MAGIC BUS USA

Magic Bus will give millions of children living in poverty the opportunity to control the way they view the world, the freedom to choose the role they will play in it, and the power to define their own destiny.
Jun 16, 2016

Divya Mahawar: Dreaming of an Equal World

Divya, arriving at her Magic Bus session.
Divya, arriving at her Magic Bus session.

“A girl is no less than a boy. We learned it in a Magoc Bus session. Then, why should she not go to school? Why should she get married?” 

12-year-old Divya lives in Shanker Nagar in Jaipur, a hilly area surrounded by the historic forts of Nahargarh and Amber. Home to Koli Mahawars, a Scheduled Caste (SC) group, Shanker Nagar’s residents are mostly unskilled workers. 

The earliest account of this area is hardly historic or impressive to the tourists drawn to Jaipur’s royal forts and temples. Only the oldest residents like Divya’s grandfather remember the struggle to find work during those days “when most of the area was covered by forest”. Although much has changed about the settlement, the struggle for livelihood continues to underwrite the lives of its dwellers. 

“The forests have receded. Our houses are now made of brick. But, finding a job which brings in enough money to make ends meet is still a distant dream,” says Divya’s grandfather pausing only to remark about the insignificance of recalling a past which is no different from the present.

For the poor of Shanker Nagar, history isn’t demarcated into eras. Divya belongs to the same Koli Mahawar caste as the rest of the families in Sunder Nagar. Her father is a plumber and mother, a homemaker. The monthly income of the family stands at 5000 rupees.

Divya reads in the sixth standard of a local private school. She has two brothers. One of them goes to school while the other is too young to be enrolled. She lives with her extended family: three uncles, aunts, grandmother, and several cousins.

Her perception of life is influenced by her parents’ constant encouragement to dream of a better future after she completes her higher education. 

“I want to be a doctor. People in my community laugh it off saying I can do no better than my father.  But, I know, I will prove them wrong,” she says.

She joined Magic Bus a year ago. “People living in Shanker Nagar lack gainful livelihood options. Most of the inhabitants work as unskilled labourers just like Divya’s father. Alcoholism is common. Initially, there was no open and safe space for children to come out and play. The area we chose for our sessions was a little away from the community, right at the foothills. We made efforts to ensure that children are safe when they come here”, says Magic Bus’ Neelima who is in charge of the Magic Bus programme in Jaipur.

Her words are echoed by Divya. “Our community used to be unsafe for children because of alcoholics. Once during a Magic Bus session, a man approached a girl in my group to “play with him behind the trees”. Bhaiya and didi (local terms referring to Magic Bus’ Community Youth Leaders) immediately protested. I, too, stood up and asked the man to back off and mind his own business. I did not feel afraid to stand up to a man twice my age. Such incidents are common but we have learnt not to remain silent”.

Divya shares how a girl in her area was sold off by her own uncle so that he could buy alcohol. At a personal front, she has often faced crude jokes for being “dark-skinned”, a quality, her neighbours and children of her age, associated with “difficulties of getting a groom without paying a large dowry”. 

Her dream of being a doctor has been rebuffed by many as an impractical and impossible dream as she was a “daughter of a plumber”.

Such incidents have led her to recognise the unequal treatment meted out to girls and women. It has also helped her find a way to address them through the Magic Bus programme.

“Silence is definitely not the way out”, she says emphatically. “Ever since I joined Magic Bus, I have grown confident of my ability to make it big in this world. With my mentors support, I have stood up to people who tease me about my skin colour or look down upon my dream to become a doctor. I have decided never to discriminate or tolerate discrimination, she shares.

She feels that other children who come for the Magic Bus sessions have changed a lot in the way they behave with each other, particularly towards children of the opposite sex. “Children who would earlier say demeaning things to each other, or behave rudely have changed their ways after coming to the sessions. Children who come to the Magic Bus sessions stay away from alcohol and substances. I have seen many of them encouraging their peers, and sometimes even their parents, to give up on alcohol and other substances”.

