By: Joanna Hoffman, Women Deliver
Shazia Malik grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Delhi, India, with little hope for her future. When Magic Bus arrived in her community, Shazia was excited to engage in its sports-based activities. Soon, she became a volunteer and led weekly training sessions in handball and football. “I enjoyed it,” she told The Economic Times. “I could play and also it made me feel like I was capable of something.” In 2011, she was offered a paid job as a Youth Mentor.
Shazia is just one example of the many young people whose lives have been transformed by participating in sports. Magic Bus works with 250,000 children and 8,000 youth leaders in 18 states of the country through a youth mentoring program. Mentors deliver activity-based curricula designed to promote gender equality, access to education and health services, and the development of social and emotional skills through sporting activities and games. The program also offers leadership and job skills, and connects participants to educational and employment opportunities. In this way, Magic Bus is able to help children break the cycle of poverty.
Magic Bus began in 2000, when founder Matthew Spacie was looking for ways to expand his company’s corporate social responsibility programs. He was also playing rugby in his free time. He noticed street children watching and cheering as he played, and decided he wanted to dedicate his efforts to bringing the power of sports to these children. Three nights a week, he played rugby with them. He soon realized that he needed a more comprehensive approach if he really wanted to transform their lives in a lasting way. He knew that it would not be enough to simply provide jobs—the answer was to provide a holistic, comprehensive approach encompassing health, education, empowerment, and job skills, one which engages community members to work with and inspire their peers.
In the years since, Magic Bus has seen tremendous success. Of the children who participate in Magic Bus’ program, 76.6% attend school regularly and 71.4% have completed 12th grade and are attending college. Magic Bus has made engaging girls a top priority, and 95.7% of adolescent girls attending Magic Bus sessions are attending school.
“At Magic Bus, girls actually learn to step out of domestic sphere, explore and develop their own personalities and secure their basic rights,” Magic Bus’ CEO Pratik Kumar told us.
“Our health-based inputs to girls include outcomes around how to take care of one's own health, avoid common diseases endemic to children growing up in very poor neighborhoods, and seek proper medical treatment when needed. Besides this, much of the inputs are around making sure each child – girl or boy – has access to quality education, is able to complete schooling all the way up to Class XII, and then is able to choose a career or higher education opportunities.”
By bringing on young people not only as program participants but as drivers of change, Magic Bus is helping to shape future leaders. When we allow youth to be the decision-makers about their health, education, and rights, the sky is the limit, and the ball truly is in their court.
Photo via Magic Bus