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The first organisation to deliver high-impact development sport for programmes, Magic Bus aims to create a world where children have the freedom to choose the role they want to play in life and be able to define their own destiny. A large part of the organisation’s work is to promote gender equality, with special emphasis on ensuring the welfare of the girl child. The target audience of the Magic Bus are children and youth. Its philosophy revolves around the concept of mentoring, feels Nilima Pathak from Gulf News.

New Delhi: They had heard stories of angels and their magic wands. But with no such luck in their lives, hundreds of children through sheer grit made it possible to break out of poverty.

A wide smile crosses their lips as some of them talk to Gulf News about their experience with Magic Bus (MB). It is the first organization in India to deliver high-impact development programmes through a sports-based curriculum.

Twenty-one-year-old Parvati lives with her parents and six siblings. Coming from a family of construction workers, she is completing a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Mumbai University. Fortunately for her, Parvati’s parents were unlike most in their neighbourhood, who never allowed their daughters to go and play with other children. Girls were forced to stay at home and learn to cook. So, when most of her friends got married and were struggling with premature pregnancies, Parvati was at school, enjoying her studies.

She is now working as a community leader for MB and also training to be a football coach. Breaking out of her circumstances, she has brought about a change in her own and family’s future.

Radhika was 17years old in 2010 when MB touched her life. A mentor with the NGO, she is studying for her graduation. She says, “My mother is also into social work and since I had free time at home, she suggested I take up voluntary service. MB happened just around that time.

“Initially, I was not very sure of myself, but have become a very confident person now. Not only has my thinking towards life changed, I also try to instill in parents of other young girls to let their daughters come out from their homes and educate themselves,” Radhika informs.

Though she works with a team of 20 volunteers - 10 boys and 10 girls, Radhika says she finds people are very reluctant in sending their girls to us. “It is not easy to explain how their narrow lives can be transformed through the message that MB spreads on gender equality,” she says.

While working with MB, Radhika has grown so attached to the children from the nearby slums, who come to play with her, that she has already taken the decision to be associated with MB life-long.

Gulafsha is 17 and has been to the United States to be part of a football coaching camp. Having completed her high school board examinations, she will now be going for the summer Olympics in London. She lives with her parents and brother in Mahim, a section of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. Encouraged by the Magic Bus team and subsequently by her parents, Gulafsha represented Magic Bus at the 2010 FIFA Football for Hope and at the Julie Foudy Sports and Academy in 2011.

The confident girl, who was only nine-years-old when MB approached her, says, “I have no reservations in telling people about my growing up years in a slum. In fact, people are amazed that I could achieve so much despite coming from a humble background. A lot of people say that I have set an extraordinary example for other children to emulate.”

MB aims to create a world where children have the freedom to choose the role they want to play in life and be able to define their own destiny. A large part of MB’s work is to promote gender equality, with special emphasis on the girl child.

Presently, 4 out of every 10 MB children are girls and 40 per cent volunteer mentors are young women.

Informs Pratik Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of MB, “As part of our programme, we organize football and cricket matches and the teams include both boys and girls. Our mission is to reach the families living in poverty and turn around their lives by taking them on a journey from childhood to livelihood.”

The target audience of MB is children and youth and its philosophy revolves around the concept of mentoring. Explains Kumar, “The entire concept works as a chain. Children who are taught by the mentors grow up to becoming mentors and take up the challenge further by educating youngsters.

“Mentors are actually community leaders from the same villages and slums and serve as agents of change. And many among them have today become role models.” In his opinion, lack of access, opportunity and participation continue to be key challenges to moving people away from poverty. “In fact, there are now 60 million more people living in poverty compared to 20 years ago when the number was much less,” the CEO claimed.

MB fosters the mentors to deliver the researched, activity-based curricula it has pioneered. This includes using sporting activities in bringing about behavioural change, providing access to education and health services and developing social and emotional skills in a child. Kumar adds, “The mentor programme begins when a child is six-years-old. The idea is to catch them young and create confidence in them from a tender age. Sporting activities and games are structures into each session of the programme to make them fun and appealing to the children.” Moreover, these are designed in a manner, which represent real-life situations and challenges. This enables the children to relate to these and be able to understand and act accordingly. Empowered, they not only stand up for themselves and make choices in their lives, but also become role models for hundreds around them.

Founded by Matthew Spacie, in 1999, MB currently works with over 2,00,000 children and 8000 young adults in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa. By 2015, MB plans to reach 1 million children across some of the poorest villages in the country.

The author is a correspondent with Gulf News. Read the original article here