Stories that matter.
Stories that matter. Stories that matter.
Bringing Hope In Despair
Life Skills: A Key to Women’s Empowerment

Harshita Arvind, our newest hire in Relationships, shares her experience of being at her first Magic Bus session held at an East Delhi location.

July 6, 2012: “Woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep..”. It was the first Friday of July when I happened to experience a Magic Bus session, my first exposure to what my organisation exactly does at the grassroots. Indeed, we all have miles to go before we sleep and I must say, the journey for some very lucky children has already begun, thanks to what the Magic Bus volunteers do in the community.

The winding alleys of the slum of Noida Sector 16 and the matchbox-sized houses of the large families may not be the most eye-feasting sites. They do, however, give your heart a skip and jolt your mind to do more than what you have been really doing. I was brought out of this internal turmoil by Deepak, our Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO), as I realised almost instantly how popular these young boys and girls (the Community Youth Leaders or CYLs) are in their communities. Affectionately called bhaiyas and didis, they sure played exactly the same role I've read and been briefed about during my induction. In no time, Deepak had a sea of jostling children, all wearing their playing gear and ready to have some fun. He led them, and I along with the other visitors followed the gang.

I learnt from Deepak and the local Youth Mentor (YM) Praveen that Sector 16 is home to approximately 20,000 people, most of who work as casual labourers on daily wages. A small population is also engaged in low-paying government jobs, and some daring men and women set up small businesses. The number of children on the programme here is growing since its initiation in April this year, and we have around 150 children in the age group of 7-15 years here. Our mentors said that they were expecting a greater number of children that day, but many of them could not join because of the infamous Delhi-summers heat.

Deepak and Pravin began the session by gathering the children and grouping them into two. Many children were as new as me to the session, and sported an equally confused look, trying to decipher the significance of this random running from one end to the other. The veterans, if one could say so, on the other hand, had a spirit of competition, trying to outrun the runners ahead of them. Our young leaders interfered and got them back in the files and the correct order.

The game was followed by an activity using a handball, much on the lines of how a main activity from the Magic Bus session break-up would be. We wound up the session with a football match. I joined in too, and had a great time kicking the ball. I must say, the spirit and zeal with which the children were playing reminded me of my days as a sport enthusiast.

We stopped the game after around 40 minutes of play. A cooling-down activity helped us relax and we sat down in a circle for the review. It sort of gives a high to see how the children know there is something beyond the play. The 'sport-plus' dimension of Magic Bus, as Pratik Kumar, our Chief Operating Officer, puts it is clearly visible. Today's learning involved the value of playing, keeping our environment clean and healthy, and respecting and giving equal opportunities to girls at play, school and work. It was interesting to see how everything that existed already, surfaced in form of short messages from each one of the children, and got compiled into a lesson to last, as the mentors weaved the learning for the day around them.

The evening was eventful, and brought me close to harsh realities of an Indian underprivileged neighbourhood. It was indeed a day of a kind. I learnt about the the complex intricacies of not-so-provided-for sub-urban life, as well as how a small streak of hope can lit up a thousand smiles, at just one go. Pilelo!