Influential South Asian Diaspora in the UK and US unite to respond to Covid-19

Award-winning international education charity Magic Bus have launched a new campaign – being match funded by the US-based The Dhanam Foundation and championed by influential British-Asian women – in response to COVID-19 and the impact it will have on children and young people across India.

Magic Bus runs one of the largest poverty alleviation programmes in South Asia, and in any typical year works with approximately 385,000 children and 9000 trained volunteer mentors in 22 States across India. Magic Bus have responded to Covid-19 by pivoting to prevent loss of life and protect their young people throughout the pandemic. The Magic Bus team of nearly 10,000 staff and volunteers is working on the frontline to deliver food and medical supplies to hundreds of thousands of households in the worst-hit areas of India. Thanks to donations to-date, the charity has been able to distribute food and medical supplies to over 110,000 people already, with several hundred thousand more to receive support over the coming weeks. Throughout the lockdown, Magic Bus has continued to support young people with their education, with over 3,000 virtual sessions delivered over the last six or so weeks. Crucially, the charity has even managed to train and place over 680 young people in new jobs in perhaps the most unstable employment environment the world has seen for some time.

The work, however, continues. Funding is needed now more than ever, and Magic Bus has teamed up with several influential and inspiration individuals to bring awareness to the cause over the coming weeks and months. The Dhanam Foundation, the education-focused family foundation of technology entrepreneur Ram Shriram and his wife Vijay Shriram, will match donations to Magic Bus’s COVID-19 Relief efforts 1:1 up to $500,000.

Ram Shriram is a highly successful entrepreneur, based in the United States. His company Junglee was acquired by Amazon in 1998, following which he was an executive at Netscape and Amazon. Ram was one of the founding board members and early investors in Google. Today, Ram and the Shriram family are dedicated philanthropists, focussed on advancing educational opportunities worldwide and improving conditions for marginalised youth in India. Ram has had a long-standing relationship with Magic Bus, since providing seed-funding in 1999 when CEO Matthew Spacie founded the NGO. He has remained an active advisor to the organisation throughout its 21 years of working with street children.

Ram Shriram, President of the Dhanam Foundation commented:

“Dhanam Foundation has made this emergency grant to the kids of the Magic Bus community, all of whom have been badly affected by this pandemic. We hope more supporters will join us in this important mission to preserve the gains made to lift those less privileged into a world of literacy and opportunity to have a job and earn a living wage. This pandemic should not be a reason to disrupt and setback the impact of Magic Bus in communities of need across India.”

The COV:AID campaign is being championed by a group of new influential advocates for the charity. These internationally renowned figures include actresses Seeta Indrani, Mamta Kaash, and Goldy Notay, television and radio presenter Seema Jaswal, comedian Shazia Mirza, Hindi singer Avina Shah, celebrity make-up artist Dimps Sanghani, chef Nitisha Patel, academic Opinderjit Kaur Takhar and footballer Sandeep Tak. The advocates are using their profile and influence to raise awareness of the cause and be an advisory group for Magic Bus UK’s board.

Several of the advocates have already delivered compelling video appeals, shared across their wide-reaching social media channels, including Goldy Notay, Nitisha Patel and Dimps Sanghani.

Magic Bus UK’s Director, Rahul Bissoonauth commented:

“This is a powerful commitment by the Dhanam Foundation and we are incredibly thankful for Mr Shriram’s match-funding opportunity. Our hope is this will encourage other inspirational supporters from around the globe to come forward and make this commitment go further – helping to save thousands of lives in India over the coming weeks and months.

The support of our advocates, such inspirational individuals, comes at a time when it is needed most. Their stories, and their willingness to come forward and support our vital work in India at this time, give us hope and show us the best of humanity; people helping people – through hard-work, creativity, neighbourliness, and charitable giving. We’re delighted to have each of them on board for this new campaign and look forward to working closely with them over the coming months.”

Of becoming a Magic Bus advocate, Shazia Mirza, comedian and writer, added:

“I love what Magic Bus does and stands for in South Asia. Having been a teacher and worked with young people for most of my life, I know education is the answer for the future of these children, especially girls who may be forced to marry young. Education is the key to their freedom.”

To support the COV:AID campaign individuals can donate via Thanks to the support of the Dhanam Foundation, your generous gift to Magic Bus’s COVID-19 Relief efforts will be matched 1:1 up to $500,000.

Organisations wishing to explore how a greater contribution can help Magic Bus scale efforts, can contact the UK Director, Rahul Bissoonauth at

Magic Bus use sport, play and mentoring to keep vulnerable young women, girls and children in education, prevent child marriage, and ultimately help them secure successful long-term employment. With their support, only 5% of Magic Bus girls drop out of education, 97% are free of child marriage, and over 70% find successful salaried work.  In 2019 375,000 children were on this journey of moving out of poverty in 22 states and 80 districts of India, as Magic Bus turned twenty years old. In December they were nominated as one of the top 5 non-profits in education across South-East Asia.

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