She points out the exact reason for her interest in the sessions. “All of us get to learn something new when we come to these sessions instead of sitting at home”. The lessons learnt during the sessions are not quickly forgotten. They are discussed in the peer circles and with parents. Divya’s mother testifies how her daughter is always excited about the “new information” she learns at Magic Bus sessions. 

“She is the leader among the younger children. She makes sure no one misses out a session”, shares her mother.

“A girl is no less than a boy. We learnt it in a session. Then, why should she not go to school? Why should she get married?” she asks. Her parting question tells us much about a 12-year-old’s conception of a gender-equal world.

Mar 21, 2016

How 16-year-old Mamta rewrote her own destiny

Mamta, inspiring youth at our annual Youth Summit
Mamta, inspiring youth at our annual Youth Summit

In 2015, Magic Bus launched its first series of Youth Livelihood Centers across India.  These centers serve as skills training hubs in the disadvantaged communities in which Magic Bus works.  Every year tens of thousands of impoverished youth across India proudly become the first secondary school graduates in their family, but don't have the access to markets that is required to get a job.

The Magic Bus Youth Livelihood program is designed for these youth in mind.  It is a one year program that coincides with the youth's final year in high school.  The program trains the youth in computer skills, interviewing skills, and resume building skills that are vital to securing employment.  This cohort of students also serve as a network for one another where they can study and practice together.  

On March 4th, Magic Bus held its first ever Convocation and Employment Assembly for graduates of this first batch of the Youth Livelihoods program in Delhi.  The photo shows Mamta sharing her inpiring story with the audience.

When she was 16, Mamta's father was involved in a horrible accident that left him unable to use either of his arms. Overnight, he was unable to provide for his family of four and the family's INR 4,000 (USD $60) per month vanished and Mamta and her family were relegated to borrowing money for basic groceries.

She shared that borrowing money to cover costs was unsustainable, so the her family made the very difficult decision to leave their village in search of opportunity and found themselves taking shelter at Mamta's uncle's home in Jasola - a very poor slum community in Delhi.  While her uncle showed kindness in taking her family in, his view on gender equality and girls' education didn't portray the same kindness.

"From day one, my uncle decided that as a girl with a disabled father, I had no business attending school," Mamta shared.  He argued that the sooner she was able to get married, the sooner she would have a husband who could provide for her and would be one less mouth for her mother and father to feed.

For millions of girls like Mamta, the daily pressures of living in poverty, being forced to drop out of school and into a marriage before they turn 18 - is rooted in this logic.

Mamta shared that this is when she was introduced to Magic Bus and her mentor Mohit.  Mohit says, "Mamta continued on in school with Magic Bus helping her stand up to her uncle and graduated high school!  This is a testament to her fighting spirit."

Mamta had shared with her audience her next step in her Magic Bus journey:

"My Magic Bus mentors recognized the potential I had to break the future that was 'destined' for girls like me and I enrolled in the Youth Livelihood Center in Jasola.  Over the next 4 months, I developed the skills I needed to find and keep a job in the retail sector.  My Magic Bus mentors even accompanied me to the interview."

Mamta was overjoyed when she learned that her hard work and determination helped her land the job.  Over the last 5 months, she has been working as a salesperson at a leading home decor store located 8 km from her home.  

"I earn INR 11,000 every month and I have opened a government savings account and get one day off every week," she smiles.  "It feels so good to know that I am the provider for my family."

"The best thing about our training is that it gives Mamta a competitive advantage at work," says Mohit, who continues to provide Mamta with the information, advice, and guidance a first-generation office worker needs. "The fact that she was the only one in her cohort to be promoted within 5 months of starting her first job proves the value of the skills she has learned."

Dec 9, 2015

Thank you for supporting us this year

"It is the happiest moment of my life" - Keerthi
"It is the happiest moment of my life" - Keerthi

We would like to personally thank you for supporting Magic Bus and the 350,000 children that benefit from our programs every week. This year, Magic Bus USA raised nearly $2m in funding and in-kind donations from thousands of US-based organizations and individuals, including:

  • Strategic Partnerships with TOMS and Marchesa
  • A Fundraising gala in Houston and for the first time in NYC too
  • More than 30 marathoners running for Magic Bus in NY and LA

We were also featured in a November edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The publication carried an in-depth interview with Silicon Valley insider and philanthropist and Magic Bus USA Board Member Ram Shriram who is focusing a great deal of his time, money, and energy on helping innovative NGOs (like Magic Bus) improve education in India. Also featured was a case study examining how Magic Bus is changing the lives of Indian children growing up in poverty through an activity-based learning curriculum.

