A Magic Bus Ride | SENATUS



A Magic Bus Ride

Matthew SPACIE founded Magic Bus India in 1999. Magic Bus uses a program designed to teach at-risk children basic life skills including discipline and communication through the interesting use of non-classroom, outdoor activities and experiential learning. 





FAMILY: Married


CAREER: Travel and Development sector

INTERESTING TRIVIA: Received the MBE (Member of the British Empire) Honour for his work with Magic Bus

DF:What was your lightbulb moment for the Magic Bus project?
Whilst playing rugby in Mumbai I would often see youths watching from the other side of the fence, not allowed into the elite club. I asked permission to use the ground to start to train them but was not allowed but could see the yearning for them to play and also realised that the structure and discipline of organised sport would be something that could really change their lives. I found another ground right opposite the club and started coaching them on a regular basis. I then encouraged them to help me on weekend camps with younger children where we went up to the mountains to explore. The model of mentorship between young adults who have come from marginalised communities, working with younger children from the same background, through the medium of sport and the outdoors was something I realised could form the core of a really powerful development programme.

How does a former ‘Corporate Guy’ come to start something like Magic Bus?
Living in a city like Mumbai where affluence and poverty sit cheek by jowl it is hard to ignore the need. In India the burgeoning economy is a fascinating thing to be part of but even more is the tremendous challenge of trying to close the gap between the haves and have-nots. This is more of a challenge than a pure corporate job and what excites me about Magic Bus is that we strive to run the organisation with the transparency, efficiency and rigour of a company with none of the mindset that we are in a different sector at all. The opportunity to think creatively about how to get the corporate sector involved in child development is something I feel passionate about.

Tell us about the Magic Bus Mission/Vision
The vision is to give millions of children in developing communities across South Asia the opportunity and access to sport for development programmes that allow them to access their right to play and develop. The mission is to build an empowered youth who take charge of their own communities and build a strong and aware society. At Magic Bus we also believe that this has to come with both financial and social sustainability and hence our conscious efforts to build a programme that will be owned by communities, delivered by its young people and become financially self sustainable through the institutionalisation of locally owned funding strategies and efficiency.

What specific programs do you have for these children?
Each child on a programme joins a group of 40 other children from the same community or institution. They attend 32 weekly two house sessions through out the year, on a weekly basis where football is used as a platform to delivery personal and social skills. Each child then goes on a day trip up to the mountains and attends a three day outdoor programme at our centre for learning and development. The city based sport for development programme includes a number of tournaments throughout the year that encourage competition, participation and communities coming together. In fact we run the only sports league in Mumbai for at risk and marginalised children.

Are you with the kids every day? What is it like?
The work of CEO of an organisation like Magic Bus is taken up with partnership and relationship building, day to day management of over 120 staff at two sites and developing the model to scale. Sadly I am not with the children everyday, but that is also not why I started Magic Bus. I utilise my skills of organisational development and leadership and employ child development experts and community youth to run the programmes.

Magic Bus has done a lot in such a short time, what are you most proud among its achievements?
I am most proud of building an organisation that I can leave. A legacy of succession is key.

It’s often said that charity work gives much more meaning to someone’s life, is that how it is for you too?
The output of the work is positive but people can be equally happy not doing charity work. I am happy and for the most part fulfilled!

Can you describe the pride and the satisfaction you get doing what you do?
I don’t have time for pride! I think one of my better qualities is that I like to laugh. Humour is my key to being happy and I think that is infectious.

Any future plans to expand Magic Bus operations outside of India?
The plan is definitely to look at opportunities in other countries in a few years time if our programme is desired by communities. However the focus now is to get the model right and the sustainability strategies in place.

What kind of support would you like to get from Diane Fay members and other Asian Big Movers?
Networks are always useful. We would like to start raising awareness in Asia both in terms of fund raising and looking at places that need Magic Bus.

What would you like to say to inspire support for Magic Bus?
Everything about what we do is about taking part. Our message is don’t be a spectator. Things happen when you choose to take part.

For more information about Magic Bus send email to info@magicbusindia.org


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