Tuesday, April 15

Case story > Magic Bus Connect Programme > Pardeep Kumar , Age 20

Pardeep Kumar
Pardeep lives with his parents and four siblings in a single room in JJ Colony within one of the largest resettlement slums in Delhi, Bhalswa. This 14-year-old community is mainly inhabited by migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Although they live in concrete homes which usually consist of 1 small room, they are in close proximity to a landfill area which creates a significant health hazard. To make things worse, the community is forced to use open spaces as their chamber pots. The drainage system is ill-maintained with open manholes, which carry risks for people living in that area.

Lack of cleanliness and stagnant water in Bhalswa breeds bacteria and spreads disease
Many children work as rag pickers helping their families to earn a meager sum of Rs.100/$1.5/£1 a day, which can barely provide a family of 4 with 1 meal a day.  Employment opportunities in Bhalswa are limited and most men are involved in manual, daily wage labour at the construction sites and nearby wholesale vegetable market. Women in this community support their families by working as domestic maids in nearby houses. 

Pardeep’s mother is a homemaker, and his father is a daily-wage earner who just about manages to make ends meet.

In 2010, when Magic Bus first set up a programme in J.J. Colony, Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO) Santosh Gupta noticed Pardeep, who came across as bright, positive and eager to make a difference to his community. He stood apart from other young boys in Bhalswa who tend to have little direction or guidance in life, and often fall into the trap of drug addiction and substance abuse.

Santosh asked him if he wanted to join Magic Bus as a Community Youth Leader (CYL). Excited at the opportunity to bring about change, Pardeep accepted. In October 2010, he completed his CYL training and started conducting Sport for Development (S4D) sessions for younger children in his community.

A young girl on the Magic Bus programme in Bhalswa, who also helps her family pick rags for a living. Pardeep works to educate and empower such young girls through the Magic Bus curriculum.
Pardeep enjoyed his work, and the fact that children and parents in his community started to look up to him. However, after a short phase of excellence as a Youth Leader, Pardeep’s enthusiasm and energy levels dropped. Over time, the situation became worse. Local youth had to request him to be prompt and active at sessions, but he retaliated, got angry and often argued with them. He also stopped communicating with his CYL co-workers.

When Santosh, his Training and Monitoring Officer (TMO) asked him why he was distracted, he would get irritable. Pardeep’s behaviour at home changed too. Pardeep’s friends and parents also tried approaching him about his changed attitude, but he said nothing. Soon, Pardeep stopped relating to the children in his sessions, and the programme altogether.

As a way to address the situation, he was asked to take part in a Community Youth Leader Refresher Training programme. Santosh thought this might help Pardeep relate to his goals. During the training, Community Youth Leaders were encouraged to share any experiences they had whilst conducting Sport for Development sessions, advocating for children’s rights with parents, and negotiating with the community for support. They also talked about life in general—both on and off the field.

During his counselling session at this refresher training, Pardeep admitted that he was facing a lot of pressure at home: “I will be finishing my degree this year. My parents keep reminding me that I must get a job, but there seems to be no opportunities out there for me.”

He was told about Connect, Magic Bus’ Livelihood Programme, where youth are trained to become job-ready. Through this intervention, Pardeep was able to improve his spoken English, IT and soft skills, and develop interview and job-readiness skills.

On completing the course, Pardeep was offered a job at the Government’s Income Tax Department in New Delhi at a salary of INR 8,000 (80 GBP/$100) per month. To supplement his income, Pardeep also started to run extra-curricular tuition classes for children enrolled on the Magic Bus programme.

As an incentive for CYLs to share and improve their communication skills, Magic Bus has a peer-sharing, feedback and recognition process. As a part of this process, Pardeep was named ‘CYL of the month’. At this point he realised he played a significant role in helping to build a brighter future for his community. With renewed enthusiasm, he started conducting Magic Bus sessions for children in his community once again.

