Thursday, July 9

5 things you should know about Magic Bus’ young friend, Ishaan Jaffer

1. Ishaan is a 16-year-old national-level swimmer who was adjudged the Best Swimmer in the under-17 boys’ category.

2. He is the youngest swimmer to win a gold medal in the 35th National Games held in Kerela this year.

Ishaan participating in a competition.
3.  Ishaan was the fastest 14-year-old swimmer in India in 2013.

4. He started swimming at the age of 6 and follows a strict practice schedule. He strikes the perfect balance between studies and swimming – this helped him score 96% in the ICSE examinations this year.

5. He wishes to fundraise for 66 underprivileged children so that they can join the Magic Bus.

Support Ishaan's endeavour | Donate

Friday, June 26

When giving up was a better option than giving in: Naseem speaks about overcoming addiction

Disclaimer: The following story is about one of our Community Youth Leaders who overcame alcoholism. His name is changed to protect his identity.

Before it turns your health upside down, addiction plays havoc with a person’s will power.

Nasha was my life. I would begin and end my day with it. I had lost count of days, months, and years that had flown past me while I was in nasha”, recounts 25-years-old Naseem (name changed)

Naseem was an alcoholic for four years, from 2007-2011.

When Naseem graduated from school in 2007, his parents haboured hopes of seeing their youngest child in a white-collared job, unlike their three elder children – two sons and a daughter - all three married and working in the unorganised sector as labourers. 

That’s how most people in his community, Bhalaswa in north Delhi subsist: as daily-wage laourers. Incidents of crime, drug abuse or nasha as people fondly call it, are widely prevalent here. Naseem unwittingly took to alcohol at quite an early age.

A sneak-peak into Naseem's session.
“As a 17-year-old, I was running on a very thin rope; there were enough reasons for me to not indulge in bad company, but at such a tender age, only bad felt good”, he grimaces.
Naseem began consuming alcohol in remarkable proportions since then. His tryst with intoxication continued for 4 years till Magic Bus intervened in the community. Nirmal, Magic Bus Youth Mentor marked the community as “high-risk” as it was known in the neighourhood for indulging in substance abuse. 

Despite caution, Nirmal ventured into the community and began mobilising people. In the second month of meetings, Nirmal met Naseem. Naseem had potential but he was gradually throwing away all his talents through excessive drinking. It was Nirmal who introduced Naseem to Santosh, Training and Monitoring Officer, for rehabilitation and counseling.

“Santosh bhaiya was calm yet firm with me. In my first few sessions, I watched atleast five documentaries that showed me the fatal effects of alcohol. I began to analyse my activities objectively”, he explains.

The incident that shook him the most was when one of his dear friends collapsed in front of him due to excessive consumption of alcohol. He realised that it could have been him. All that Santosh bhaiya had been telling him about abandoning his habit came back to him. He took his friend to the hospital and vowed never to touch alcohol again.

Naseem was dejected. He experienced withdrawal symptoms after he gave up alcohol but he was ready to try and turn around his life towards a better future. That’s when something remarkable happened. Santosh bhaiya appointed him the Community Youth Leader. In one go, Naseem found himself being looked upon as a role model. 

“ I will always credit Magic Bus for believing that I could be a better person, that not all was over. When one is fighting addiction, the belief and faith of the ones closest to you does a great deal of good. The first few months were unbearable without alcohol, but Magic Bus’ constant support and the company of children helped me forego my habit”, he smiles.

Today, Naseem works as a government contractor and continues to be Magic Bus Community Youth Leader. In his free time, he counsels children and youth who indulge in nasha. He gives his own example every time he faces a stubborn addict.

In fact when he shared his story, he believed that it would motivate anyone indulging in substance abuse to give up on their habit.

On International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, sponsor a child and help them stay addiction-free.

Thursday, June 18

Small town, big dreams – Kowsalya’s story

A year ago, it was rare for girls of V.R.P. Chatram community to step out and participate in outdoor activities. V.R.P. Chatram is a semi-rural suburb near Chennai. Its residents are mostly factory or agricultural labourers who travel to Sriperumbudur everyday for work. Girls of this community would often engage with elders to understand the root cause of gender-inequity in their community, and try to subvert it; however, their efforts went in vain.

“There were guidelines set for girls at every age, and we were supposed to adhere to those. I was not ready, but I was unsupported in my quest”, reminisces 19-year-old Kowsalya. 

Kowsalya delivering a session
Kowsalya joined Magic Bus a year ago as a Community Youth Leader. She was spotted by Magic Bus Youth Mentor, Kiruba.  “Kowsalya came across as an independent, righteous girl who wanted to empower herself and women within her community. However, she had limited support from her community”, says Kiruba.

Magic Bus entered her life at a critical juncture: it gave her the platform that she was looking for years. 

“Before I joined Magic Bus, I would give out leaflets to children in my community on gender-equity, healthy practices, and education. They would enjoy reading it but would forget about it in a few days. I soon realised that there was need to reiterate the message and find innovative ways of putting it across as well. Magic Bus’ Sport-for-Development approach was the perfect combination of both”, she explains.

