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Redefining futures through livelihood initiatives

Updates • May 2024

Empowering young people in street situations to generate an income and improve their standard of living is a key component of Toybox's work. This is achieved by equipping project participants with the necessary skills, training and resources required for self-reliance and independence.

As Naomi Hall Opiyo, Director of Impact and Programmes explains;

"At Toybox we are steadfast in our commitment to sustainable development, this means making sure that the interactions delivered through our local partner organisations, yield long lasting results. In 2022/2023 we provided support to 119 children, 97 young people, and 33 adults, helping them to develop their livelihoods, by providing business skills training, employment support, and seed capital for small businesses. The numbers helped may seem modest in comparison to the 2,000 children we supported to obtain their birth certificate, or the 2,200 we supported to access formal education during the same period, however this support which provides the basis of a long-term livelihood ignites profound changes not only for the individual, but also their families.

A savings revolution in Nairobi’s slums

In Nairobi, Toybox’s local partner, Pendekezo Letu, has been working with parents and caregivers in slum settlements to involve them in a community-led savings groups. Here, mostly mothers, have come together to improve their financial stability, through saving money to enable them to set up and run joint and individual businesses which can support their children’s needs.

The positive impact of these groups is undeniable; children with a parent in a group have told us they are having two to three meals a day, have new clothes and some have even moved into bigger houses within the same slum settlements. In addition, members of the group have found that they can now meet their family’s basic needs, have more time with their children (as a result of running their own businesses), and that they ‘feel a sense of dignity due to engaging in dignified work.’

Amina, a resilient mother living in one of Nairobi’s slums faced adversity after leaving her village and sadly losing five children. Amina and her surviving sons had resorted to scavenging on the street to get by. She explains,

“I faced difficulties in feeding my children, keeping them in school, paying our rent – at one point, we were all sleeping out on the streets. I was desperate for my children and myself since our future was not promising. We were struggling to eat and afford other basic needs.”

With PKL’s support and guidance, Amina joined one of the local savings groups which taught her financial awareness, how to start up a business and how to save for the future. Through this support, Amina has been able to establish up her own business, selling baskets made from old sacks.

You can read more of Amina's story here.

Establishing income generating businesses in Bolivia

In Bolivia, Toybox's local partner Alalay have been supporting young people to establish their own small businesses. Jorge is just one of the young people who has benefitted from the project and is now running his own mobile phone accessory business, after the project initially supported him with business skills training and the startup goods required to kick-start his business. Since joining the project, Jorge shares,

"My life has changed a lot, now I help my mum to generate money to pay the rent for my room and food and it makes me feel good. I've learned how to run my own business and earn money."

You can hear more from Jorge here.

Creating pathways to employment in Nairobi

Toybox projects also support young people to access vocational training and secure sustainable work opportunities away from the streets. In the space of just a few years, 19 year old Chilemba’s life and prospects have changed dramatically. He explains;

“Before I met PKL, I had given up on life. I used to go days without food, put on dirty clothes and sleep in a pig shelter where I would help the pig owner by feeding the pigs in exchange for a plate of food and place to sleep. I felt neglected and had lost hope. I had bad friends who influenced me into using drugs and engaged in petty crime for survival."

When Chilemba was 17, he met a social worker from Toybox’s local partner PKL. Struggling with a difficult family situation and drawn into street life by negative influences around him, he became involved in the Nione project, where he has enrolled in a vocational training course.

To find out more about the transformation to Chilemba's life, you can read his story here.

Overcoming challenges and breaking free from the cycle of adversity

Naomi concludes; "Over time, and through working with our local partners, Toybox has developed real expertise in planning and executing livelihood support programmes. Every business success or failure brings new learning which we use to improve and develop the support we offer. Life on the streets is incredibly tough and unpredictable, which makes it difficult for the young people we work alongside to complete courses or sustain businesses. People on the streets face significant obstacles when they look to start a business and the stigma of being on streets may mean police interference and an inability to store tools or supplies hampering them from the start.

Despite the challenges, we have been inspired to see how young people who are passionate about a particular product or type of activity are able to find a way through. Success is hard won and requires nurturing and support from our partner staff for each person who takes part. The gains from these endeavours can be truly transformative, helping young people in street situations to break free from the cycle of adversity, redefine their lives and aspire to a brighter future."

To read more transformational stories of change from the children and young people Toybox supports, visit

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