Magic Bus session in progress, Bhalswa
Today, Pardeep is a changed young adult. He is looked up to as a smart, understanding, caring and responsible person, and someone who has the potential to make a significant difference in his own life as well as his community, and his family.

He is on track to graduate from University with a Bachelor’s degree, and is still employed by the Income Tax Department, a job which he takes seriously and enjoys very much. During his free time, Pardeep continues his commitment as a volunteer Community Youth Leader with Magic Bus, delivering vital life-changing lessons to children in his community, coaching them to complete their education and build a stable livelihood - empowering them to break out of poverty.

Pardeep reflects on his experience, “Magic Bus has been my best friend. An educated person is respected and better able to make changes in his/her own life and the lives of others. I have learnt this through the programme. It is important to make sure children grow up to be responsible and independent citizens."

Wednesday, March 26

Magic Bus Delhi gets its first Community Resource Centre

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step," LAO-TZU

Our North Delhi Youth Mentoring Team at the inauguration of their new Community Resource Centre
Passionate and enthusiastic youth mentors and staff from our North Delhi Programme Team were overjoyed when their efforts and work in the field was recognised by a local community resident. Mr Manoj was so impressed and touched by Magic Bus' work and the impact created in the Bakkarwala community relating to promoting gender equity, education and health, that he provided a free space for us to open a Community Resource Centre, and supported it's inauguration.

Magic Bus will always be grateful to Mr. Manoj for making the dream of having a Community Resource Centre a reality.

Magic Bus' North Delhi District Programme Manager, and Magic Bus' Delhi State Head acknowledging special guests and youth present at the inauguration of the Community Resource Centre, including our donor Mr. Manoj

The advantages of having a local community resource centre are significant.

Located in Bakkarwala, this Community Resource Centre will serve as a gateway for partnership opportunities with existing NGOs/institutions, new collaborations and initiatives, and enable the provision of Partnership Advisory Services and Outreach to a variety of entities.

The Centre provides a powerful platform through which to foster our connection with the local community, an element that is critical in making a Magic Bus programme successful.

Since its' inauguration in September 2013, the Bakkarwala Community Resource Centre has been host to several inter-community meetings, parents' meetings, painting competitions for children, activity-based seminars and a visit by important partners such as Barclays.

 Periodic training for our Youth Mentors has been made easier by removing the challenges of having to find a venue, the funding to cover the fees and the long distances that our mentoring team often had to travel to.

In the coming months we are planning to start our Livelihood programme called 'Connect' which prepares our Magic Bus Community Youth Leaders to go into employment. The Connect programme aims to bridge the gap between employers and young people by training them in Functional English, Computer Literacy & Work-readiness skills.

Magic Bus' North Delhi Youth Mentoring Team excited at the opening of their new Community Resource Centre

Tuesday, March 25

Insights into a Youth Development Camp

A Youth Development camp was held for 100 Community Youth Leaders (CYLs), who volunteer to deliver our Thane programme in Maharashtra. The camp took place at our Magic Bus Learning Centre on the outskirts of Mumbai.
The primary objective of the camp was to allow our CYLs to focus on issues relating to youth development and career planning in a concerted and uninterrupted manner.

The topics covered over the 3 days included:

·         personal and social development
·         individual and group values
·         managing one’s strengths and weaknesses
·         various dynamics of leadership
·         career planning

The first four modules created a sense of self-awareness, a pre-requisite for the concluding topic of career planning.  The methods employed to help us reach this goal was not that of a lecture, but activity-based. This provided an impetus for the CYLs to express their ideas and understandings. The emphases of these activities were to allow the CYLs to vigorously debate the philosophies that resulted from the introspection drawn on the topics discussed.  Packed with interactive outdoor exercises and role plays the programme provides experiential learning on the challenges of leadership, prioritisation of values, and assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses.