Sports has an easy connect with children. But, to get girls to play alongside boys is always a stiff challenge in communities where the norm is to keep girls indoors. Initial resistance to change, suspicion about Magic Bus’ activities in the community and its underlying purpose always poses a challenge. But, our Community Youth Leaders (CYLs) and Youth Mentors (YMs) are adequately motivated and convinced to take on those challenges and slowly open up the community to support girls participation in sports and activities.

Children participating in a sport-for-development session
Kowsalya overcame the resistance of her home and community. Not only did she step out of her home, but also motivated and encouraged other girls in her community to do the same. She realised that simply stepping out of homes is not enough – girls had to be made aware of the importance of hygiene, healthcare and education.

Kowsalya is studying Bachelors in Computer Science and working as an agent of change in her community.

There are many more Kowsalya’s whose story you will read about in this blog. But, we must not forget the incredible support of Asian Paints in scripting change in this particular community. Thanks to Asian Paints’ support we’re now able to work with 2400 children in this community – many of whom have unrealized leadership potential lying dormant in them.

Similarly, your donation might help more Kowsalya’s to lead change in her community. 
It simply takes Rs.1500 ($25, £15) to help more children like Kowsalya to step out of their homes and become leaders. Support them.

Wednesday, April 22

A little piece of clean, green earth

Imagine a childhood without play! A struggle, right? Such was the case at Appur, a community comprising of 350 households in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

"There was only one open area but it was littered with stones and thorns. Kids would play but they would get hurt too. No one cared", says Barathi, our Magic Bus Community Youth Leader (CYL). "We are a deprived community. We do not have access to primary health care centres,  electricity, or proper government schools. Lack of a space to play was one among the many deprivations we faced. The only problem was, no one recognised it as a problem ", recalls Barathi.

Children participating in a Magic Bus session.
Seven months ago when Magic Bus came to their community, the lack of play spaces made it extremely difficult for them to conduct sessions. 

It was then that the community, led by Barathi and a few other Youth Mentors and Community Youth Leaders, took up the initiative to clean up the only space they had access to. "At present, regular sessions are held here. Children come and play. It's like a new lease of life for them". The cleaning initiative also helped Barathi realise a hidden leadership potential. "He is now a role model for the other CYLs and children", says Yesudass, Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO) with Magic Bus' Tamil Nadu programme.

Children enjoying their clean and green space
Every child has a right to a little piece of clean, green earth.
We, at Magic Bus, firmly believe in this and strive to build clean, safe, and free spaces for underprivileged children. We have ensured that 2546 playgrounds across the country are clean and accessible for all.

Call 1800-200-6858 to support.

Tuesday, April 14

10 things that you didn't know about sports

Sport is exceptionally transformative. No other activity enjoys the kind of attention and excitement that sport does. It helps one overcome barriers of culture, class, gender, and unites communities. How many of these fun facts about sports did you know of?

Parvati Pujari, our Youth Leader is a role-model for many girls in our programme
1. It disproves the belief ‘Girls are weaker than boys’.

2. Sport helps stay active and healthy.

3. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, an old adage that holds true even now. A child who steps out to play concentrates better and performs well in academics.

4. Sport develops a good appetite. Athletes or aspiring sportspersons naturally demand a higher nutrition than the others.

As Jordan famously says, failures are stepping stones to success
5. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketballers gives credit to his failures “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.

6. A child who has lost a game knows the importance of hard work and the sweetness of its rewards.

7. Sport helps build endurance and promotes emotional and mental stability. An underprivileged child who plays a sport pumps energy to any situation and brings out the best among peers too.

8. Sport gives everyone a second chance.

9. Sport teaches one to overcome inhibitions.

10.If you thought team-work, cooperation, caring, and friendship are slowly dying away, all you’ve to do is to get down in the field and play a game.

With a mentor, sport can be much more than just fun
Magic Bus’ sport-for-development curriculum is premised on the transforming power of sports. Each underprivileged child on our programme experiences the remarkable potential of sports by participating and learning through it. You can be a part of it too. Here’s how.

Friday, March 20

Remember Shivam, our bright and courageous Community Youth Leader?

“I joined Magic Bus two-weeks ago”, says 18-year-old Arti. “My brother Shivam encouraged me to join Magic Bus. He has been with Magic Bus as a Community Youth Leader for over a year now”, replies Arti when asked why she joined Magic Bus.

Arti and Shivam are appearing for their higher secondary examinations. Both of them study in a government school in Nangloi, north Delhi, a few blocks away from their one-bedroom house.

Shubham and Arti, the stalwarts of courage
For Arti, stepping out of home was a challenge, “My mobility was limited because of my gender.  As a result, my decision to join Magic Bus was fraught with resistance. However, Shivam’s constant support egged me on and I continued fighting.”

