Vanessa Veak

Vanessa Veak
Magic Bus

Not a single moment went by when I did not notice the income disparity in Mumbai, India‒a wealthy building not even two blocks away from a dire slum. 

During the summer, I had the honor of working with an incredible NGO, Magic Bus India Foundation, located in Mumbai, India. Magic Bus works with marginalized children and young adults through its notable Childhood to Livelihood program where they guide youth on a pathway to leadership and act as role-models and mentors through sessions to bring about positive changes in their behavior and attitudes. 

This organization connects these children that they have been working with to a suitable job, but still continues to keep in contact with them, which I find extremely admirable of the program. It is structured to ensure that those who go through the entire program, are employable, and able to attain and sustain employment, in order to try to break the cycle of generational poverty. It envisions a world where each child has the choice and control to be socially empowered and economically developed. Magic Bus helps these marginalized youth in India complete secondary education, preventing girls from early marriage, and decreasing the unemployment rate, all to decrease the poverty gap. It is an enormous issue that may take even decades to completely address, but I am glad that I was able to help and involve myself with their work.

I had the opportunity to work on a project where I was creating a communications and fundraising plan with a digital focus for the US Market, which entailed formulating a competitor analysis by benchmarking other top NGOs based in India yet still had a presence in the US, as well as identifying donor segmentation in all of these organizations to ultimately identify a target audience for my organization, Magic Bus. I was essentially doing intensive research on other NGOs and gathering such information on their fundraising models, budget utilization, revenue, media, etc., and using this information to form suggestions or recommendations for what Magic Bus should do in order to further advance in the US market.

Outside of work, every weekend I tried to go on a small trip to explore more of India while I was there to ensure I made the most of it. Most of it was sightseeing different parts of Mumbai since it is a gigantic city in Maharashtra. I typically took the train to get to several places due to convenience, and that alone is an experience (traffic on the road was a culture shock in itself!) It was not surprising that the train was completely full most of the time given that India is the second most populated country in the world, but it was still interesting to see. They even had female only parts of the train which were typically nicer.

I also went on treks whenever the weather would allow (the rain and traffic were completely unpredictable, especially during monsoon season), which was one of my favorite parts of this trip. At one point when we were descending down from the fort, it started raining incredibly hard and the raindrops eventually felt like tiny pellets‒but that made the experience even more amazing.

I learned an innumerous number of things in India, workwise and cultural, and I know this internship will always remain in a special place in my heart. I also now realize the hype behind traveling the world because I felt so carefree and relaxed‒it was such an amazing experience that it's even difficult to form into words. It felt so surreal that I was actually there, and the stress from school didn't accompany, so that was a bonus!

Not only did I learn a great amount about the workplace, culture, and relevant issues, I learned so much about myself and my interestshow this experience affected my views and plans for my own future. Every single day, I hoped for the best for the children in the program and in Mumbai, and yes, there are so many issues and so many systems to fix and address, and there is only so much you as a person can do, but as a collective we honestly have much more strength than we think and a greater impact; therefore I encourage us to educate ourselves on these issues.