It has been 10 years in Magic Bus and I am still thrilled about the work I do here. The children, communities, sports and so much more add value and memories to this journey. From a rugby player in the Magic Bus junior team to my present role as a Training Manager enabling Magic Bus staff and volunteers to carry out our activity-based curriculum in India and Bangladesh, I have come a long way. In the last 10 years, I came across various situations during which I was encouraged, challenged, criticised and supported - all with one single motive, that is to enable me grow to the best I can.
The Premier Skills programme, a course offered by the British Council and Premier League, was an opportunity that came my way. This ‘community coach educator’ programme helped me look at what I do with a different lens. Often as a trainer we are required to reinvent ourselves. This particular programme helped me think of new strategies to involve and dialogue with communities using the medium of sports and activities.
Over here, I must pause to explain why this is important in Magic Bus’ context. In Magic Bus, typically we organise community tournaments to kickstart our programme. We invite a large number of stakeholders – local leaders, headmasters of schools that we work with, parents and children. We organise a football match and get all of these stakeholders to participate. It helps us break the ice in the community. It gives us a platform, a foot-in-the door to begin some serious behaviour change conversations around gender equality or sending children to school. It is the playground that we begin our efforts to change.
I vouch for this approach. Countless times I have seen how parents voice their issues, school teachers open up about what works and what doesn’t in their schools, children talk about what issues they face at the end of a tournament. But at the Premier Skills programme I learnt that football as a medium might not be the best way to begin a conversation or include everybody. There are people who get left out because of the game we choose. True it breaks the ice but does it do the same for everyone?
That got me thinking. What can we do to transform a tournament to a celebration where all stakeholders have a role whether or not they can kick a ball? When I say celebration, I see people in community driving the programme all by themselves. In such a celebration, we can have activities that excite every single person. How about having different corners in the ground (the same football ground) well suited for different kinds of people? What about raising a platform where parents and donors can have a direct interaction? Or, parents and school teachers? Sounds interesting, right? We at Magic Bus have a whole host of engaging games that can be played by different age groups. And these could be used to begin a conversation among different groups of stakeholders who probably don’t know each other well but whose support is essential for the overall well-being of the children.
While football is an engaging sport widely viewed and liked by people across ages, it might not be enough to bring about collaboration or communication among different stakeholders in the community. While working with communities, we have to continuously reinvent our approach, and learn to unlearn different strategies that we might have used with success before.
By: Ravi Chauhan
Manager-Training, Magic Bus