Magic Bus: providing educational opportunities for youngsters in India
The magic of sport
Nitin Bawasakar wakes with a smile.
Waking up in his home, a compact room which he shares with his grandmother, mother, younger brother in the Lallubhai Compound of Mumbai’s Mankhurd Slum, is excited for the sports activities he is about to organise for the other youngsters in his community. What he doesn’t know, is that he’s going to receive a helping hand from a legend of India’s national sport, cricket.
Nitin, who recently turned 18, is one of the 62% estimated Mumbaikars living in informal slums in an ever-growing city of 18.4 million habitants. For people living in places like the Lallubhai Compound, life is tough, opportunities are few and dangers are real.
Access to water is rare with some households only allowed 15 minutes per day. Understandably, sanitary conditions suffer as a consequence and the main victims of the situation are children. “The youth is completely destructive in this area,” says Diana Peters, senior manager at Laureus-supported Magic Bus in Mumbai.
The youngsters’ destruction derives of a lack of activities and boredom. School drop-outs are high, compromising any chance of achieving an education. Nitin was one of the youngsters who dropped out of school when he realised he could find ways to make easy money. With his father rarely at home, he started accepting odd jobs to support his mother. “I want to help my mother, especially after everything she has done for me,” he says.
Spending his days on the streets, picking up whatever money he could and mixing with the wrong crowds, Nitin was lucky to cross paths with Magic Bus, a sports programme which took him in the direction of a better future.
The challenge of reaching out to the youth
Educating young people from disadvantaged communities is the aim of Magic Bus, a sport for development organisation supported by Laureus Sport for Good for over 15 years. Working in communities across India, social workers from Magic Bus quickly realised they would need to enlist the help of young leaders within local communities to reach their goals.
In order to connect with the young people like Nitin, Magic Bus focuses on a mentorship approach. Using sport to engage with young people, the programme trains young leaders from within the community to act as role models and work with the local youth on a regular basis.
“Youngsters the age of Nitin lack recognition and respect and it is great to see that wearing the Magic Bus T-shirt makes them proud,” Diana reflects.
“Magic Bus had a huge contribution to the person I have become” – Nitin Bawaskar
With Nitin, Magic Bus found exactly what they were looking for in a young mentor. Having personally felt the positive impact of the programme, Nitin is in the perfect position to give back and help the young people in the Mankhurd community. His role filled him with confidence he didn’t know he had. “Children in my sessions call me “dada” which means big brother,” Nitin says with a proud smile.
Through the training provided, Nitin learnt to capture attention and deliver a message through fun and engaging sporting activities, especially in a community crazy about cricket. “When I use sports, kids are more receptive to my teaching and I can connect more easily with them”. During his afternoon session on that warm day, he received a very special visit from a national icon, Rahul Dravid.
Inspirational role models
Laureus Academy Member and cricket Legend Rahul Dravid paid an impromptu visit to Mankhurd, taking time to speak with Nitin to learn about his work and the impact of the programme. The national sporting hero then took part in the Magic Bus activities before inspiring the youngsters with a street cricket session. One of India’s greatest ever cricketers was humbled by Nitin and the work he does using sport to improve lives.
“Spending time with people like Nitin really brings the power of sport to life,” Rahul reflected after the session. “The work being done at projects like Magic Bus is changing young people’s lives for the better. People call me their hero for what I achieved in my test cricket career but for me, Nitin and other inspirational leaders are the real heroes of sport.”
Inspiration for a brighter future
The reaction on the faces of Nitin and the other young Magic Bus participants told their own story. They were all inspired and had memories to last a lifetime. The experience highlights the importance of role models like Rahul and Nitin inspiring the next generation.
Nitin’s commitment to the sport for development cause is total. Having returned to education through the support of Magic Bus, Nitin organises a weekly session at 06.30, before going to class. Diana is optimistic about Nitin’s future:
“Teaching kids is a good responsibility to start with but our mentors are now taking their own initiatives. Nitin and his friends decided that they will clean the compound which is littered with garbage.”
Magic Bus has transformed Nitin’s life. He has developed from a troubled youth lacking ambition to a confident and generous young man. His development is clear when he is questioned about his goals for the future. “I want to be a successful businessman,” he says.
Thanks to Magic Bus and the power of sport, he now has the opportunity to do so.