Nurturing Children through the Expeditions of Magic Bus


Abhishek Bachchan with the Magic Bus Board at the 3rd Annual Magic Bus Gala on Saturday, September 17 at the Houston Marriott Westchase. Board members in photo: Amit Bhandari, Matthew Spacie, Swatantra Jain, Jugal Malani, Nikita Malani Shukla, Swapnil Agarwal, Kapil Mathur, Gaurav Khandelwal, Brij Kathuria.
(Missing board members: Narayan Bhargava, Mona Parikh, and Dr. H. D. Patel).
Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Vanshika Vipin

HOUSTON:  ‘Play’ is a powerful medium. Powerful enough to get across a message very effectively. The respected place for ‘play’ in children’s lives can weave magic. Magic Bus has precisely embarked on one such novel journey by using sports as a tool for development and social reconstruction among the underprivileged communities.

Founded by Matthew Spacie, Magic Bus, through its dedicated team of partners and volunteers, uses a sports-based curriculum to engage children, ensuring that they make the right choices from childhood all the way through to better livelihoods as adults, thereby maximizing their potential and breaking the cycle of poverty. This child-friendly mentoring approach enables young people to have more choice and control in their lives thereby increasing their possibilities of moving out of poverty. Each Magic Bus participant is offered their livelihood program, ‘CONNECT’. It offers youth a chance to enroll in college and helps with securing a job placement.


From left: Abhishek Bachchan, Matthew Spacie (Founder and Executive Chairman of Magic Bus), Amit Bhandari (President Houston Chapter and USA Board), Anupam Ray, Consul General of India, Houston.

Last Saturday, September 17, the expedition of Magic Bus reached Houston Marriott Westchase. It was the 3rd Annual Magic Bus Gala, one of the most awaited events of the year. The gala kicked-off at 6 pm with the social hour, and patrons were seen fraternizing with each other over Hors D’oeuvres. As everyone settled in, in addition to the open bar, bottles of red and with wine welcomed everyone at their tables, and some foot tapping Bollywood numbers by Naach Houston and Doonya Houston, set a perfect mood to the evening. The event decor was managed by Nalini Kannan of Décor One.

Amit Bhandari, (Magic Bus, President Houston Chapter and USA Board) along with the Magic Bus Board, welcomed the wonderful guests. They were ecstatic looking at the packed hall, which was an evidence to the strong support received from the growing number of people. Amit Bhandari, who has been an avid supporter of Magic Bus and leads the Chapter’s local Board introduced by sharing the vision and noble thoughts of Magic Bus. He did make a special mention on how Magic Bus spends their money and urged people to donate to their heart’s content. The reaction from the patrons was positive and it was evident, especialy when Amit encouraged them to visit their centers when they travel to India, Nepal or Myanmar.

Staying true to its spirit, to spark the celebration in a magical way, none other than the charming and dashing Magic Bus Patron Abhishek Bachchan was invited. His magnetic personality and the genuine cause of Magic Bus drove several of Houston’s philanthropists to this event. As Abhishek began speaking in his husky voice, his charisma and persona filled the air with an aura of fan-moment sorts.

The Emcee for the evening was Raj Salhotra. He invited over Rakhi Patel, the Business Development and Communications Head of Magic Bus USA, who spoke about the magical journey of the past few years that has positively impacted the lives of over 16,000 children. Anupam Ray, Consul General of India, Houston, was then requested to come on stage.  He mentioned that his association with Magic Bus made him extremely proud. He amused the patrons with quotes on charity in 3 different languages, Hindi, Sanskrit and Bali.  It was then time for a quick 3-minute audio visual treat and Havovi Wadia, Head of Research and Development, presented the journey of a young girl, Seema, to illustrate how Magic Bus helps eliminate poverty from the lives of young people.


Swatantra and Bimla Jain with Abhishek Bachchan

Finally, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Magic Bus, Matthew, stepped in amidst a thundering applause. He seemed overjoyed and thanked everyone by mentioning that this was by far the largest crowd he has had in the galas, since almost two decades. He thanked Amit and Arpita Bhandari, and all the Houston Chapter Board Members: Brij Kathuria, Dr. H.D. Patel, Dr. Nikita Malani Shukla, Gaurav Khandelwal, Jugal Malani, Kapil Mathur, Mona Parikh, Narayan Bhargav, Swapnil Agarwal and Swatantra Jain. Mathew who began this magical journey several years back in Mumbai, spoke about the increasing poverty in India and how Magic Bus was helping curb the graph through its successful program and with the support of its patrons like the ones present in the hall.

It was then auction-time and Tom Patterson; a professional auctioneer helped auctioned the items live, and helped raise funds. Abhishek Bachchan went on to help auction a couple of items in his witty and humorous style, and not to everyone’s astonishment they went on to fetch $25,000 each; a 2-night stay at the Oberoi Hotels and Resorts and an Omega watch.


Magic Bus participants, Sangita Jaykumar (right) and Manisha Gupta with Abhishek Bachchan

Soon after the auction, Justin Reeves, Executive Director, Magic Bus, took the stage and spoke about his film– The Other Girl. His film is a story of 3 girls; Manisha (11 years), Savita (15 years) and Sangita (26 years), who have been a part of the Magic Bus journey and a source of inspiration for Justin.

It was an emotional moment when Magic Bus participants, Sangita Jaykumar and Manisha Gupta came on stage and shared (in Hindi), their journey with Magic Bus and the way their lives have changed. They requested everyone to help with their donations generously so that more Sangita’s and Manisha’s can be helped. It was really sweet of Abhishek to translate their statement in English. Abhishek once again emphasized on the fact that the contribution and donations from everyone really made a huge difference in helping Magic Bus continue its successful journey. Swatantra Jain and his wife Bimla Jain presented him with a token of appreciation. The overall donations reached over $700,000.

A delectable dinner catered by Mahesh Shah of Daawat catering followed, and accompanying dinner was some soothing music by Nishad Nayak (DJ Nish), which added more taste to the perfect evening.


Abhishek Bachchan with the Magic Bus Pledge card

More about Magic Bus:
Magic Bus has successfully helped more than 250,000 children and youth with better education, improving their health situation, displaying more gender-equal behavior and working towards stronger livelihood options as adults. This approach has proven to be successful for two solid reasons: the child’s long-term engagement and the mentor’s familiarity with the child’s context. This level of co-existence helps the mentor to constantly observe, learn and provide constructive feedback that ultimately results in the child’s proven behavior change.

The total number volunteers exceed 9000 and the staff is currently sized at 1600 employees. 48% of the Magic Bus kids are girls, 98% of those kids attend secondary schools, and none get married before the age of 18. To be a part of this magical journey please send details through  or visit