When I met with Magic Bus’ Kate Snow last week, I expected our discussion to cover a basic profile of the charity. What I came away with, however, was a deeper understanding of how activities and sport has been used methodically and metaphorically to inspire change. The charity has worked successfully with underprivileged children across India, helping them to overcome obstacles through action. We talked mainly of 16 year Gulafsha Kamrulhodda Ansari who, after her experience with the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in San Francisco went on to be selected to come to London as part of the 2012 Olympic celebrations.
16 year old Gulafsha, a girl from Mahim Bombay, found her way to the JFSLA course through a Magic Bus initiative. There, she joined a team of girls and learnt a series of both soccer and and leadership skills. It was precisely this combination that helped the girls towards their next challenge, to suggest a social cause that they could personally support. Gulafsha’s cause, was chosen and will see her come to London through the Macdonald’s “Choose to Matter” contest in August.
What makes Gulafsha’s story interesting, particularly for Magic Bus, is that they’ve seen her develop through their work. A slum childhood is, as one can imagine, a difficult one, but through Magic Bus’ mentoring and support, Gulafsha’s development has received not only the practical benefits of sport - but the psychological ones too. Magic Bus has made a point of using activities and sport to bring out the leadership and troubleshooting skills required in everyday life.
One could argue, that armed with the right attitude and skill set - sport can help enhance the quality of any life, regardless of background. Kate mentioned examples of exercises where the girls would dribble or climb walls - and then be encouraged to relate the obstacle in sport to the ones in everyday life. It was precisely this ideology that inspired Matthew Spacie, founder, to shape the charity in the way that he has. Spacie, will also this year be involved in the Olympic celebrations as a torchbearer. It was Spacie who first saw the potential of Sport as a means of instilling a variety of skills. Though you could teach sports to anyone at any age, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to encourage them turn up to an interview on time, speak to someone in a particular way - or channel the skills learnt in one arena to another. This prompted him to concentrate his focus on the young and mentor them in a way that would keep sharp in the wider world around them.
For Gulafsha - simply being at the 2012 London Olympics will mark a major milestone in the journey she has made from troubled, humble beginnings - to the ultimate sporting event. As the adage goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day - but give him a net and you feed him for a lifetime. This parallels the work of Magic Bus and their sporting relationship. Moreover, in introducing skills rather than material contributions, they’ve succeeded at developing low-cost, sustainable method of running the charity. Whatever Gulafsha has learnt, can now be passed on to her friends and members of her community. It is hoped that this idea will uphold itself in an ever-expanding community.
Kate mentioned that only 1% of girls will graduate from school, this is an alarming number when you consider the potential teaching that’s on offer. Through introducing sustainable learning in sport - the method helps many children, who despite India’s growth - still continue to experience poverty. As I’ve touched on in some of my posts before - India’s burgeoning economy hasn’t always relayed benefits to the lowest denominations in society. Sport, therefore, is a subject that can transcend this, and Gulafsha’s story is testament to this.