In just over a decade, a quarter of a billion people will be added to the working population of India. "Imagine the entire working population of the US being added to India's current labour pool by 2030! That's how many people we are talking about," says Dr Surinder Kapur from the Sona Group, which runs a successful skill development initiative with Magic Bus.
"The big worry here is this: Only 20% of Indian school-goers finish high school, many drop out because basics — food, clothes, the wherewithal to access available opportunities — are out of reach," he adds.
In India, without education, it's very tough for the extremely poor to find dignifiedemployment and move out of poverty. And a very large number are extremely poor: a third of Indians earn just $1.25 (about Rs79) per day today.
Magic Bus's answer to make them job-ready has been simple: the organisation works from within to change their behaviour and arm them with an attitude that is set for success. As behaviour change is not something that happens overnight, they invest early and for the long-term to make this happen, basing their inputs on what they call a 'childhood to livelihood' model.
And that's why, they say, partnerships are so important. "We can't do this on our own," says Matthew Spacie, Magic Bus's founder and chairperson. "Strategic, long-term partners, such as the Sona Group, OAGN and Cleartrip, help in implementing this by breaking down our goal into achievable targets so that children and youth have the learning and connections they need to be ready for the job markets of the future."
"The other important part of this is creating a group of supporters who will literally cheer children on this journey from childhood towards dignified livelihoods as adults," says Superna Motwane, who, along with samaritans Shreyasi Goenka, Samantha Nayar and Sunaina Murthy, helps organise one of Mumbai's best-known charity auction and dinner events for this cause. "Issues such as poverty and unemployment are so complex and specialised that the average interested donor is disengaged even before s/he can take the first step in being part of the change."
Motwane and her fellow committee members have taken upon themselves to create an engaging, attractive way in which major priviledged donors and corporate houses can be part of social change projects. "The Magic Bus Benefit Dinner and Auction that we hold every year is how we take a serious, development-related cause to the familiar turf of a high-end event so that people can understand the issue even while remaining within a context they are used to," she adds.
What makes such an engagement possible is the sheer variety of donors who pitch in, contributing a range of exclusive products and services that are expertly curated and bundled by the hand-picked committee to create auction lots that are a must-have.
"For instance, we thought of an auction lot that packs in a range of exclusive sports events that patrons can watch from their own VIP boxes with friends or family, complemented by five-star service and hotel stays," says Motwane.
Complementing the auction itself are sponsorships. The title sponsor Sona Group supports Magic Bus not just by picking up a large portion of the event costs but also by running a skill development programme for Magic Bus youth.
"What's most important is that each entity can be part of the change for India's youth," says Motwane. "Whether you are someone with time, money, or resources at your disposal, we can find creative ways to put whatever you can give to good use."