By Stacey Choe
What is the best way to get a child engaged? Through play. Through sports. That is how Matthew Spacie through Magic Bus has reached out to over 900,000 children, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, and worked with them on their values, their aspirations and their communities to lift them out of poverty and to obtain jobs. On 7th March, APC hosted Matthew for a lunch roundtable with members in Singapore.
The Magic Bus programme works with adolescents from age 12 over a 7-year period, providing them with mentors, working with industry partners to right-match them with jobs. Through these programmes, girls stay in school longer and avoid marrying early, their prospects for the future broaden, and youths pick up life skills and work ethics that become transferable in any job and help them sustain longer at their jobs.
Matthew, who was awarded an MBE for services to children to the Commonwealth, explained that “sports is an equaliser”, which is why he uses sports as a development tool. Not only does Magic Bus work on the youths themselves, but the parents and the wider communities also have to get involved.
He further reiterated the three areas that the programme works to achieve:
A. The youths must be educated.
B. They must have good agency: the young person has to believe that that they do not have to be poor.
C. They have to strive towards economic sustainability.
Members at the roundtable were impressed by how he managed to bring a small NGO to such scale and breadth, whilst lamenting that, in Asia, many NGOs often stick to a small geography or are unable to expand wider. Matthew confided that often times, the start-up team will be resistant to doing things differently that will enable scaling, then as the management, one has to be able to let them go. He also brought up the ability to communicate vision as a key ingredient to growing.