The Magic Bus is on a Journey

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Magic Bus Board: (Seated, from left): Swatantra Jain, Matthew Spacie (Founder and chairman of Magic Bus), Dr. Sunita Moonat, Mona Parikh, Amit and Arpita Bhandari.
(Standing, from left): Kevin Negandhi (emcee), Ram Shriram (Magic Bus board member and venture capitalist), Gopal Savjani, Dr. H. D. Patel, and Brij Kathuria. Photos: Bijay Dixit

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By Vanshika Vipin

HOUSTON: The Magic Bus is on its journey with its second event of the year, a Charity Gala, first being the Farhan Akhtar show back in April. Houstonians gathered at the JW Marriott, Westheimer, on Saturday, October 11 for a full house event for Magic Bus. The Charity Gala opened when Meena Datt, the host of Music of India and Ghungroo radio welcomed the gathering. She then introduced the master of ceremonies, Kevin Negandhi, the first Indian-American anchor for ESPN. Kevin talked about his journey into the sports journalism drawing parallel with the Magic Bus movement and the importance of sports in lives of young people. He stressed on how proud he is to be an Indian-American breaking the stereotypes.

The stage was then set for the president of the Magic Bus Houston Chapter, Amit Bhandari to take over and express a delighted disbelief on the tremendous support from the community as well as the Houston board (Gala Chair Swatantra Jain, Co-chair Jugal Malani, Dr. H D Patel, Dr. Sunita Moonat, Brij Kathuria, Gopal Savjani and Mona Parikh) that has helped propel Magic Bus onto the national stage. He talked about support for Magic Bus back in India via television show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Amir Khan which featured an entire episode on Magic bus.

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Board members with volunteers, Matthew Spacie, and Ram Shriram.

Magic Bus ( is a non-profit organization based in Mumbai with over 8000 volunteers and operations in fourteen states in India that impact over 250,000 children.  The organization’s goals are simple, to change the course of children’s lives, one game at a time.

Specifically, Magic Bus uses a unique, activity-based methodology to teach children about education, gender equality, health, and social issues by engaging them in games that reinforce positivity. Girls who participate in the Magic Bus program are much more likely to finish school and go on to higher education or get a job. Magic Bus USA’s Leadership Team is only a part of the global Magic Bus team, a distinguished collection of philanthropists, entrepreneurs, executives, athletes, and celebrities who share one common characteristic – a strong belief in the power of the Magic Bus approach.

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Gala chair Swatantra Jain presenting gift to Ram Shriram (left).

Amit invited the Counsel General of India, Pavathaneni Harish on stage. Harish commented on how the political landscape has shifted in India and that it was in a unique crossroads for remarkable growth.

Recent Noble prize awards were then mentioned as serial venture capitalist Ram Shriram took stage. He is a Google board member and has supported Magic Bus since its inception. He emotionally recalled his childhood in Chennai and how his grandfather taught him a lifelong lesson on how one should always give back to others—he urged the captivated audience to donate and help change the lives of the children in the slums. He said, “You don’t have to be old to give but can always start young. Giving helps you with being self-aware. Gift of gratitude that comes with it and the fascinating feeling of self-awareness that it leaves you with is good.”  He highlighted the presence of youth by acknowledging the presence of young volunteers at the event. Gala Chair, Swatantra jain then presented a token of appreciation to Ram Shriram.

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Parvati and Suryakant

Matthew Spacie, the founder and CEO of Magic Bus, thanked everyone and made a special mention of Brij Kathuria ( board member, who put in a lot of effort for this gala). Mathew then spoke of his time growing up in Mumbai and how a simple game of rugby with neighborhood kids sparked the idea for Magic Bus. He explained the Magic Bus program and how its unique peer-driven methodology provided significant results on retention and enrollment rate. He narrated the story of Deepika with pictures of her development accompanied by disturbing statistics on child marriages and the silver lining of kids graduating because of Magic Bus.

Another real life example of the magic bus program is Parvati, who joined magic bus at the age of 8 and is now in her early twenties. She spoke in fluent English on how the program helped her escape living homelessly on construction sites as well as childhood marriage, and drove her to be the first college graduate in her family. She called it the magical moment of her life when she joined Magic Bus. Highlighting the grass-roots community nature of the program. She mentioned her idol is Matthew Spacie and would like to be him one day. Another example, Suryakant, joined Magic Bus at the age of 7, he is now 20, mentored by ‘Parvati didi”, as he fondly calls her, expresses a new found respect for women and has bright career aspirations. He said magic bus has changed his perspective of seeing women, elders and peers.

The evening’s finale was a lively pledge drive and auction that raised an impressive sum of $353,690 which was then generously matched by Ram Shriram. A delectable dinner catered by Daawat catering followed and gala attendees got on their feet to dance out to some hit Bollywood music. The event was well decorated by Decor One. It was an evening well attended and well directed. The Magic Bus is rolling onto its journey and the passengers have started enjoying the ride.

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