One could visibly note the behavioural change the CYLs went through over the three days. They learned to develop an inherent sense of responsibility, team spirit and understood what it takes to be a leader. They also further developed abilities of how to communicate effectively, think strategically and solve complex problems. The distinction in the responses provided by the CYLs in the pre- and post-assessment forms of the topics covered indicated maturity and understanding of the topics.

Recognising the importance of career planning, the CYLs formed area-specific youth committees. The objective of these youth committees is to create a grouping for the CYLs to collectively voice their career requirements and to create a sense of ownership of the youth development programme.

The youth development camp is an important step in allowing the CYLs to single-mindedly deliberate on their personal and professional growth. The ideas expressed by the CYLs formulate the core and direction for the Magic Bus’ Youth Development programme, ensuring orientation with their requirements.

  • If you'd like to know more about the Magic Bus programme, visit www.magicbus.org
  • To sponsor the training of a Magic Bus Community Youth Leader (CYL) to become a change-maker in a poor community, visit www.magicbus.org/donate.

Wednesday, March 19

Shared Values as an Opportunity

By Matthew Spacie, Magic Bus Founder & Executive Chairman

The new CSR Clause in the Companies Bill 2012 is a unique opportunity for companies to engage in the shared values of all entities – values such as human development, youth welfare, better health and more gender equity for all. 

Hard data and common sense both point to the fact that the cost of inaction is high. We simply cannot afford to ignore large-scale problems such as poverty anymore. The world over, growing poverty levels have been linked to youth anger and conflict, and a conflict situation affects everyone — industries, corporations, governments and citizens. 

Since giving in India as a percentage of GDP is very low compared to that of global standards, this quantum jump in corporate giving as a result of the CSR clause, will, to an extent, bring Indian philanthropy closer to global standards. Whether or not it will make a real dent on the nation's development issues, however, depends on several other factors. 

The first set of challenges we foresee would be in the corporate sector's interpretation of what constitutes real-impact investments. There is a strong welfare-orientation in India, perhaps driven by the fact that, traditionally, giving has been associated with religious traditions. While some amount of welfare-based activities are simply an expression of altruism and so are welcome, the widespread understanding that welfare equals development needs to be challenged. 

Thankfully, this understanding is now slowly changing. The world over, investments in charity are only being done after methodical needs assessments, and informed decisions being taken to channel funding to those causes that need it the most. As well as those which have maximum impact. To explain the difference, here is an example from Magic Bus' own story.

In the early days of Magic Bus, we thought young people living in impoverished circumstances needed jobs. So we used our networks and contacts to connect them to jobs. This is an example of a welfare-based approach. What we did not understand was that without the vital and complex ingredients such as education, and skills such as teamwork, it was not possible for these young people to hold down these jobs. All of them had left within a year of being hired. 

We then changed our approach to a long-term, development-oriented approach. We started working with younger children, instilling in them not just the skills but also the orientation needed to be employment-ready. The incubation period was longer, but by the end of the fourth year, we were beginning to see changes that turned out to be permanent. Children learnt healthy behaviour patterns that would keep them safe from common ailments and improve their entire family's health.

Girls and boys started believing in gender equity, and by the time the girls grew into late adolescence, they were taking control over their lives. Magic Bus girls say no to child marriage and thus prevent the entire poverty-ill health-teenage pregnancy-no education trap.

The second set of challenges is with the government sector, in learning how best to leverage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to meet the nation's foremost development goals.

Multi-partner initiatives that are designed with the community at its centre, are the new way to go. The days of separate initiatives  — NGO, Corporate or Government — doing all the work by themselves in silos that address specific development challenges are over (for example, one entity works to prevent HIV/AIDS infections, another works to get children back to school, a third works to get road connectivity and so on). 

This is the age of collaboration, of shared value and multi-partner initiatives that offer holistic solutions and work closely with the community themselves taking the lead. The new CSR Clause is also a unique opportunity to grow such cross-sectoral collaborations.

