The first African-American President of the USA once said, “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself, that you realise your true potential.” These are the wise words of a man who, during his early years, found himself trapped in a cobweb of narcotics, poverty and, the worst of all, discrimination. Despite all the forces that were working against him to bring him down, he managed to do the unexpected: To achieve milestones that nobody had ever even remotely imagined.
And that is what Magic Bus is all about – empowering the underprivileged through means of sports, and transforming the world around them. It is about catalysing change in communities and children. It is about creating “magic”, as the name suggests to a plethora of districts all across the nation.
Some think that Magic Bus is all about sports and children. I thought so too until yesterday. But what happened yesterday brought about a different perception. It changed what I, as other partially-oblivious bourgeois people, think about Magic Bus. This NGO is different. It isn’t concentric to one cause. To put it metaphorically, it has one root, but many branches. It has one path – the power of sports – but many beneficiaries. Magic Bus uses its concept to not only pull children out of poverty but also to change the mindset of their parents and families.
As Shaona and Sonia briefed us on our first day of our internship, Tuesday, December 10, 2013, was a big day for us at Magic Bus Bangalore. We were to organise a first-of-its-kind family meet for all the Youth Mentors (YMs) and Training and Monitoring Officers (TMOs). This was a day for the families of the family of YMs and TMOs that have continued to support Magic Bus Bangalore through their hard work.
The day started with a rigorous set up. Appreciation Magic Bus tags and candles for all attendees, posters and banners sprawled across the venues, carpets, flowers and seats to add a finishing touch. As we eagerly waited for all the 13 YMs, our chief guests, to arrive with their families, we broke out into heavy chattering over light refreshments.
To see these simple, down-to-earth, yet confident and exuberant youth all dressed up for their big day was great. Amidst the bustle, I noticed something different. This day, for a change in an average Indian household, was one for the women of the family. As the proud TMOs entered with an air of importance, the men of their families followed. And that’s what felt good: the female domination that had scattered across the event. To see more women than men playing their own part to change their surroundings almost brought tears to my eyes.
The introductory session conducted by Lawrence was an exciting start to the event. Post the YMs introduction on their role in Magic Bus, family members were asked to speak of how their lives had changed since these women (and a minority of two men) started to spend a majority of their time outside their homes – interacting with other men, women and children. To hear the praises that went around as well as the words of encouragement from the families for these YMs really created an impact.
Following that great start, an ice breaking session was conducted through a balloon-bursting game. As Sonia cleverly pointed out, a concept as simple as blowing and bursting balloons in teams of two brought about creativity through ‘participation’ and all in all created a ‘fun’ and ‘experimental learning’ platform for all. ‘Mentored’ by Narsimha, all teams took part in a fair and fun game that brought a signature Colgate smile on everybody’s faces.
We then moved back into the room for an interactive session conducted by Anu on one of our core concerns – the Child Protection Policy. Comically asking Narsimha to translate her fluent English into the simplest of Kannada words, Anu cast a light on one of Magic Bus’ most important agendas: how to save your child from wrong. She brought about an active discussion and got many parents to voice their opinions.
Sonia, her eyes reflecting her many years of experience in this field, then conducted a recognition segment, which, in my opinion, was the most important of them all. The importance, praises and confidence instilled in the YMs through anecdotes of their collaborative experiences at the sessions not only made the YMs feel proud but also reassured their families. These YMs were working so hard to change the lives of a total of 9,123 children across Bangalore. That’s a HUGE number to achieve in just one year, with just a team of 13. To reiterate what Sonia said, it’s not quantity, it’s the quality that’s the focus. When one puts in their heart and soul into something, the outcome automatically shows. Sure there’s a target of 11,000 children – but with such women leaders, nothing is impossible. As Kavita Aka, a TMO, put it, “The aim for 2014 is to have each YM become a TMO, and for each of the 25 CYLs to have 25 more CYLs and multiplied number of children under the Magic Bus umbrella.”
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. That’s what I saw in the eyes of each of the attendees yesterday, and that is what makes Magic Bus so awesome. If the leader of this magical organisation is itself an epitome of an example, the rest will definitely create leaders of the same willpower. It’s a domino effect – Mr. Spacie left his well-paying CEO job to become a social worker, the YMs left their restricted lifestyles to change the lives of many, the families left their bread-winning jobs to support their kin, and I left my old perception to think afresh and, hopefully, do a thousandth of what Magic Bus does to change my motherland, my home – the nation of many with all hearts beating as one – India.
Thank you Nidhi Singh (Magic Bus intern from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) for sharing this wonderful story.
To find out more about Magic Bus, visit www.magicbus.org