It is not common for girls in Dharavi, a slum community in Mumbai, to interact or play outside as they enter adolescence.
Sixteen-year-old Harshali Koli is breaking the mold. She wants to be a physical education teacher.
Ever since joining Magic Bus eight years ago, Harshali has developed a passion for health and education. The weekly activity-based sessions gave her an opportunity to play and learn with her peers — girls and boys.
“I loved all the activities in Magic Bus,” she said. “In my community, no one cares about you outside of your family but with Magic Bus, there was so much friendliness and motivation from my mentors.”
Although Harshali’s mother was always supportive of her involvement in Magic Bus, her father, a railway worker, was very much against it.
“He refused to let her play sports and attend Magic Bus sessions because she’s a girl,” her mother, Vaijanta, said. “But then she received a scholarship to attend a leadership academy in the U.S., which was funded by the U.S. State Department, and he changed his mind realizing his daughter had potential.”
Harshali knew she had athletic talent, and she decided to use it for good by mentoring youth in her community about the benefits of health, hygiene and physical exercise.
“I was talking to some children and found a girl who wasn’t allowed by her parents to play with boys,” Harshali said. “I spent hours talking to her parents. We talked about the good things that could come out of her playing with other kids and eventually convinced her parents to let her play.”
From there, Harshali created a supervised program to play sports and games with the children in her community. She really liked playing with the kids, but in terms of a career, she had always been set on getting a traditional office job like many of her friends.
“I wanted to go into business, but I wasn’t very good at math,” Harshali said.
Her older brother helped her realize she can make a career out of her passion. She will start junior college in 2018 and plans to study physical education.
Harshali will be part of the 87 percent of youth in college in India, and all because Magic Bus helped her realize and achieve her dream.
Originally produced for Magic Bus.