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Bollywood Magic Mixes with Mumbai Youth @ Magic Bus Gala 2018

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Magic Bus Houston Board Members with Matthew Spacie at the 4th Annual Magic Bus Gala on Saturday, February 10 at the Royal Sonesta. Standing: Brij Kathuria (left), Gaurav Khandelwal, Narayan Bhargava, Kapil Mathur, Amit Bhandari, Dr. Dharmesh Patel, and Ajay Patel. Sitting: Dr. H.D. Patel (left), Matthew Spacie, Dr. Namrata Sharma Goel, Dr. Amita Bhalla, Swatantra Jain, and Jugal Malani. (Missing board members: Dr. Nikita Malani Shukla and Swapnil Agarwal).

Magic Bus Houston Board Members with Matthew Spacie at the 4th Annual Magic Bus Gala on Saturday, February 10 at the Royal Sonesta. Standing: Brij Kathuria (left), Gaurav Khandelwal, Narayan Bhargava, Kapil Mathur, Amit Bhandari, Dr. Dharmesh Patel, and Ajay Patel. Sitting: Dr. H.D. Patel (left), Matthew Spacie, Dr. Namrata Sharma Goel, Dr. Amita Bhalla, Swatantra Jain, and Jugal Malani. (Missing board members: Dr. Nikita Malani Shukla and Swapnil Agarwal). Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Jawahar Malhotra
& Vanshika Vipin Varma

HOUSTON:  This city is defined by its generosity – whether that means coming together and supporting each other through Hurricane Harvey, supporting local environmental and social causes, or reaching across the globe and supporting humanitarian causes wherever needed. 

Photos; Bijay Dixit

On Saturday, February 10, Houston once again rose to the occasion and raised over $950,000 for Magic Bus, a leading global charity that uplifts, empowers and supports disadvantaged children, especially in India. There’s a reason Houston is ranked #1 by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the USA.

The event on February 10 was the fourth fundraiser for the Houston Chapter of Magic Bus, a 19-year-old, award-winning, non-profit organization that works with children and youth living in poverty.  Its mission is to help ensure that disadvantaged youth complete secondary education and develop the skills required to transition successfully into the world of work. 

Abhishek Bachchan, Magic Bus Patron & Guest of Honor.

Abhishek Bachchan, Magic Bus Patron & Guest of Honor.

Magic Bus facilitates this journey from Childhood to Livelihood and enables young people to break out of the poverty cycle through programs such as: life skills training, learning enhancement programs, work readiness coaching, and leadership development, all of which are enhanced through sports, play and communal activities.  Over 400,000 children in India participate in Magic Bus, resulting in dramatic decreases in poverty, child marriages, and school dropouts.

Amit Bhandari, Chairman, Magic Bus USA

Amit Bhandari, Chairman, Magic Bus USA

In all, over 600 people attended the event at the Royal Sonesta hotel, which was hosted by philanthropists Amit & Arpita Bhandari, the founders of the BioUrja Group, a global energy and agricultural commodities trading and supply group. 

But the star of the event was Abhishek Bachchan, the famous Bollywood actor, who captured the crowd’s attention, not by his acting skills, but by explaining how he became involved with Magic Bus as a global ambassador several years ago, at the encouragement of his wife, Aishwaria Rai Bachchan.

Utkarsha Mahadeshwar, Magic Bus Participant with Abhishek Bachchan

Utkarsha Mahadeshwar, Magic Bus Participant with Abhishek Bachchan

Abhishek shared his experiences in seeing first-hand how young people’s lives have been changed through involvement in Magic Bus.  The showstopper was the 17-year-old Utkarsha Mahadeshwar, a Magic Bus participant from the Dharavi slums of India. 

She described her journey in Hindi, starting in a community with only one toilet that was a ten minutes walk from her home and with an expectation that she would become a child bride, and ending up with enrollment in one of the most prestigious college in Mumbai “Ruparel College of Arts, Science & Commerce”, where Aishwaria Ria Bachchan is a noted alumni, Bachchan translated for the mesmerized audience.

Matthew Spacie, Magic Bus Founder

Matthew Spacie, Magic Bus Founder

Other highlights of the event included presentations from Matthew Spacie, the founder of Magic Bus, as well as some brief remarks from Indian Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray. Aanya Bhandari and Kate Posner, both of whom participated in the Magic Bus Leadership program, described their experiences interning in Mumbai, showing a short video clip.

Neeraj Salhotra, who started a Magic Bus Chapter at Harvard Law School, also gave a small speech.  Chintan Bakiwala, the winner of the K for Kishore television program, provided entertainment.

Building on the success of the event on February 10, Magic Bus also held its first-ever fundraising gala in New Jersey on February 15, which was attended by 400 people from the tristate area and raised almost $300,000, a stunning success for an inaugural event.  Magic Bus plans to expand its outreach to more cities in 2019 and beyond.

More information about Magic Bus can be found at Magicbususa.org.  

The Houston chapter leadership includes: Amit Bhandari, Swatantra Jain, Jugal Malani, Dr. H.D. Patel, Brij Kathuria, Ajay Patel, Dr. Amita Bhalla, Dr. Dharmesh Patel, Gaurav Khandelwal, Kapil Mathur, Dr. Namrata Sharma Goel, Narayan Bhargava, Dr. Nikita Malani Shukla and Swapnil Agarwal.

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