Donate Menu

Our work in

The challenges

Poverty within urban slums

India has seen rapid economic growth and urbanisation in recent years, with the ongoing lack of job opportunities in rural areas and falling income from agriculture forcing people from these regions to seek out work and a better life in the cities. However, once in the city, many end up living in crowded slums earning a wage through informal and unregulated work that is often unable to meet their families’ needs.

Read more

Not all slums are recognised by the Indian government, which means that residents in these settlements are not entitled to basic and essential services such as running water, electricity or public transportation. Children often live alongside their families in a small single room, sheltering under tarpaulins, without access to running water or a toilet. Residents are forced to either pay to use community facilities which are rarely maintained or are left with no other choice but to go the toilet outside, sometimes far from home. This puts the community at risk of disease and women and girls at risk of harassment.

The high levels of poverty within urban slums means that parents are often unable to provide for their families, leaving them with very few options to survive. As a result, many children run away and children of parents who are unable to provide for their families are forced onto the streets in search of work, scavenging in rubbish dumps to find scraps to sell or begging on the streets. The lack of educational facilities, high levels of poverty and lack of knowledge and information on the education system within many slum districts means that children are also often unable to attend school and, as a result, have less chance of improving their situations and finding new opportunities. While they are out of school, children are at greater risk of abuse and being forced into child labour to help financially support their families.

Child labour

A report published by the UN in 2021 highlighted that for the first time in twenty years, progress to end child labour had stalled, with India bearing the brunt of the child labour crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased pressure on children to enter the work force, with many families losing their jobs and witnessing their incomes plummet. Many children have been forced to enter manual or unskilled labour to supplement family income, working under poor conditions, where they are frequently exposed to major risks and hazards.

Read more

Many children working in illegal factory units are pushed to work in cramped, dingy, and unsanitary spaces for long hours - often with no safe exits to deal with emergencies such as fires. Here, they are exposed to physical and mental trauma. Child labour does not only lead to a loss of childhood and education; as many children work in difficult and often dangerous environments, their overall nutrition and health also suffer which leaves them vulnerable to a wide range of illnesses.

Discrimination and Stigma

In India, public perceptions of street children are often very negative and children on the streets often experience high levels of stigma and discrimination. This is particularly the case after children reach puberty when boys are often regarded as delinquent and girls viewed as shameful. The stigma attached to street living means that children on the streets are also prey to increased levels of violence from adults who view them as a nuisance.

Read more

The complex challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen hard on children who live and work on the streets, with many facing further discrimination at this time. During the initial outbreak of the pandemic, many street families were unable to access the government food distribution efforts or health facilities as they did not have official legal documentation. In addition, some children described how they were discriminated against during the food distribution drives because of their appearance and were asked to stand at the back of the queue as people were afraid they would contract the virus from them.

Another huge challenge street children faced at this time was linked to the rules and restrictions on movement and being out in public spaces. When lockdowns were enforced with criminal sanctions, those living on the streets with nowhere to shelter were at high risk of prosecution and experienced further discrimination from the authorities.

Our work in India

Our work in India


  • A key focus of Toybox’s work in India focuses on helping street and working children in Delhi and Jaipur to access and stay in education so that they can progress academically and have the opportunity for a better life. Education Clubs have been established in slum communities where there are a high number of street and working children.
Read more
  • Project staff meet with the parents and caregivers and children and encourage children to go to school. Once parents and children are interested, the team support the child to be enrolled into school. Children can attend education dlub for support with their studies to help them keep up with their school work.

  • Warm meals are given to children at the education clubs as well as dry rations for their families to ensure that they do not go hungry and are able to focus on their studies.

  • Work takes plce alongside local schools to reduce the discrimination toward street and working children during the admission process and once they have been enrolled. Training is also given in schools to head teachers and teachers to address this issue.

  • Campaigning is undertaken in the communities in close proximity to the projects to highlight the discrimination that street children face and try to change public perceptions of street children. Awareness raising activities for street children focusing on key areas such as child rights, nutrition, education and health and hygiene also take place in commmunities.

  • Project staff train parents on issues such as child labour and the dangers it can involve to help them understand the importance of their children’s safety and welfare.

  • Our partners distribute period packs to help raise awareness of menstrual hygiene in communities, breaking the stigma attached to the subject of periods.


  • Our projects provide warm clothing and blankets to support vulnerable street children who are unprotected from the harsh seasonal weather.

  • Regular mobile health camps, supporting children in the slum areas to have access to medical check-ups and medicine if it is required are delivered.

  • Street children are supported with food, health and hygiene kits, sanitary care and basic supplies.

Emergency response

  • Our emergency response is always tailored to the situation at hand. Most recently our projects in India have involved responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more

Our projects:

  • Provided mobile phone top ups to children to ensure project staff could keep in regular contact and monitor their wellbeing during lockdown.

  • Distributed educational materials and made regular calls with children at the project to support them with their studies during the lockdown and periods of school closure.

  • Provided play equipment such as balls, games and skipping ropes to support wellbeing during the lockdowns.

  • Collected and updated the Aadhar (Identity) cards of children, ensuring that they were able to access emergency government support through the pandemic and that they could be in school.

  • Provided counselling and organised fire safety awareness training for families after a fire in clothes factory affected families living in a nearby slum community.


Our work in India has changed lives


Education • India • 2023

As the youngest of five, Himanshu was often left alone at home while his family went to work. He felt lonely and wasn’t getting the education he deserved. Then he met CHETNA. Now he has teachers to learn from, friends to play with and a future to look forward to as he chases his dream of being a soldier.

Read Himanshu's story


Street Outreach • India • 2022

For Khushi, days where she had more than one meal a day were the good ones. Sometimes she’d join her mum to work to help earn more money for food. Thankfully, she was invited to CHETNA’s education activities. Now, as well as learning lots of new things, she’s got her ID card and eats tasty, nutritious meals every day.

Read Khushi's story


Street Outreach • India • 2022

Athini’s parents moved her family to Delhi in search of better job opportunities. They found work as ragpickers, but it wasn’t enough to keep the family. Athini had to join them at work, meaning she missed out on school. Thankfully, she joined CHETNA’s education activities in her community and is learning information that will help her become a police officer.

Read Athini's story


Education • India • 2022

Throughout her childhood, Kajal spent her days selling toys at traffic lights in Delhi. When the pandemic hit, earning enough became more challenging. Thankfully, she met CHETNA and was able to start learning again in an education club. Now, she can support her family while preparing for her own future and dreams.

Read Kajal's story


Street Outreach • India • 2022

Until recently, Shaheen had never been to school. Instead, her days were filled with sitting on the railway tracks in her community, decorating sandal straps to earn money from a local shoe factory. Recently, she met CHETNA, Toybox’s partner, and is taking time in her day to learn as well as work, hoping one day to enrol in school.

Read Shaheen's story