In 1999, while playing rugby at the Bombay Gymkhana, Matthew Spacie - the then COO of Cox and Kings in Mumbai - noticed a group of boys, hanging around its premises, watching the game with interest. He encouraged them to hop over the fence and join in the game of rugby. That one game quickly turned into a routine and over the next few months, Matthew began coaching them as a team.
The effect of these training sessions, on the boys, was remarkable. Being part of a team inspired them to aim higher. They went back to school, enrolled in vocational courses and became mentors for younger adolescents in their community.
As he noticed a gap in the service that NGOs were providing, Matthew appointed the boys from his rugby training, to gather other boys and girls from their communities, for weekend activity camps.
On one such weekend activity camp, a group of adolescents living in a slum cluster in Mumbai climbed onto a bus headed for the beaches and the hills on the city’s outskirts.
For the adolescents, it was more than just a day out. It was an opportunity for change. It was a day away from the harshness of their daily life, a day when they could be free and part of a team. It was a ride on the ‘Magic Bus’. Thus began the journey of Magic Bus, marked by the energy and laughter of adolescents who were not only playing a game but also learning life skills.
Matthew quit his job and moved full-time to Magic Bus because he believed sports could create remarkable changes in the lives of adolescents. He devoted all his time to expanding its reach. The organisation which used to focus on only rugby quickly changed to include a variety of sports, including football, cricket, and kabaddi.
“A couple of things really struck me early on,” Matthew explains.
With over 2700 employees to date, the Magic Bus family continues to grow in strength and number. With a presence spread across Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the organisation has grown tremendously. However, our essence remains the same as it did on that first Saturday in 1999.