Our trip was always going to be an adventure that we planned, funded, enjoyed and completed by just the two of us. Whilst we were having the time off for ourselves, it felt selfish not to put our hours in the saddle towards doing some good.
As hopefully you (yes, both of you avid readers) might be aware, our cycle has been fundraising for Magic Bus. The charity has close links to Felsted School where Joe teaches as the founder, the incredible Matthew Spacie, attended the school. With 2019 being the charity’s 20th anniversary year, the headquarters in Mumbai became our target to aim for. Whilst we had seen aspects of Magic Bus in action in England through Felsted’s fundraising, we were not at all prepared for the affect it would have on us once we made it to India and began seeing firsthand the charity in action and the huge difference it makes every day. Whatever you are dealing with in India, the numbers are always vast, and Magic Bus is no different, we had no idea how big an organisation it is, how many different projects it runs, and how many people’s lives it can and does affect.
If you haven’t already, and would like to help Magic Bus, please head to our justgiving page to donate.
We managed to visit four centres during our time in India and see the different approaches, problems and aims for each depending on their role within the area. A few months and miles later we also made it to Singapore in time for their annual fundraising gala which we were very kindly invited to (and luckily provided outfits to wear!).
It seems like a good time to write a summary on Magic Bus covering what we have been able to learn about through our journey and how the money everyone so incredibly kindly donated is making a real impact.
Magic Bus works in four main areas:
1. Childhood (in schools)
2. Livelihood (youth work)
3. Community (in the poorest areas of India)
4. Parental education (for all the above)
The childhood programme is run in government schools throughout India and for children ages 8-12. Magic Bus come into the schools and run the one PE lesson a week for the kids. They follow the curriculum and are designed to also promote a particular message based on the principles of Magic Bus which is then discussed and reinforced at the end of the lesson. For the last 5-10 minutes if the session the pupils gather around and the leader recaps the activity – pointing out the principles and the lessons that have been learnt. As the majority of Indian girls leave education at 14 (and quite often to get married) this is often the focal point. Showing that education is fun, and that the girls in the group have just as much right to be in school as the boys is a lesson that both sides learn from. Getting these opinions in at this early stage is vital to the success of Magic Bus at keeping girls in education and securing them a safe and successful early adulthood.
The most tangible, and therefore the most immediately emotional part of the Magic Bus process to see is the livelihood programme. This is for adolescents (18-25) who live in below poverty (and often a minority background) and is a daily-run 2 month long course that they sign up for themselves to give them the life skills to get (and maintain) a job in a sector that will provide security, welfare and a regular income. From learning what to expect from a 9-5 job, to computer and interview skills as well as fundamental knowledge of nutrition the success stories we heard we overwhelming. What was notably different in Magic Bus’ approach, however, was not just getting the people into the jobs, but the ‘hand-holding’ and support they receive once in place. This was a lesson they learnt at the beginning – that the success of the programme is not how many people they put in a job, it is how many people stay in the job, receive promotions and continue to live in an improved environment 5-10 years later. It was amazing to witness how the extra steps Magic Bus go to to make such a long term difference to those who have volunteered to take part in the programme.
This is probably what most people imagine when you think of charity work in India, and was in fact, where Magic Bus started. Focused on a number of communities (we were lucky enough to see the Bombay Port Trust in action) they work with young children direct and try to help them aim for a life outside of poverty and the unsafe environment they are growing up in. First and foremost it is to give them a good start in life, to give them a safe place to meet and play and hopefully instill some of the Magic Bus ideals in them too.
None of the above is possible without the support and permission from parents. Magic Bus do a lot of work educating adults inside the communities and impoverished areas to help them understand what they are trying to do and how it will help the younger generation. To date, Magic Bus has worked with over 161,000 parents. It was amazing to see how positive the parents we met were, and of course, how important that there are people ‘on the inside’ to help promote and push the youth in these environments.
Almost every child in the programme leaves out of poverty. The charity has now helped over 1million children, last year it helped 381,000 children in 2,000 communities and provided job training for 10,000 youth. There are also centres outside of India, helping 10,000 children in Myanmar and 2,000 in Bangladesh. Whilst only 17% of adults in India are in salaried work, 70% of the youth trained with Magic Bus establish themselves in formal employment which comes with added benefits of pension and health insurance, which often allows use by the whole family.
In India 1% of children finish 12th grade but 98% of Magic Bus students complete their studies. The shocking country-wide statistic is that 30% of girls are married as children but 95% of girls in the Magic Bus programme do not get married before the age of 18.
On top of the more visible work Magic Bus does, it also shares best practices and helps other charities achieve their goals in India and surrounding countries. It was amazing to hear how, as leaders in the industry, they teach and help so many other NGOs – collaborating to ensure everyone can help as much as possible and learn from experience.
We really were bowled over by our time spent with Magic Bus. From the staff and volunteers to the students and parents, we were so impressed by the passion and dedication shown by everyone involved in the Magic Bus programs.
When a charity becomes so successful, we imagine it would be easy to turn into just another corporate, however Magic Bus has really held onto its raison d’etre. Every day, Magic Bus is having a genuine positive impact on the lives of people who need (and fervidly want) help to take steps towards a brighter future.
We feel very privileged to have seen Magic Bus first hand and contribute towards their incredible work. We plan to continue to spread awareness and be involved for a long time to come.