Friday, March 7

Gulafsha Khan: Mentor, Guide, Leader, Teacher at Magic Bus

Source: Women of Pure Wonder, Vodafone Coffee Table Book

Not far from the historic city of the erstwhile Mughal rulers, Delhi, is the large settlement colony of Bhalswa. In stark contrast to the grandeur of the capital city, Bhalswa can best be described as Delhi’s largest dumping ground. It is difficult to conceive that the shantytown is home to thousands of families who were evicted from the slums in Delhi and resettled near a landfill site. It is even harder to believe that a young girl could rise like a phoenix from under the pervasive haze of the putrid and toxic methane gas.
Gulafsha Khan was a young girl when her family was forced to move to Bhalswa. ‘We lived in a slum in Nizammudin in South Delhi with access to clean water and electricity. We were horrified when we got to Bhalswa. The area was a desolate jungle swarming with snakes. People were so despondent that they wanted to run away. When the settlers began digging the earth to stand their shelters, they found countless bones. It was a creepy place,’ recalls Gulafsha. Her five siblings and parents struggled to make ends meet then and it is now very different. Most of the community’s population is well below the poverty line. Men and women work as daily wage workers at construction sites while some women find employment as maids in more affluent areas nearby.

Over time, the settlement degenerated into a slum while the peripheral area developed with the setting up of two primary schools and one secondary school. Gulafsha and her five siblings found their way to school while living in a one-room slum with their parents. In 2011, Gulafsha heard about the NGO Magic Bus from her friends. She went to meet its volunteers, Santosh and Mahadev, and learned that Magic Bus worked to drive change in the areas of education, health and hygiene and reproductive health.

Gulafsha says, ‘I signed for the Community Youth Leader (CYL) programme. After my six-day training, I had to make a group of 25 kids and teach through play. I approached several parents to permit their children to join our activities in the nearby park. Many declined for safety reasons. I had to build their trust in me over time to prove to them that I was a responsible girl.’ The volunteer youth mentor at Magic Bus recognized Gulafsha’s enthusiasm and extraordinary mentoring skills and awarded her CYL of the Month. They consistently encouraged her to pursue her education while gently cajoling her parents to agree.

Subsequently, Gulafsha joined the Connect programme, a special programme which trained the Magic Bus Community Youth Leaders in Functional English, Computer Literacy, and Interview Readiness skills. ‘The Connect Programme has helped me a lot. After completing the course, I feel confident. There’s also a remarkable improvement in my verbal English,’ said Gulafsha.

‘It has not been easy for me to step out to work. My community has constantly taunted my parents for letting me work and in turn my parents have often pressurized me to abandon social work. When I am with my group of children I feel like a child again. In the time that I spend with them, I forget my worries about the present and the future entirely.’

Gulafsha realized that her parents could not afford her college education so she began giving home tuitions to middle-school children. ‘I now pay my college fees from my earnings,’ says Gulafsha. ‘I want to study further to qualify for a teacher’s job.’

Gulafsha, 19 wants to live life on her own terms and she does today.

Article source: 'Women of Pure Wonder', Struggle. Survival. Success', Published by Roli Books. An initiative by the Vodafone India Foundation

Tuesday, March 4

We're making sport safer

By Matthew Ruuska, sportanddev.org 

Sportanddev.org is involved in an initiative to make sport safer for children. Joining the International Safeguarding Children in Sport Working Group, sportanddev.org, is collaborating with more than fifty organisations around the globe to pilot a set of standards to safeguard all children participating in sport.

© Marianne Meier, Swiss Academy for Development (SAD)
Millions of children and young people take part in sporting activities across the world every day. Unfortunately, sport, as with other social domains, can bring risks such as violence and abuse towards children and youth. These risks can have a negative impact on development objectives and must be guarded against if the full positive power of sport is to be realised.

Only a few organisations involved in sport and sport for development globally have the systems and structures needed to make sport safer for children, and stakeholders are increasingly recognising that without deliberate efforts on the part of clubs and organisations, federations, and policy makers, we cannot be confident that children will always have a safe experience in sport.

