Stories that matter.
Stories that matter. Stories that matter.

Ryan Ballard reports AIF Clinton Fellowship and Magic Bus display at 2012 Mumbai Marathon.

On Sunday January 14, 2012, Mumbai celebrated the Ninth Annual Mumbai Marathon and Dream Walk that attracted over 22,000 people from all sorts of backgrounds to walk and run for a various causes. It was an opportunity to open the city up for pedestrians to enjoy the charming ambience of South Mumbai on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning.

The event was also a great platform to display to participants, crowd goers and people of Mumbai, the great efforts that NGOs and other social enterprises are constantly engaged in as a means towards transforming Mumbai into a better and more equitable city. As Clinton Fellows working at Magic Bus, Sukanya Purkayastha and I wanted to promote awareness around Magic Bus itself, as well as American India Foundation (AIF) – the foundation that has given us the opportunity to work for ten months contributing and learning from a NGO that already does great work.

What are AIF and the William J Clinton Fellowship?

The AIF is devoted to catalyzing social and economic change in India. It is the largest diaspora philanthropy organization focused on India and based out of the United States. Since inception, AIF has benefited more than 1.5 million people, by implementing programs through over 150 Indian non-governmental organizations. One of it’s signature programs is the William J Clinton Fellowship for Service in India – a ten month long service program that gives both American and Indians who are highly qualified and capable of becoming life-long ambassadors for service to the marginalized and underserved in India to work with credible NGOs and social enterprises in the name of enhancing social change in India.

This year is the first year that Clinton Fellows have been placed with Magic Bus – a partnership that hopes to strengthen the delivery and impact of Magic Bus endeavors, all for the benefit of the marginalized children of Mumbai that Magic Bus works with. Sukanya and I are those fellows for class 2011-2012.

The T-Shirts: For the big event, we wanted to find a way to promote our fellowship, as well as Magic Bus. Working with AIF board member Sridar Iyengar and several departments at Magic Bus to organize a session with kids from BPT – one of our communities for our Mumbai-based program – we came up with this t-shirt idea. The simple vision for the session was to do what we do best at Magic Bus: let the kids play. We collected plain white Magic Bus t-shirts and purchased the right supplies to let the children in the Magic Bus Explorer and Challenger age groups explore their creativity and make some cool shirts for us and other Clinton Fellows to wear at the Dream Walk. To make the session even more beneficial for the kids, it not only included arts and crafts, but also included lessons on the importance of creativity in life, as well as reminders to the kids of important themes and lessons they have learned in Magic Bus sporting sessions. Some of these themes were incorporated into the pictures painted by the kids, along with other images that manifested from their own imaginations (such as tigers and snakes).

The end result was t-shirts that were transformed from plain white to bright collages of a child’s mind, with small haath ke chaap (hand prints) that represented the power of youth and their need for change. Amongst all these images was also the Magic Bus logo on the front, the William J Clinton Fellowship for Service in India hand-written on the back, and AIF on the sleeves –representing the new partnership between the two entities this year.

A handful of the thirty 2011-2012 Clinton Fellows – working with other organization and initiatives such as Muktangan, the Akanksha Foundation, Dasra, the National Skills Development Initiative and Saathii of Chennai – showed off the shirts during the walk in solidarity for a cause. The shirts drew a lot of attention from others at the event, including reporters from NDTV who gave a short interview!

A Word About Bombay Port Trust (BPT): One of the many communities that we work with in Mumbai resides within BPT. This area has some of the most challenging circumstances that exist in most of our targeted communities. With serious sanitation issues due to lack of water access and mass amounts of trash and chemical waste accumulated, low education levels, presence of gang activity and income levels remaining quite low, along with being classified as an illegal slum community without housing or land rights and that is constantly threatened by the BMC and BPT for eviction, children who grow up here have a very challenging life with little opportunity.

Magic Bus has worked in BPT for many years and have trained an adequate number of those who have graduated from our programs in peer leadership to empower other youth and community members through our sporting programs. Through this fellowship, Sukanya and I have had a lot of exposure to BPT and its residents, and we have the chance to do many projects to work towards progress for these people. We chose BPT kids to make our shirts since this is a community, like many others in Mumbai, which highlights a great need for change and support in this city.

A big thank you to everyone who made the shirts possible, including Mr. Sridar Iyengar for his generous support. Most of all, a big thanks to the amazing kids! Hopefully we can incorporate more art sessions into Magic Bus curriculum of play for high impact development programmes!

To learn more about the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India, please visit the fellowship blog here.