Large crowds gathered to welcome Laureus World Sports Academy members Sir Ian Botham and Kapil Dev as they paid an emotional visit to Mumbai to meet and play sport with children from the slums of Dharavi as part of the Laureus-supported Magic Bus project last week.

The Magic Bus project is a child development organization which helps to improve the lives of children living in at-risk communities where the majority of residents live on or below the poverty line in difficult and overcrowded conditions. Magic Bus creates ‘classrooms without walls’ for these children, using football, outdoor activities and games to give them an opportunity to develop vital personal and social skills that will help them build a better future and change their communities.

Botham – one of the greatest cricketers of the 20th century – and Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev took part in sports activities with the young people at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. They met girls from the magic bus project and joined in singing and dance routines which they have learned in the project. They watched boys from the Dharavi community competing against others from Salam Balak area.

England hero Ian Botham said: “It has been an honor and a privilege to be in Mumbai to see how sport can bring some hope and happiness into the lives of these children, who come from such difficult backgrounds. It is a great sadness that so many of these children have so little expectation of what most people would regard as a normal life, but at least Magic Bus can make a difference and I have been happy to be able to come here and give my support.”

And former India captain Kapil Dev, voted the Indian Cricketer of the 20th Century, added: “I have been to the Magic Bus project before and seen the wonderful work that the project does. We do what we can, but it is always heart-breaking to know that for every child we help there are maybe another ten or one hundred that we cannot. Hopefully by helping a few, they will be able to become youth leaders themselves and work to improve conditions in their community.”

Magic Bus provides opportunities to children living in marginalized sections of society through recreation and sports activities. Two of their projects focus on the children from the slums in the Dharavi and Bombay Port Trust area of Mumbai where 54% of the population lives below India’s poverty line. Founded in February 1999 in partnership with other local organizations, Magic Bus has developed and grown into one of the largest projects of its kind for children living in slums in India.

In Mumbai, Magic Bus has chosen football and handball as its main platforms, along side a number of indigenous games and outdoor learning through adventure activities. Football incorporates teamwork, fair play and collective effort.

The Magic Bus program facilitates personal and social development through sport and outdoor learning. The program enables children and youth to assert their rights and bridge the social divide. Magic Bus program revolves around the mentor who ensures a physical and emotional safe environment, facilitating a fun, child-friendly and child-participatory way using experiential learning methods.
The children are taught that a healthy body and a healthy mind will go a long way in shaping their future and in the long run developing their communities. Some children reported giving up smoking after just one sports session. Children are given access to well known sports personalities, either in person or through videos, in order to inspire them to strive towards sporting excellence.

The visit was also an opportunity to present a prize to the winner of the IWC watch drawing competition. Laureus Global Partner IWC Schaffhausen, the Swiss watch manufacturer, asked participants of Laureus-supported projects around the world to submit drawings under the theme ‘Time for Luck’. The winning drawing, by a young girl who is part of the Magic Bus program, was then engraved on a new limited edition watch, the Da Vinci Chronograph Edition Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, sales of which benefit the Foundation, and in turn projects like Magic Bus.

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