The Magic Bus organization uses a model that allows communities to learn to help themselves. The program began as the brainchild of Matthew Spacie. While still a teenager, Spacie told Huffington Post, he decided he wanted to make his life’s work helping people to rise out of poverty. He began by volunteering with the sick and teaching English in India and Tibet when 18 years old.
According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), Spacie was working for a travel business in Mumbai in 1998. When he played rugby, he would notice boys on the other side of the fence at his sports club watching the matches. He invited them to play and they accepted.
These teens were among some of the poorest in Mumbai. Spacie decided to try to do something to help them. He organized trips for a small number of kids to get out of the city for the weekend for learning trips. The kids called their mode of transportation the “Magic Bus.”
Spacie decided to do even more to help lift Mumbai teens out of poverty. He tried some different things and hit upon the idea of developing the Magic Bus organization into a more involved learning program.
The program received funding from Dasra. Dasra is an organization that is also committed to working against poverty in Mumbai, as founder Deval Sanghavi explained for Live Mint.
The Magic Bus organization works by enlisting locals to help each other. When Magic Bus targets an area to work in, they start by talking to locals about specific needs to be addressed in their communities. They identify volunteers in their late teen to early 20s to serve as mentors. Then, the mentors may have employment opportunities with Magic Bus.
Kids who participate in the program learn skills that prepare them to succeed in life, with “lessons about the importance of education, community and personal health and hygiene, gender equality and non-discrimination to children and their families,” according to SSIR.
Magic Bus calls their method as an “Activity Based Curriculum,” which, according to their website, teaches kids about health, education and other key issues through the use of playing games.
One story of Magic Bus’ success that Spacie shared with Huffington Post was was about a student that was able, through 10 years of working with a Magic Bus mentor, to overcome his family’s background of barely scraping by. He was able to study at university and get a job with an events company. Skills the student learned included how to interview and to converse in English. That student now mentors other Magic Bus Children.
This kind of success has led other organizations, including World Bank and UNICEF, to take notice of Magic Bus’ work. This in turn, has led to further funding for the organization.
Since its inception in 1999, the Magic Bus organization has grown from one man helping 50 kids in his free time to a foundation that employs 1,000 and reaches 300,000 kids throughout areas in India that the organization serves.