What difference can I make? That’s 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 other—and significant—half of the Magic Bus family: The Childhood to Livelihood Programme.
The Youth Livelihood Center nurtures some of India’s 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