Youth Leadership Camp Sweden 2013 participants ©Ben Taylor/UNOSDP
It is for this reason that we have partnered with a diverse group of experts including UNICEF UK, UK Sport, Keeping Children Safe, NSPCC's Child Protection in Sport Unit, Right to Play, Women Win, Swiss Academy for Development, Commonwealth Secretariat, Beyond Sport and Comic Relief, to commit to making sport safer.

Brunel University have been commissioned by the working group to review the standards at the end of the pilot process. We are working with the this group of researchers to ensure that the final tool produced by the working group is useful and achieves the goal of making sport safer.

Liz Twyford from UNICEF UK described the standards as a set of actions that all organisations working in sport should have in place to ensure children are safe from harm and should be used as a benchmark of good practice to work towards, rather than an end in themselves.

At present there are eleven draft standards. These are to:

Write a policy on keeping children safe
Use procedures, personnel and systems that support safeguarding
Assess and minimise risks to children
Produce guidelines on behaviour towards children
Ensure equity – ALL children being safeguarded
Communicate the ‘keep children safe’ message
Provide education and training for keeping children safe
Engage with advice and support
Work with partners to meet the standards
Involve children in development, review and implementation
Monitor and evaluate compliance and effectiveness of safeguarding measures

Visit the sportanddev website to learn more about child protection and safeguarding in sport - http://www.sportanddev.org/en/learnmore/safeguarding/

Monday, February 24

The ball’s in our court: Using sport for social change

This article is written by Nidhi Gupta for The Sunday Guardian who interviewed Magic Bus' CEO Pratik Kumar, following the Next Step 2014: Using Sport for Good conference which Magic Bus recently hosted, on the link between sports and development.


Q. How far back can you trace the link between sport and development on a global scale? How far has it developed?

A. This is a fairly widespread concept globally where sport is an integral part of the lives of people, in a lot of countries. This has not been the case in Asia, and in India particularly. Sport and development as a space has been establishing a global presence over the last two decades, more firmly in the last one, where a lot of players are using sport as a tool for social development. Next Step 2014 is the fifth in a series of conferences that the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace has been organising. This is the first time that it has come to Asia, and this in itself is a pretty big deal — because it recognises India as a power, and Magic Bus as an NGO that is leading this movement from the front.

What we're trying to present to the world, and to individuals, corporates, donors and philanthropists, is that while a lot of social development has been happening through traditional means, sport can also be used for development. We have very strong reasons to believe that sport as a form of engagement works fantastically with youth and children. We have to understand that behaviour and social changes happen over a period of time. Generations of inertia, habits, customs and traditions aren't changed with the switch of a button.

This is where sport becomes an exceptional medium for engagement, because children and youth love to play. We can create a non-threatening, non-judgemental environment where they have a lot of fun, within which we bring in a lot of learning, discussion and knowledge transfer — this is how we exploit the medium of sport for development.

As we get "developed", there's a chance that people will be a little more conscious towards sports and any kind of physical activity — not the competitive kind, though. This is important because it's a fantastic tool for building personalities, human capital, good resources and citizens in the country.

Also, one of the biggest burdens facing mankind is that of non-communicable diseases. People typically active and interested in staying fit do all those things that would keep a whole bunch of such diseases — like diabetes, cancer, heart problems etc. — at bay. A lot of anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol and nutrition programmes have failed because they've been typically externally driven. But when you get into a lifestyle which compels you to keep healthy, there's a good chance that you keep off these vices that are the triggers for such diseases. In the next couple of decades, unless you have some kind of a cure being invented for heart strokes or BP problems, because everything focuses on prevention right now, sports will become more important.

A session of football at a slum in Mumbai; one of Magic Bus’s initiatives

Q. What has your experience at Magic Bus with using sport for development in the field? What real changes do you see occurring among your target audiences?

A. At Magic Bus, we have a programme called from Childhood to Livelihood — where, age-appropriately, we tell kids to stay in school, inform them about gender rights, give then anecdotes on violation of laws etc. In the leadership bucket, we talk about the RTI, how to use it, their roles and responsibilities as citizens etc. All this happens while sport is the common thread. We give them a lot of fun while they're learning — that's the best scenario for knowledge transfer.

Typically, the most popular game used in this setting is football — also volleyball, handball, cricket, kabbadi, kho-kho — and make various games out of it. The ball itself, then, can be twisted into an effective tool for learning, or for giving out a message about health, nutrition, gender rights message coming out of it. For example, in a group of children playing Dodgeball, we name the ball malaria. After the game, we have a discussion in our style, called Sit, Breathe and Think, where we'll talk about who all got hit by malaria, go through the reasons, causes and consequences. We repeat this process over several weeks.

This translates into a huge amount of experiential learning. The game is modified in a way that a message goes through, which is then culled out in our discussion sessions. Sport is just the glue around which we build initiatives and ensure that we will get our audience back repeatedly.

For every 20-30 children, we have a boy or a girl from the community from the 16+ age group who are the mentors. Through this, we build a lot of social capital in the villages and towns where these young people are trained as role models and mentors in the most vulnerable settings. They follow certain codes — no spitting, hitting, shouting, abusing — because they have to be the ones being looked up to. Sport becomes the binding factor here too, because the coach-student relationship is very strong in the field.

We are reaching out to about a quarter of a million children in India at the moment who are reached through 8000 volunteers across 14 states. Now we're starting programmes in Singapore and the U.K. We believe that our methodology can work well in elite settings as well. When we go to Singapore, we will obviously not be talking about malnutrition — we switch to issues of the virtual world, challenges of not being communicative, of drug abuse, or gang culture or knife crimes etc.

{ "We are reaching out to about a quarter of a million children in India at the moment through 8000 volunteers across 14 states. Now we’re starting programmes in Singapore and the U.K. " }

Q. In India, though, sport in general is not thought important — at any level, from schools to homes to colleges, playing sport is seen as 'extra-curricular' and 'recreational', and certainly not seen as a popular career option. How do you grapple with this situation?

A. We don't go to a community and tell them that we're going to make sportsmen out of your children, because they'll obviously turn us away. Instead, we give them half-hour demo sessions that sell us, after which word-of-mouth takes over. The competitive aspect of sport is the last thing on my mind. We do develop a lot of talent — out of lakhs of students, there will be thousands who will do better at sports. They go through our excellence programme, where we have teams in different sports. But that is not the main goal of Magic Bus. You don't have to be excellent at sports to be able to enjoy our programmes because these happen in mixed-gender settings. We create games where girls necessarily have a good role and where messages about equal opportunity are transferred. Most get carried away with the notion of sports as we see it on television, but that's not how it is.

Q. Have you also worked towards assisting in developing existing school curriculum that gives prominence to sports?

A. We do an enormous amount of teachers training, and not just on sport. In our two-day teacher training modules, we tell them that they can be friends of the children. We tell them that if they can communicate in a non-threatening manner and create a non-judgemental space, it'll be a huge learning step for everyone in the classroom. Usually, teachers are diametrically opposite — they'll have a stiff upper lip, they'll use the stick, scold and be generally abusive. There's no question of encouragement in such a situation.

We're working with 150 schools in Rajasthan, for example, where we're helping them become RTE (Right To Education) compliant. This includes a whole range of teacher training methods which focuses on leadership skills in school principals. We're also picking up subjects and trying to transform them into activity-based modules, to induce a degree of fun into the learning process. It is difficult to get multimedia infrastructure in government school settings, so how do you use a low-cost approach to better learning?

