Thursday, October 9

Magic Bus children and Matthew Spacie gets featured in Aamir Khan hosted Satyamev Jayate tele show

Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) is a popular social commentary show which explores crucial social issues in India, looking at individual, government, and non-government efforts to address those issues, and urges people to take action.

Since the last 15 years, Magic Bus has taken a sport-based curriculum to help underprivileged children and youth break out of poverty.

Parvati, Vijay, Ritu and Gulafsha talking to Aamir Khan on Satyamev Jayate

Sports is usually associated with action, energy, strength, fitness, and excitement. Whether it's your favourite pastime or hobby, whether you are a sports person, or, simply a viewer, these words pop up in our mind when we speak of sports.

Can sports be an answer to poverty? Can sports ensure gender equality? Can it also bring about positive behavioural change?

The third season of Satyamev Jayate opened with exploring the power of sports in scripting change in people's lives. Host Aamir Khan began by reiterating the unexplored potential of sports and requested teachers and principals to give it equal importance in the curriculum. A series of interviews with people in different age groups followed, with each story revealing the tremendous potential of sports in bringing about change.

Magic Bus' interesting journey of pioneering a sports-based approach to work with poor children and youth was a major segment in the show. Four Magic Bus children, Parvati Pujari, Vijay Gupta, Ritu Pawa and Gulafsha Khan shared their stories of struggle and hope, and how it was Magic Bus' activity-based curriculum that encouraged them to get out of their situation and get educated, instilled in them a sense of confidence and discipline, and helped them transcend the deeply-gendered public-private spaces.

Parvati and Gulafsha are the first graduate within their family and community, and Parvati being the eldest at 21 in the group of four is now pursuing a professional career, and is a global fundraiser for children living in poverty. Despite their humble beginnings, each of them are leaders in their own right.

Read the stories of Parvati, Gulafsha, and Ritu.

Their confidence and fearlessness impressed Aamir and viewers alike. Their stories inspired admiration.

Next, Aamir welcomed Matthew Spacie, Founder and Executive Chairman of Magic Bus, to explain the thought behind the approach and it's early days. Matthew went back to the days he used to play rugby at the posh Bombay Gymkhana. A few boys from the adjoining Fashion Street were in charge of parking the cars of rugby players who played at the Gymkhana. Their interest in the game was evident but they could only watch it from the sidelines. One day Matthew thought of teaching them rugby.

During their training, he saw some remarkable changes in them - they had become unusually disciplined and punctual, and would try to cooperate with each other, and not fight. He also discovered that sports unified them all; in the field they were simply players and not members of different religious communities. Here was an answer to a whole host of problems plaguing Indian society!

Matthew Spacie telling Aamir Khan the Magic Bus story on Satyamev Jayate

Matthew connected the young boys to avenues of employment since most of them were from extremely poor households. But, none of them managed to hold onto their jobs. This made him acutely aware of the importance of sports early on, so that, children from poorer households could learn crucial life skills that would help them get better employment and opportunities.

At present, Magic Bus brings the transforming power of sports in the lives of 250,000 children within 20 states across India. The success of its approach is evident in the fact that 90 percent of children associated with Magic Bus are first-generation learners. 10,000 child and youth leaders in the programme work conscientiously to bring about change in their respective communities.

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Thursday, September 25

Magic Bus: Changing lives through sports

Published in IANS Live, by Santosh Rao. For the original article, click here

For Englishman Mathew Spacie it all started in the bylanes of Mumbai's Parel area in 1999. His aim was to take children out of poverty and give them a purpose in life through sports.

Spacie's love for India, in fact, began as a 17-year-old when he took a break from his studies and worked in the Howrah Leprosy Centre in Kolkata. His next port of call was Mumbai.

Playing rugby at the Bombay Gymkhana Club, he thought he could make a difference to the lives of street and slum children through sport. Fifteen years down the line, what started as a mere distraction has grown into a massive Magic Bus, an NGO encompassing 300,000 children in 3,000 locations across 19 states.

Magic Bus is now a major initiative, taking care of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls and Spacie has big plans to convert his dream project into a sports-based volunteer force to work among the needy children in various countries.

Magic Bus' curriculum on sport for development has won national and international recognition - the latest being the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award, which it received from President Pranab Mukherjee last week on National Sports Day. It came within five months of the organisation winning the Laureus Award, the first Indian entity to get global acclaim.

After receiving the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Award from its chairman and champion hurdler Edwin Moses in Kuala Lumpur in March, Spacie in his acceptance speech said: "Fifteen years ago the Magic Bus was started because outside my office there were 15 street boys who one day decided that they wanted to change their journey in life.

"It is now an organisation which has 300,000 children every single week attending our programme on this amazing journey from childhood all the way to livelihood and out of poverty."

The small, humble beginning has grown into a multi-discipline non-profit organisation where the target children engaged in personality development through structured play sessions, which sought to draw them towards issues of social relevance.

"Our motive has always been to take these children away from their under-privileged lives and use sports to instill values and influence behavioural and social changes," Magic Bus CEO Pratik Kumar, who has over 24 years' experience working with the United Nations, Government of India, International NGO and private sector, told IANS.

"Sporting activities and games are structured into each session to make them fun and appealing. There are specially designed sessions to represent real-life situations and challenges so children are able to relate these back to their daily lives," said Kumar, who joined the Magic Bus in 2009.

Kumar thanked the volunteers, who he said were the actual heroes of the organisation.

"Magic Bus works with close to 8,000 trained volunteers. Community youth leaders are trained and mentored to lead young children and through these volunteer-led programmes, we have been able to expand our reach," he said.

Kumar moved quickly to quash any comparisons to Physical Education (P.E.) classes in schools.

"Yes, we do indulge in physical activity, but this is very different from P.E. classes. We use sport only as a developmental tool, a metaphor, to deliver our message of development to kids."

"Through sports we try and bring kids together and then impart lessons on a wide array of subjects, from hand washing to gender equality and more," said Kumar.

One of the biggest successes has been 'Connect' -- a supplementary programme that provides livelihood options to grown up children.

Through this programme, Magic Bus offers leadership and employability skills training as well as counselling services to help them decide on their next steps. They are then linked to further education, vocational courses, and entry opportunities into the job market.

But not resting on their laurels, Kumar wants to take the number of kids to a million in the next two/three years.

"So much more has to be done. Our ambition is to reach one million children. We have started programmes in Britain, Nepal, Singapore, and Sri Lanka and we want to grow further and do much more," said Kumar.

Thursday, September 18

From India to South Korea: My experience at a UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp

This is a blog by 21-year old Radhika Jeenwal's about her experience at a UNOSDP (UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace) Youth Leadership Camp in South Korea. Radhika is a Magic Bus Training and Monitoring Officer in charge of a team of 64 Community Youth Leaders who work in the field every day delivering the Magic Bus sport for development programme to 1800 children across South Delhi.

Radhika shares her experience of the camp here.

"The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) organised its 12th Youth Leadership Camp in Gwangju, a beautiful city in the Republic of Korea from August 19th – 30th 2014. I feel extremely happy and fortunate to have been chosen to represent Magic Bus at this camp.

               Youth Leadership Camp held in Gwangju, Republic of Korea               
Over 33 young boys and girls from all over the world participated in the Camp. In these 12 days, I learnt a great deal. I left the camp with a deeper understanding of how sport provides a forum to develop discipline, confidence, leadership, and other core principles such as tolerance, cooperation and respect. I learnt that sport is a powerful vehicle through which the United Nations can leverage as a tool to achieve its goals, in particular the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sport should therefore be seen as an engine for development, not as a mere by-product.

The Youth Leadership Camp emphasised the potential that youth have to invoke change in their community. By helping youth develop their leadership skills in Sport for Development this programme not only contributes to the personal development of young people, it also contributes to community development. By providing opportunities for young people like me to develop and exercise our leadership skills, we are better able to build the capacity of our communities and respond to their pressing needs.

I have tried to capture the most significant learnings from my experience at the Youth Leadership Camp, below.

Day 1: Introduction, leadership and peace and Right To Play

It is important to know what kind of communication is needed for different situations. There are five basic types of communication:

·         Interpersonal
·         Intrapersonal
·         Group or team
·         Public
·         Mass media

Types of leadership:
  •         Inclusive leadership
  •         Authoritarian leadership
Day 2: Sports and peace-building with the International Table Tennis Federation

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the governing body for all national Table Tennis associations. The role of the ITTF includes overseeing rules and regulations, and seeking technological improvement for the sport of Table Tennis. Table Tennis is one of the most popular sports worldwide. For many amateurs it is an economical and easy way of having fun and for professional players, it’s a passion.

Day 3: Adapting physical activities for those with a disability with Play&Train - partners of International Paralympics Committee

The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) has an exceptional track record of using sport to showcase what can be achieved by people with disability, on a global level.

Sport is a powerful tool for changing perceptions. It is an opportunity to recover/rediscover life.

Day 4: Leadership through Football with the English Football Association

The Association’s international leadership and volunteering programme, Changing Lives, was established in 2005 to provide an opportunity for young football leaders to experience volunteering abroad whilst leaving a legacy by sharing their own leadership skills with other young leaders from the host country.

The activities included:
  •         Introduction about Football
  •         Warm-up games
  •         Organising and managing a Football activity session
  •         Organising and running event with NW SWAGS Swimming Club, South Africa
Day 5: Swimming session and water safety games with NW SWAGS Swimming Club, South Africa

The first water experience of children is crucial, and therefore games play a big part during teaching. Knowledge of water safety games is very important for 'Learn to Swim' instructors.

Day 6: Peace and friendship in every corner of the global village through Taekwondo with World Taekwondo Federation

The World Taekwondo Federation works to provide effective international governance of Taekwondo as an Olympic sport. The federation helps promote, expand, and improve the practice of Taekwondo worldwide in light of its educational, cultural, and sports values and to promote fair play, youth development and education as well as to encourage peace and cooperation through participation in sports.

                                                   Taekwondo session led by World Taekwondo Federation
Day 7: Child protection/ Safeguarding youth and Sport for Development with Right to Play

This self-audit tool is an ideal way to measure how far (or near!) our organisation is from meeting international standards on safeguarding and protecting children in sport, and where we need to improve.

Day 8: Gender equality in sport with Korean Air

Gender is a social construct that outlines the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a particular society believes are appropriate for men and women. Gender differences between men and women do not necessarily imply inequality. However, globally, women are particularly disadvantaged by gender constructs which prevent them from fully realising their rights, accessing resources, and harnessing opportunities.

Day 9: EPICS Forum

This forum is organised every year in Gwangju and is based on the concept of ‘Sports meets Art & Culture’ aimed at University students and other youth. At the end of this forum, Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace to the UN Secretary-General, asked all of us if we were aware of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was a proud moment for me since I was the only one amongst the 33 participants who knew all the 8 MDGs and earned Mr. Lemke’s open appreciation along with a UNOSDP badge. This moment was really special. :o)

Day 10: Excursion day

We went around the city to explore and understand the culture, tradition, cuisine and rituals of South Korea.

Day 11: Action Plan/ prevention of HIV-infection and HIV-related discrimination among young people with AIDS

We were given some basic knowledge about HIV and AIDS, after which we took part in a quiz on the same topic. I scored well and was also rewarded with special appreciation.

Day 12: Promising practices

The concluding session saw representatives from each participating organisation demonstrate the work that their organisation does on Sport for Development. Like everyone else, I took this opportunity to share a glimpse of the innovative activity-based sessions that the Youth Leaders at Magic Bus hold every week with children from marginalised communities on the Magic Bus programme.

Certificate of participation in the Youth Leadership Camp
This was a 12-day journey in my life which I feel has really changed me, not only as a youth leader but also as a person. I would like to express my gratitude to Magic Bus once again for giving me the chance to take part in this camp. Last but not the least, I would  like to thank our Magic Bus CEO, Pratik Kumar, who left me with very encouraging words that filled me with a sense of confidence and ownership just before I departed from Delhi to South Korea.

Thursday, September 4

A historic time for sport for development in India

From the desk of Magic Bus CEO, Pratik Kumar

I am very happy to share that Magic Bus has been awarded the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar (National Sports Promotion Award), by the President of India, Hon. Sri Pranab Mukherjee, at his official residence, the Rashtrapati Bhawan, on 29th August 2014. The award recognises corporate entities, institutions and individuals who have played a significant role in the area of sports promotion and development. It is the first time that an award has gone to an NGO for promoting Sports for All and using sports as a tool for achieving serious development goals.

We believe that this award is a strong endorsement of our internationally recognised curriculum and methodology of using sports as a tool for bringing about social development. It is a recognition of our tried and tested 15-year old approach where we train local young volunteers to deliver our unique activity-based programme to children by becoming role models and mentors to them. Sports acts as the perfect hook to keep children and communities engaged in our programme as we embark on a long journey of bringing about changes in behaviours and practices in the areas of education, health, gender, nutrition, sanitation, leadership all the way to livelihood.

President of India, Hon. Sri Pranab Mukherjee, presenting the Award to Pratik Kumar, CEO, Magic Bus
The national award comes within months of Magic Bus winning the prestigious international Laureus Sport for Good Award, the first Indian entity to win this global recognition.

I believe that this national recognition will be a turning point in our history as we poise to take the next big leap in our endeavour to make a positive difference to the lives of a million children and youth in India and across the globe.

We are very grateful to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, for their recognition of our work and approach, which is today changing more than 260,000 lives in 19 States across India. We are also indebted to all our supporters and partners who have believed in us and been a part of this wonderful journey.

Find out more about our work at

Pratik Kumar, CEO, Magic Bus

Thursday, August 28

Magic Bus breaking the cycle of poverty, one child at a time

By Nidhi Singh, Guest Author at YourStory

The true potential of mankind is an unimaginable force that can do wonders if harnessed. As rightly said by the first African American President of the USA, “It’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself, that you realize your true potential.” And that is what Magic Bus is all about. It is about breaking the poverty cycle, one child at a time, and helping children transform the world around them. It is about catalysing change in communities and children. It is about creating ‘magic,’ as the name suggests, all across the nation.

How it all started 

A young player from India’s National Rugby Team, Matthew Spacie, used to practice daily opposite Mumbai’s famous Fashion Street, a hub for street children. Being the warm-hearted man that he was, he couldn't resist inviting the Fashion Street boys over for a game. As time passed by, Matthew began to notice positive behavioural changes in the boys — a direct result of being part of a team and overcoming challenges together. These boys, who had grown up on the streets, became more goal-oriented and wanted to improve themselves and their attitudes towards others.

Matthew discovered that the growing influence of this approach not only helped them transform their attitude towards life, but also taught them how to challenge their current realities and overturn their obstacles into a route towards well-being and success. Over a period of the next 10 years, this crystallized into a formal pedagogy that is now known as the Magic Bus Sport for Development curriculum. An approach that would go on to redefine the lives and destinies of many.

How it works

Magic Bus started in the year 1999 and has now expanded to 250,000 children as well as 8000 youth in 19 different states across the country. Supported by Cox and Kings and Cleartrip enabled an academically grounded ‘sport for development’ curriculum to be established.

By training local, community-based young people to deliver long-term programmes that focus on education, health and gender equity, Magic Bus enables children to have more choice and control in their lives to bring themselves out of poverty.  A comprehensive curriculum that uses activities and sport and a long term-engagement are delivered through a child-friendly mentoring approach. At periodic intervals, the mentor provides constant feedback, and monitors the child’s behaviour to bring about proven behavioural changes.

When the child grows up, she or he has the choice of joining Connect, a supplementary programme that links young people to higher education or job opportunities. As a result of this marvellous work, more than 250,000 children and youth have access to better education and improved health as they work towards strong livelihood options for themselves as adults.

Magic Bus uses its concept to not only pull children out of poverty but also to change the mindset of their parents and families. For this reason, the World Bank Development Marketplace Award was presented to the NGO during its formative years.

How obstacles are tackled

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. When a stranger enters a community where all is unknown and throws a ball in the air, everyone gravitates towards the ball. That’s the power and attraction of play. Despite this, the attitude towards girls remains a hurdle across geographies and regions. Getting girls out of their domestic duties and into the public sphere is a hurdle. To avert this in the best possible way, Magic Bus makes use of advocacy tools and tactics, including parents’ meetings, door-to-door campaigns and community-level tournaments to gain support for the intervention, and bring all stakeholders together to build a community that is gender-equal and child-friendly.

I left my old perception to think afresh and hopefully I can do a thousandth of what Magic Bus does to change my Motherland, my home — the nation of many with all hearts beating as one — India.

Original Article by Nidhi Singh at Your Story. Edited for this blog by the Magic Bus Communications Team.

"Nidhi Singh is a Computer Engineering student at NTU Singapore & a Global Evangelist at She has a passion for cars, non-fiction reads and music. Her hope is to create a dent in the universe, in her own way, some day. When she is not trying to find more opportunities to lay her hands on, you can find her writing, traveling or gorging on chocolate and cheese. ... read more on"

Thursday, August 21

Magic Bus Children attend 'Know Your Museum' Workshop

National Museum, New Delhi, India's largest museum, became a learning hub this summer. 360 Magic Bus children along with a group of our Community Youth Leaders (CYLs) and Youth Mentors (YMs) got the opportunity to participate in 'Know Your Museum', a workshop for children aged 11-16.

The workshop focused on developing children's critical thinking abilities and creative expression through art and craft. They learnt through activities such as clay modelling which require brain storming, and other creative group work to build self-confidence and a positive attitude.

The main objectives of the various workshop were:
  • To acquaint children with India's rich cultural heritage
  • To create awareness among children about various traditional arts and crafts
  • To motivate children to preserve and conserve their heritage and join hands in restoring some of the dying arts and crafts of the country
At the workshop, children were divided into 3 groups to participate in 3 different activities:
  • Clay Modelling
  • Paper Toys/Mask Making
  • Madhubani Painting

The workshop began with an introduction and captivating guided tour around the Museum. Children learned about the various collections of the National Museum such as Sculptures in Stone, Bronze and Terracota, Arms, Armour, Decorative Arts, Jewellery, Manuscripts, Miniatures and Tanjore Paintings, Textiles, Numismatics, Epigraphy, Central Asian Antiquities, Pre-Columbian American and Western Art Collections. Gasps and moments of awe were heard coming from the children as they appreciated the work in front of them.

After the tour the children were taken to the Creative Work Gallery where they were divided into three groups for a skill building workshop. The primary goal of the workshop was to inspire interest in archaeological artifacts and Indian history. They were introduced to exploring, experimenting and expressing themselves in the form of art and craft, and constantly guided and helped during the workshop.

At the end of the workshop children thanked the National Museum workshop staff. They left with significantly greater knowledge about the importance of Indian history, arts and culture. Just like in their sport for development sessions, this experiential learning workshop has given them a platform to build capabilities in active engagement, motivation and depth of learning.

To find out more about Magic Bus, please visit

Thursday, August 14

Delhi Begumpur Community’s Girl Child Star: Sonu

Sonu attending a Magic Bus session 
Sixteen-year old Sonu lives in the Begumpur Community in South Delhi. Health, hygiene and education issues affect the community, and most children don't go to school regularly. 

Residents are mostly forced migrants from the East Indian state of Bihar, fleeing the agricultural crises that had left millions impoverished. In Delhi, they find jobs as guards and drivers. Those with neither the skills nor capital to open their own petty shops end up working as daily wage labourers. 

I grew up almost like a boy in the company of my two elder brothers. Use of foul language and picking up petty fights were my forte to the point where other children feared me. I was rowdy and always adamant to have things my way. Most of my day was spent whiling away time just doing this and that, I eventually dropped out of school after sixth grade - attending school just never interested me,” says Sonu.

Sonu at a Barclays 'Cricket for Change' session
Then things started to change. “I enrolled onto Magic Bus sessions a year ago. It was great fun, from day one,” said Sonu, sharing her excitement. The sessions that Sonu is talking about are held 40 times a year, and last for 2 hours each. The entire learning-through-games approach is called the Sport for Development curriculum, and is designed specifically for children like Sonu.

Sonu in her school uniform with Magic Bus mentors
It was during one of the Magic Bus sessions where the importance of education and going to school was being addressed that Sonu felt the penny drop. “I realised that over the first few months of attending sessions, I had become different.  I observed an immense change in my attitude and behaviour. I stopped picking fights with other children, I was becoming friendly and kinder, and started to respect and care for my parents,” expressed Sonu.

She has gradually developed an interest in studies and spends her evenings trying hard to understand the lessons taught at school,” adds her proud mother with a smile.

Youth Mentor, Amar, and Community Youth Leader, Deepak, in-charge of the Begumpur Community, spotted a spark for cricket in the young girl during Barclays Cricket for Change sessions. “The energy and enthusiasm Sonu brings to the playground has boosted confidence in many other girls". 

The Begumpur settlement, like any other poor neighbourhood in Delhi, is not quite open to developing girl children, but the change in Sonu is so significant that every friend of hers is inspired. "You could say that she has single-handedly inspired other girls to enrol on to Magic Bus sessions”, said Amar.

Today Sonu is back at her local school studying in the eighth grade. When she grows up she wants to open a commodity store in her community to make life easier for the residents who have to travel far to make every day purchases. 

Find out more about Magic Bus at