Sixteen-year old Sonu lives in the Begumpur Community in South Delhi. Health, hygiene and education issues affect the community, and most children don't go to school regularly.
Residents are mostly forced migrants from the East Indian state of Bihar, fleeing the agricultural crises that had left millions impoverished. In Delhi, they find jobs as guards and drivers. Those with neither the skills nor capital to open their own petty shops end up working as daily wage labourers.
“I grew up almost like a boy in the company of my two elder brothers. Use of foul language and picking up petty fights were my forte to the point where other children feared me. I was rowdy and always adamant to have things my way. Most of my day was spent whiling away time just doing this and that, I eventually dropped out of school after sixth grade - attending school just never interested me,” says Sonu.
Then things started to change. “I enrolled onto Magic Bus sessions a year ago. It was great fun, from day one,” said Sonu, sharing her excitement. The sessions that Sonu is talking about are held 40 times a year, and last for 2 hours each. The entire learning-through-games approach is called the Sport for Development curriculum, and is designed specifically for children like Sonu.
It was during one of the Magic Bus sessions where the importance of education and going to school was being addressed that Sonu felt the penny drop. “I realised that over the first few months of attending sessions, I had become different. I observed an immense change in my attitude and behaviour. I stopped picking fights with other children, I was becoming friendly and kinder, and started to respect and care for my parents,” expressed Sonu.
“She has gradually developed an interest in studies and spends her evenings trying hard to understand the lessons taught at school,” adds her proud mother with a smile.
Youth Mentor, Amar, and Community Youth Leader, Deepak, in-charge of the Begumpur Community, spotted a spark for cricket in the young girl during Barclays Cricket for Change sessions. “The energy and enthusiasm Sonu brings to the playground has boosted confidence in many other girls"
The Begumpur settlement, like any other poor neighbourhood in Delhi, is not quite open to developing girl children, but the change in Sonu is so significant that every friend of hers is inspired. "You could say that she has single-handedly inspired other girls to enrol on to Magic Bus sessions”, said Amar.
Today Sonu is back at her local school studying in the eighth grade. When she grows up she wants to open a commodity store in her community to make life easier for the residents who have to travel far to make every day purchases.