East Kidwai Nagar is located near the INA Metro Station. The area is quite developed when compared to other low-income neighbourhoods, there are Government quarters and local shopping arcades in the vicinity. Unlike their neighbours in these government quarters who have all the basic amenities such as toilets, taps with drinking water and electricity available, the residents of the jhuggi-jhopdi clusters have neither houses nor toilets. They use the local Sulabh Sauchalaya located in INA which is a good 10-minute walk. (The Sulabh Shauchalayas are run by a non-profit organisation committed to bring sanitation to the poor in India).
On the positive side, the neighbourhood is considered to be a relatively safe one. There are as many as four schools for children to go to, although dropout rates remain high, as with any other low-income private school/government school. Since the area is barely a stone's throw away from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Safdarjung Hospital, both counted among the best Government hospitals in the country, residents go there when in need of medical attention.
The average monthly rent for a room is approximately around Rs.5500 and almost 7-8 people share a single room.
A majority of the people work as casual labourers, carpenters and similar blue-collar jobs. The average monthly income per person is around Rs.3000-Rs.4000, which makes things really tough unless 2-3 members are earning. Families from the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are settled here.
Initially when the programme was started, the sessions were held in the MCD Community hall compound. However the personnel-in-charge objected to the children. "He told us the plants in the garden may get destroyed," recalls Priyanka. "We had to quickly find another location to continue the session in." Their dilemma was solved when the RWA (Residents' Welfare Association) leader of the area, impressed with the work done by the organisation, allowed the usage of the RWA grounds for the sessions.
Another problem faced in the area is the low attendance of girls in the sessions. We are working really hard to convince the parents to send their daughters out to the programme. "In Block D, East Kidwai Nagar, we are emphasising the importance of persuading parents to invest in their girls' future," says Niraj, the Magic Bus District Programme Manager in charge of the activities here.
Regular community-based events such as Football tournaments, drawing competitions and a parents meetings help bring topics of common concern to the discussion table. “We have also conducted a lot of community surveys on the living and economic conditions of the residents to be able to cater better to the needs of the community", says Zimik, the Training and Monitoring Officer for the area.
Magic Bus has recently launched a Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme and 20 girls from the East Kidwai Nagar are participating in it. "Our work in the area is fairly typical of our work in Delhi," says Avik Swarnakar, who in the Delhi State Lead for Magic Bus. "On the field, our sessions take children through the Magic Bus curriculum that changes behaviour towards better education, health and gender equity. Off the field, staff members like Zimik and volunteer mentors like Priyanka give up to a day's time every week in building a child-friendly environment that supports children's right to grow, learn and develop."
Kanchan Kumari was an average Delhi girl – confident, outspoken, and considered 'rough' and a bully by most people who met her. She was forbidden to play outside by her parents, joining the Magic Bus sessions was out of the question.
Priyanka and Zimik, the Magic Bus volunteer and staff-in-charge, observed Kanchan always watching the sessions from the sidelines. By the third week, Priyanka and Zimik decided Kanchan was interested, but had a barrier. They were proved right when they asked her to join in the games. "My parents told me not to," she told them.
Priyanka and Zimik went to Kanchan's home to try and talk her parents. "We told them that what you see as 'problems' in your child — the rough behaviour, the bullying — may just be a cry for freedom. We told them to try out the Magic bus programme."
They agreed, and Kanchan was soon an inseparable part of the Magic Bus sessions.
Over a period of time, and with the guidance of her mentors, Kanchan's behaviour underwent a sea change. Her natural aggression was better used in football games, trying to score goals. The crowning moment was a medal and certificate in a football tournament in school as well. "She already had it in her, we just helped her actualise her talent," says a proud Priyanka.
The Magic Bus Programme in Block D, East Kidwai Nagar, was launched in February 2012. About 70 kids participate in the session out of which 29 are girls. The sessions are conducted by 20-year old Priyanka Vaig with the help of six other volunteer mentors: Pooja, Monica, Gautam, Rajiv, Priyanka and Rahul. They take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Magic Bus sessions here are divided into three parts: