A Journey on the Magic Bus to a Better Future
By Kalyani Giri
HOUSTON: The signal light snapped red, and Rahul Brahmbhatt’s taxi shuddered to a halt at an intersection in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. Seated in the rear passenger seat, Rahul’s attention was drawn by a young boy tapping on the window and literally jumping up and down in excitement. The boy put down a box of wristwatches he was peddling, and eyes shining, he pointed to Rahul’s t-shirt with the signature logo of a tiny red bus and exclaimed in delight, “Magic Bus, Magic Bus!” Then he whistled and was instantly joined by a group of other little boys, whose faces lit up when they spotted Rahul’s shirt, and immediately started miming the act of dribbling a soccer ball. The traffic light changed, and the boys picked up their wares, waved, and dispersed.
For the young Houstonian who had just joined Magic Bus as a newly minted intern, it was a defining moment. Rahul realized through those cheering boys, the far-reaching impact that the sport and development organization has had in reaching over 200,000 children and youth from marginalized communities thus far. A chemical engineer from the University of Texas at Austin, and a George Mason University graduate in Sports Management, Rahul served the grassroots developmental organization Indicorps before joining Magic Bus. He is committed to helping the fastest growing non-profit charity with operations all over India implement its innovative sports-based curriculums to empower children, youth, and communities to engage in the areas of education, health, gender, leadership, and livelihood to enable them to break the cycle of poverty.
The Magic Bus was founded 1999 by Englishman Matthew Spacie, who was posted to Mumbai as Chief Operating Officer for the elite travel company Cox and Kings. An avid sportsman, Spacie was playing rugby at a local field when he saw several boys avidly watching him. He taught them the game and soon discovered that it encouraged discipline, the importance of respecting others, and a sense of purpose. It ignited within Spacie, the need to develop a different approach to involving children from the slums without taking them away from their families. He involved the parents and teachers and got their cooperation. The module is a mentoring program that provides local community role models to children from age eight, called Community Youth Leaders; they promote access to education and health services for children they work with, and focus on developing their social and emotional skills. Magic Bus follows the child’s journey through childhood and delivers confident young people into higher education, vocational training and the workplace. The organization welcomes 100,000 children to the program per year. Magic Bus was registered as a Section 25 non-profit and is today one of the top ten charitable organizations in India.
Spacie was in Houston over the first weekend of April 2012, to introduce Magic Bus to the local community and announce the presence of chapters in the USA. Accompanying him were Rahul and one of Magic Bus’s many success stories, Parvati Pujar, who completed the program and went on to college to graduate with a B.Com. Degree. She continues to be a group leader and has developed nurturing programs of her own. Spacie said that Magic Bus aims to reach 1 million children by 2015 and that sustainability depended on the local communities, individuals, and businesses in India. But at the enormous rate of growth, the organization needs outside funds hence the call for US to pitch in.
Magic Bus has worked with and received support from UNICEF and has partnered with several prolific literacy organizations such as Pratham. Sponsors include BMW, Ashoka Foundation, DHL India, Goldman Sachs, and FIFA.
For more information about Magic Bus, visit www.magicbus.org. For a local contact, email email@example.com or visit the website www.magicbususa.org.