Your support has helped us change the lives of youth across India - like Keerthi, who is a graduate of the Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme. The Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme helps underprivileged youth break out of poverty by providing them with suitable employment opportunities. The programme helps build youth’s capacities, sets realistic aspirations for themselves, inculcates employable skills, and get access to gainful employment.

Keerthi was a part of the third batch of young people in Magic Bus’ Livelihood Programme in Mysore city. After joining the programme, he was taken through a Comprehensive Need Assessment followed by a Personal Development Plan. It was a blueprint of his strength, weaknesses, aptitude and attitude. He also went through a process of training on using computers, managing his finances, spoken English language, and business entrepreneurship. The last is a compulsory skill set giving young minds a direction to become entrepreneurs themselves.

On graduating from the programme, he got a job as a Customer Sales Specialist with Eureka Forbes; where he gets a salary of Rs. 4,000 per month and incentives for every sale that he makes.

“I don’t know if I could be happier. I believe this is the best thing that has happened to me in the last 21 years”, says Keerthi, his excitement seeping through his otherwise calm voice. Especially given that he wasn’t able to find a job on his own for over a year. He says, “When Magic Bus Youth Mentor Deepu came to our house and informed us of the Livelihoods Programme, I was drawn towards it. I had graduated last year and was desperately looking for a job. I asked around in my community and heard favourable responses about the programme. A friend of mine in the community had gotten a job within months of joining the Livelihood Programme.”

Keerthi’s strength and interest was towards managing interactions with customers. He was advised to focus on marketing and sales oriented job. When the Eureka Forbes opportunity came along, the Magic Bus team asked Keerthi to go for the interviews. “It was my first interview. Naturally, I was nervous. But, months of grooming and practice at the Livelihoods Centre had its benefits”, he says.

On asking if he is satisfied with the remuneration, Keerthi explains “Our family has seen some tough days since my father passed away 15 years ago. My mother toiled day and night to make ends meet. She works as a coolie in a local vegetable market earning just Rs. 3,000 per month. I would have dropped out long ago had not a government scholarship funded my education from the 10th standard onwards. I was in desperate need for a job. I had to earn and help share the burden in the family. This job engages me for just three hours leaving the rest of the day to help in household chores and improving my own skills. And, the salary is a huge help for my family. Last month, I took home Rs. 15,800 for selling 6 vacuum cleaners. For the first time in years, my family could at least afford the basic necessities. It is definitely a beginning.”

Keerthi’s performance at Eureka Forbes is being lauded by his team manager there. He is seen as a valuable member, capable of taking up new challenges, and comfortable with the customers.

For Keerthi, this is a step forward in the right direction. “Some more years down the line, I want to start my own agency”, he signs off.

Like Keerthi, Magic Bus is a step forward in the right direction for many underprivileged youth. All thanks to Global Giving and folks like you! 

Keerthi
Keerthi's job - the hope to break out of poverty.
After his dad
After his dad's death,Keerthi's mom was a labourer
The Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme Center
The Magic Bus Livelihoods Programme Center
Keerthi with his trainer at the Magic Bus center
Keerthi with his trainer at the Magic Bus center
Keerthi on a Eureka Forbes round
Keerthi on a Eureka Forbes round
Keerthi aspires to start his own agency
Keerthi aspires to start his own agency
 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $25
    give
  • $75
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $250
    give
  • $625
    give
  • $1,250
    give
  • $2,500
    give
  • $5,000
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $75
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $250
    each month
    give
  • $625
    each month
    give
  • $1,250
    each month
    give
  • $2,500
    each month
    give
  • $5,000
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of MAGIC BUS USA

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about MAGIC BUS USA on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.