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Our work

Who we work with

Who

Boys and girls for whom the street has become their home and/or source of livelihood and who are inadequately protected or supervised by responsible adults. United Nations Definition of Street Children

Record levels of inequality, violence, migration, war and natural disasters mean children are forced to live or work on the streets around the world. They escape abusive homes, lack of opportunities or end up on the streets after being displaced or trafficked.

The UN estimates there are hundreds of millions of street children but exact, official figures are virtually non-existent. These children are invisible to the world, living without rights and protection on some of the most dangerous streets in the world.

Why we work with them

Why

Many different factors lead to children making the decision to leave home for the streets.

Living and working

Poverty

For some children working on the streets can be their only means to earn an income. Many of these children will also live permanently on the streets.

Displaced and trafficked

Violence

Some street children have been chased from home by violence, natural disaster or the need to earn an income. Others have been sold or trafficked and have ended up on the streets.

Seeking solace

Exploitation

Children whose home life is full of abuse often take refuge on the streets to escape. However here they are at risk of being enticed by gangs offering friendship or financial gain.

Whatever the reason for children moving to the streets, all of them are at risk of abuse and exploitation on a daily basis. They are exposed to stigmatisation, physical, sexual and psychological violence. Their future is bleak and their life expectancy terrifyingly low.

Where we work

Where

Toybox works in seven countries around the world. We adapt our work and programmes by working alongside our local partners who understand the unique challenges of each country.

El Salvador

The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador, has a history deeply rooted in violence with one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. According to the UNICEF report ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, El Salvador is now the most deadly peacetime country, with more children murdered per capita than anywhere else in the world. As always in situations like this, it is children, especially those without the protection and care of a home or family, who suffer the most.

Children living and working on the streets are some of the most vulnerable to the daily onslaught of the brutality that gangs impose and many are targeted by gang members who recruit them to traffic drugs or carry out violent crimes.

We are currently partnering with Viva El Salvador and work throughout San Salvador.

Guatemala

Guatemala’s history is one plagued with violence, civil war and natural disaster; the results of which have left hundreds of thousands displaced, with children accounting for a large proportion of those living and working on the streets. Guatemala City itself is a place of contrasts. It has areas of beauty and opportunity but it’s also a highly dangerous place to live – especially for a child without an official existence.

There are an estimated 700,000 children who don’t have a birth certificate and are therefore not recognised by official statistics, so they are not protected by the state. This means they can be used, neglected and abused by gangs and criminals, and are at significant risk of being trafficked.

We are currently partnering with CONACMI as they deliver services across Guatemala City.

Bolivia

There are approximately 850,000 children living and working on the streets in Bolivia. The legal age to work is just 10. Bolivia is one of Latin America’s least developed countries, experiencing one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.

With almost half of the population aged under 18; children withstand the most poverty and deprivation. The country’s lack of a formal child protection system means there is an ever-increasing level of vulnerability among young people.

We are currently partnering with Alalay, working across La Paz and El Alto.

Sierra Leone

Civil war, epidemic disease and natural disasters have left thousands of children alone in Sierra Leone over the last three decades. There are an estimated 50,000 street connected children across Sierra Leone, with around half of these in Freetown and surrounding areas such as Waterloo. Whilst the country’s economy has grown during the peacetime from the end of the civil war in 2002 the World Bank estimate that over 52% of the population live below the poverty line.

Environmental challenges pose huge risks to those living in the country and with an estimated 61 slum settlements in Freetown alone there is little safe protection against the elements when the rainy season comes.

We are currently working with St George Foundation in Freetown.

Kenya

Despite strong economic growth in recent years, 40% of Kenyans still live below the poverty line. The majority of children living in the city’s slums come from socially excluded and marginalised families with little or no access to basic services. Levels of unemployment are high and for those who do find work, most are employed in informal and unskilled jobs, where wages are often low and unstable. An estimated 80% of women aged 15-24 in slum settlements have no form of income generating activities.

This lack of earnings also pushes children out onto the streets to supplement household income. An estimated 33% of 5-14-year olds in Kenya work in informal employment; from scavenging in dumpsites, breaking rocks in quarries, or through risky and illegal activities including commercial sexual exploitation.

We work with Pendekezo Letu across Nairobi.

