leader Refresher Training programme. Santosh thought this might help Pardeep relate to his goals. During the training, Community Youth Leaders were encouraged to share any experiences they had whilst conducting Sport for Development sessions, advocating for children’s rights with parents, and negotiating with the community for support. They also talked about life in general—both on and off the field.
During his counselling session at this refresher training, Pardeep admitted that he was facing a lot of pressure at home: “I will be finishing my degree this year. My parents keep reminding me that I must get a job, but there seems to be no opportunities out there for me.”
He was told about Connect, Magic Bus’ Livelihood Programme, where youth are trained to become job-ready. Through this intervention, Pardeep was able to improve his spoken English, IT and soft skills, and develop interview and job-readiness skills.
On completing the course, Pardeep was offered a job at the Government’s Income Tax Department in New Delhi at a salary of INR 8,000 (80 GBP/$100) per month. To supplement his income, Pardeep also started to run extra-curricular tuition classes for children enrolled on the Magic Bus programme.
As an incentive for CYLs to share and improve their communication skills, Magic Bus has a peer-sharing, feedback and recognition process. As a part of this process, Pardeep was named ‘CYL of the month’. At this point he realised he played a significant role in helping to build a brighter future for his community. With renewed enthusiasm, he started conducting Magic Bus sessions for children in his community once again.
Today, Pardeep is a changed young adult. He is looked up to as a smart, understanding, caring and responsible person, and someone who has the potential to make a significant difference in his own life as well as his community, and his family.
He is on track to graduate from University with a Bachelor’s degree, and is still employed by the Income Tax Department, a job which he takes seriously and enjoys very much. During his free time, Pardeep continues his commitment as a volunteer Community Youth Leader with Magic Bus, delivering vital life-changing lessons to children in his community, coaching them to complete their education and build a stable livelihood - empowering them to break out of poverty.
Pardeep reflects on his experience, “Magic Bus has been my best friend. An educated person is respected and better able to make changes in his/her own life and the lives of others. I have learnt this through the programme. It is important to make sure children grow up to be responsible and independent citizens."Back