We're also developing a Physical Education curriculum for the Mizoram government. The PE period usually goes to waste so we've asked them to tell us what challenges the teachers go through. They came back to us with a whole bunch of issues like teachers being disrespected, kids being abusive, missing or inattentive in class, not doing their homework, hygiene issues etc. We came up with a one-hour module where the kids have fun and in that one hour, they'll learn everything required.

Q. What sort of challenges do you feel this field faces in the future?

A. A lot of NGOs that work in the traditional format do get a lot of support because that is thought of as "serious" business, while sports is still seen as frivolous. That is the mindset that we are challenging right now. We've even been cajoling NGOs working with traditional formats, trying to convince them that sport is possibly one of the best ways to engage and communicate. The assumption that nukkad naataks and wall painting exercise will make a difference is a little outdated. Instead, spending time with and being part of a community will probably go a longer way in ensuring behaviour change down the line. We're trying to tell governments, NGOs, the big bi-lateral, tri-lateral donors that this is a good, low-cost, effective and scalable model. This will continue to be a challenge because there are a lot of traditional players and they continue to go into the low-risk category. We're seen to be the upstarts, so this is the risk that we're trying to face up to.

Q. Recently, there was talk of a legislative bill for the development of sports. Do you see a lot of encouragement and support from the government for your initiatives?

A. The bill was only interested in Olympic glory — there's hardly anything happening on the grassroots level for incorporating sport and development. This is where the big problem lies — the youth and sports ministry funds a lot of federations, but by the time the money comes down to the state level, the money's all gone in salaries and so on. Nothing happens on the district or block levels. Most countries that do well in sports have a population with in-born qualities, such as Kenya, for example, where genetically modified lungs support better athletics. Or you have structures where the grassroots are so strong that the pipeline for excellence is honed — there's better infrastructure, resources, man power. We don't have this — we're still trying to build a mass base, for grassroots participation — we don't even have the culture of participation. We have strong government relationships at Magic Bus — we have an MoU with the government on the Panchayati Yuva Krida aur Khel Abhiyan, where we're a technical partner; We have MoUs with two other states — Mizoram (education curriculum) and Jharkhand (youth development curriculum) — but it is an uphill battle.

Q. Can you also talk about the link between sports and conflict resolution? How do initiatives like Skateistan in Afghanistan and PS4L in Palestine help in rehabilitation and reconstruction?

A. There is a very strong link between the two. Even in our settings, it is one of the safest things to indulge in to help people forget barriers of caste, religion, gender etc. We have a project in Hyderabad old city, where only girls are called upon to play. Imagine the kind of empowerment that goes in for women who don't generally step out of their houses but are now coming out to play. There is, of course, the back channel process to get the approval of community elders to get the first girl to step out, and then to keep the momentum going.

Most of our programmes are mixed- gender ones. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, in three years, participation of girls has gone up from 10% to 51% in our programmes. We're talking about the rural hinterland here, with a lot of marginalised communities. As a child, you don't really understand these identity markers — and binding them through sport will help break down those barriers over time. The realisation that we aren't very different from each other — that's the peg that initiatives like Skateistan and PS4L use.

Skateistan has a different goal — they're trying to create an equitable environment for girls. In Palestine, the initiative was more about getting Israelis and Palestinians to come together. In India, we've done a lot using cricket in post-conflict scenarios, particularly, in the aftermath of communal riots. We've observed that sports act as the first balm on wounds caused due to man-made or natural disasters. In Uttarakhand, we're starting a disaster management programme now.

Vijay Amritraj, at the inaugural ceremony of Next Step, talked about his visit to Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He said that all he did was bring in truck loads of sporting equipment and distribute it among the kids — it made the kids happy and the parents relieved. In a bleak situation where there isn't much to look forward to, engagements like this can bring back a semblance of normalcy. It's not the panacea for conflict-resolution, but it is at least pushing the needle towards more positivity.

Article source:  http://www.sunday-guardian.com/artbeat/the-balls-in-our-court-using-sport-for-social-change