India

With levels of extreme poverty in the surrounding rural areas, many children migrate to the streets of Delhi, lured by the idea and excitement of city life. Others escape to the street after suffering from neglect and abuse at home. There are also a significant number of children who are born into so-called ‘street families’, where second and third generation children face life on the streets from birth. Others may still live at home but are forced to work on the streets to support their families.

Street children in Delhi earn income either by begging and rag-picking or shoe-shining and trinket-selling. Working on the streets means they do not have the time or support to go to school and therefore grow up without an education. Currently 50% of street and working children in Delhi are illiterate. Growing up illiterate seriously inhibits their chances and opportunities for the future, resulting in a cycle of poverty that leaves some children no choice but to spend the rest of their lives on the street.

We are working with CHETNA across New Delhi.

Nepal

Over 85% of street children in Nepal are illiterate and more than a third of 10–14 year olds are working, which means they are unable to attend school. The average life expectancy for those who are living or working on the street is considerably lower than country’s average. For females it is just 30 years and for males, it is 40 years.

Street children have limited access to safe sanitation, so hygiene standards are very low. Many street children in the capital will work collecting and sorting scrap to earn money. This is incredibly dirty work, which they are often too ashamed to do during the day, so will only work once it’s dark. This means that the children are acutely vulnerable to accidents and infections.

We are working with SathSath and CWIN throughout Kathmandu.

What we do

What

We work to protect children from abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation today as well as the consequences of these tomorrow. Although our approach changes depending on the country, our work is broadly divided into three categories:

Prevention

Helping children before they end up on the streets.

Example:Birth Registration

In many countries, children are not routinely registered at birth. This means they are invisible to authorities and may miss out on opportunities such as education and healthcare. Without access to these basic rights, children are more likely to end up working on the streets to support themselves or their family. Toybox's birth registration work breaks the cycle of invisible, unregistered children by supporting children through the registration process to give them their official identity.

Our Birth Registration work

Intervention

Working to support children who are living on the streets.

Example: Street outreach

When abuse and violence at home becomes too much, children leave home. With nowhere to go, they often end up on the streets. Street outreach enables us to start the long and complex process of getting to know the child, to gain their trust and help them to overcome the challenges that can arise by living on the streets.

Our Street Outreach work

Reintegration

Supporting children into a safe home away from the streets.

Example: Education and Skills Training

Street outreach leads to a child deciding to leave the streets behind. In these cases, we work with them to teach them about their rights whilst also working alongside parents, carers and communities to enable better understanding of the child’s needs so that they are able to move away from the streets into to a safer environment where they can recover from their experiences.

Our Education work

Our agile and adaptive approach also allows us to provide additional or reactive support in unique or changing circumstances alongside our programmes.

Emergency response

Adapting to an emergency to provide the support most needed

Emergency situations are terrifying and traumatic for children. Without parents, other family members and a safe home, street children are often the most vulnerable in these situations. We take an adaptive and agile approach to our work. This allows us to respond quickly and effectively in an emergency situation ensuring we’re able to provide the support most needed.

Learn more about our Emergency work

Disability

Providing support to vulnerable street children living with disability

Many children with disabilites end up on the street due to stigma and rejection from their family or community or because their parents are unable to provide the care they need. For others, it’s their caregiver who has a disability, leaving them on the streets and responsible for the family income. Our global plan sets out our intention to include these children in our programmes. Working with our partners we can help protect and empower them.

How we do it

How

Every child has a unique history with the street. As such, the process of helping a child to leave the streets rarely happens overnight. We work with local partners to ensure that we can walk alongside children for as long as they need us to so that they can be in control of their futures.

Our development approach

Local knowledge and expertise is key to our strategy in each country where we work. Therefore, we invest in local partners to ensure we are working where the need is greatest, where we can have the most impact and in a long-term, sustainable way. Locally-led solutions increase the effectiveness, legitimacy and cost effectiveness of our engagements with street-connected and other exploited children.

Our partners

Working with

Kingdom Coffee
Pink Sun
The Entertainer
Our impact

Impact

33,000

Legal representation

+148

"We really felt their support and up to today, we are grateful for all they give us. They are always there. From the start they encourage us. For them, we were important.” Feedback on our partner CONACMI in Guatemala

Help us continue to change the world for more street children.