Itoli is a village of about 455 households in the Ballarpur block of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra. It is 25 km from Ballarpur. The total population of this village is 1765. Approximately 45 per cent of the residents hold below poverty line (BPL) cards. The BPL families are mostly in daily wage work, which makes it difficult for them to survive from season to season (finding work through the non-harvest months is tough).
There is a Marathi-medium primary and secondary school for education up to Std 10. The closest primary healthcare centre is 14 km away and the only option for residents in a medical emergency. An auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) visits the village once a week for free health check-ups. The nearest hospital is 20 km away. The nearest school and college are both 7 kms away.
To initiate work, Magic Bus approached the sarpanch of Itoli and, with his permission, organised a sport for development (S4D) session for the community. Residents were invited to witness first-hand how the Magic Bus programme works. Soon after, S4D sessions started in February 2011 with 50 children in two groups.
Today, the programme has grown to 131 children with 69 girls and 62 boys.
13 years old Rushabh Hanuman Gaware is from a farming family in Itoli. The entire family of 4 subsists on just about Rs. 2000 per month. Since they don't even have a BPL card, the family is unable to reap the benefits of any Government schemes at at the ultra poor.
Like many other children in Itoli, Rushabh too took a minimal interest in playing. His regular attendance at the Magic Bus sessions changed all that. "I realised that by playing together with my friends, I was building my confidence and developing my team skills. Today I can say that I want to grow up to do something good for my family and my village."
The sessions help children like Rushabh develop their social and emotional intelligence, which helps them to plan for a better future and work towards the day when they will be able to move out of poverty.
Magic Bus has encouraged parents in the community to meet every few months to discuss the development of their children. Topics that the community is unfamiliar with, such as Right to Education, are also discussed at the meetings.
There have also been awareness rallies to educate the community about issues related to health and education.
Making change sustainable is one of the major characteristics of the Magic Bus programme.
Such was the case with 9-year-old Komal. Komal’s parents were farmers and even after a hard day in the field would manage to put together Rs 2000 per month. Two years ago, when Komal joined Magic Bus sessions, the Community Youth Leader (CYL) was quite impressed by her sporting skills. She was also very quick-witted.
Therefore, it came as a surprise to him when, one day, Komal stopped coming for the sessions.
On visiting her house, the CYL found out that Komal was taking care of her younger siblings and also doing the housework. “My parents can’t stay at home so I have to do all the housework. After this, where is the time to play and study?” her questions echoed with the deadly silence of thousands of children like her who drop out of school at a very young age.
The CYL engaged with her parents on the issue of Komal’s education. Initially, they resisted by pointing out that it would be difficult for them to run a household if both of them were not working. But, over time, they understood that their daughter needs to go to school. “I do not want her to face the same dilemma that we do when we have to leave our children at home”, says Komal’s mother.
Today, Komal is attending both her school as well as the Magic Bus sessions regularly, a positive example for all other children in Itoli.
Magic Bus sessions are held every Thursday from 8 am to 10 am and are divided in three parts:
(Photographs from Magic Bus areas of operation are for representational purposes only.)