Shivam is a role-model for Arti as he is for the rest of the children in his community. “The best thing about him is his positivity – the way he looks at life and lives it”, says Arti. They are a family of four - three children and a mother - surviving on a salary of just Rs. 3000 a month. The youngest child studies in the ninth standard. “I have seen my mother toil relentlessly to bring us up. After completing school, I want to find a job and study simultaneously so that I can relieve her”, shares Shivam.

The family- unperturbed despite numerous struggles 
Both Shivam and Arti have gone through some difficult experiences in their life so far. They had barely recovered from the shock of losing a parent when Shivam had met with an accident which crushed both his legs. Arti stood by Shivam through his most difficult moments, never allowing him to lose his spirit or his grit. In return, Shivam inspired her to pursue her dreams, to step out and claim the world as her own.  

“The Magic Bus journey has helped me introspect. From being a notorious child in my community I was transformed into a leader who taught good practices to children, young adults, and parents. Today my community identifies me as a hero; one who stood tall despite unfathomable crisis”, he narrates.

Shivam believes that his sister can be a good leader too. “I want Arti to galvanise her friends and other women from the community to step-out and be an agent of change”, says Shivam.

There are many more Artis and Shivams out there waiting to realise their potential as a leader. They need your support. DONATE

Monday, February 23

#Throwback16: Our Sweet 16 stories

A 16-year-old's diary

Shaikh Abdul Rehman Amin, Karjat

Diary entry 1:

I was in the ninth standard when I was 16. I was active and therefore, was selected as a class monitor. If a teacher was absent I would stand in front of the class with a stick in one hand and a chalk in the other and jot down names of the most talkative children. I would complain about them to the teacher the following day.

One day, we had a visitor in our class; he was an army pilot. He gave us tips on how to study smart. After the session, many children started talking about their ambitions. When it came to me I was totally confused and didn’t know what to say. I kept quiet and after few minutes the teacher shouted at me and told me to sit down. The class burst into laughter!  

I came back home and shared this with my mom, she counseled me and said, “Don’t worry; just concentrate on your studies”. After a few days, I forgot everything.

Diary entry 2:

I am the youngest in the family. By the time I turned 16, my sister was married and my two elder brothers were working.

My school timings were 9am to 4pm. I used to get up early and take a cycle ride for almost 1.5 kms to buy milk and bread. I would come back, have breakfast and then rush to school. After coming back from school, I would quickly finish my homework and help my mother in the kitchen.

All this helped me learn how to deal with people, bargaining, calculating on finger tips, and decision making.

Those were the days when I would be out on the streets all day. There was no curfew for me and my parents trusted me. My friends would tell their parents that they are with me and they would be okay with it.

Sometimes it was also a headache for me because my friends would lie about being with me and would sneak out to other places. Their parents would ask me about their children and I would lie to them saying that they were with me.

Red Letters from my 16th

Anirban Sarkar, Noida

Being 16 in a Bollywood-affected cultural atmosphere, a teenage boy started to look around for faces, for the curls in the hair, or for a piercing stare. This search reached its climax when one day, on a crowded street of Gariahat, I saw her! She was waiting for somebody or someone with a cigarette in her hand. The red lipstick, the smoke... took the left side of brain into a different world, a world of endless walk.

PO! PO! The bus was waiting continuously for me to get out its I crossed the road.

For the next few days, I turned up at the same hour she appeared, rushing to the same spot where she stood and waited, and I succeeded! Although I knew she was waiting for a man I didn’t care...who was a relationship between her eyes and mine!
One day her wait lasted for an hour and I gathered the courage to walk upto her and ask,

-“Whats the time?”
“You have a watch!” she said.
“You want to talk to me?”
- (silence)
“Bring a red rose the next time you come. I will think...”
With a pocket money of Rs.80, and that rose cost Rs. 15.... but I never saw her again.

“She smiled at me on the subway.
She was with another man.
But I won't lose no sleep on that,
'Cause I've got a plan.
Flying high....
And I don't think that I'll see her again,
But we shared a moment that will last 'til the end.

You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw your face in a crowded place....”

-You’re Beautiful
, James Blunt

Life as we know it: such was 16!

Rahul Brahmbhatt, United States of America

I turned 16 in 1995. I was in the 11th grade at my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA.  Listening to music, playing basketball, and studying - that was how most days came and went. Around us, the US, and the world, was changing rapidly. 

A new way to view media had just been announced, the DVD, and a small company called eBay tried convincing people that one could use a personal computer to buy and sell things to complete strangers.  Most people didn't think anything of it, probably because of their attention during my 16th was focused on the OJ Simpson double murder trial.

16th brought with it a lot of excitement: I got my driving learners' permit and my first car, a 1991 Nissan 240SX sports car.  I remember the day I got it: August 4, 1995.  I drove it to school and to the library for all the research papers and terms papers I had to do. Those were the non-Google days!  

It was the year I studied and took both the SAT and ACT, the US college admission examination. I took them twice and did quite well on both the occasions.  Applied to 10 universities, and a year later, I got a call from seven of them - Universities of Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana State University were the memorable ones.  

Looking back, I was a good kid at 16- playing by the rules and living by the book.  It's a good thing we're not recalling how life was at 26- that would be a very different story!