At the BMW Foundation conference on Building Social Cohesion (read equality) we had the opportunity to go on field trips. One I choose was to visit the “Magic Bus” program. Magic Bus empowers children and youth to discover and develop through sport. We drove about 30 minutes through the city and the slums to a field next to a Navy base down by the port. We were soon joined by about 50 kids ages 8-14 who literally sprinted from the bus to the hut where they got to change into socks and soccer shoes. The energy level was super high and they were really keen to see us and to play.
We participated in a silly and fun warm-up, including Bollywood dance moves, not good for me;-) and then they got to choose team leaders as well as which of 3 games they wanted to play. Half court soccer and we were off – before long none of us cared that the dust was flying and we were getting sweaty in our conference clothing. The kids started to communicate as you do in sports with high-5s and smiles and groans and some limited English like ‘time off’ but with the ‘Time out’ hand signal we knew the deal.
After about an hour we took a break and they were asked why they choose that game and where were there other places that they had choices. Choices was the lesson of the day. Many, still excited responses were translated for us. For the game most were about being able to play as a team and because it was fun.
For where else they had choices: to clean the silverware or the dishes first, to do what their parents said or not (acknowledging the sometimes violent consequences) to do drugs in the morning or not, or to go to school or to skip. The school is not as simple as it sounds as these kids are living on ‘illegal land’ which means that the government won’t allow them to have and state infrastructure including water or sewers or schools so it is a long walk. The discussion was lively and more and more inclusive of all of the kids.
The message that we all have choices and thinking before making the choice is a good idea was communicated and then we were back on the field to play dodge ball and then another game of soccer, this time full court. Before we knew it, it was time to go. We said our good byes over and over and they kept telling us to come back on Sunday to see their game and good bye and good bye and good bye.
For more on India see the firends and family blog page on this site.