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for life Toybox in India

Street life  |  Issue 10

How it all began

In the Spring of 2019, Toybox began supporting our partner, CHETNA, in India with a new project based in Delhi. The Sports for United Resilience (SURE) project currently works with around 400 vulnerable street children aged between 12 and 16, supporting them to build core life skills through the medium of sport.

During the sessions, children can interact with each other and project staff in a safe environment and learn to play sports such as Kho Kho (a traditional Indian game of tag), Kabaddi (which combines characteristics of rugby and wrestling), and other traditional Indian street games and cricket.

Distributing essentials

Project Highlights

Regional response map
  • Warm clothes including jackets, body warmers, trousers and socks were distributed to children at the project to ensure they were able to keep warm during the winter months.
  • Project staff collected and updated the Aadhar (Identity) cards of 350 children, ensuring that they were able to access emergency government support through the pandemic.
  • A total of 180 girls from the project participated in the self the defence training workshops. The sessions were facilitated by street-connected girls who had previously participated in the self-defence classes.

Promoting gender equality

The project also runs self-defence workshops for girls in partnership with the Delhi Police. Sadly, discrimination and violence against women and girls is endemic across Indian society at every level. Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau highlights that in recent years there has been a marked increase in gender-based violence and harassment in India, with crimes against women and girls showing a worrying upward trend.

To add to this, being street connected increases a child’s chances of becoming a victim of violence and abuse so self-defence workshops can play a key role in helping girls to protect themselves while also helping to build self-confidence. Alongside this initiative, the project also specifically focuses on promoting gender equality with boys at the project who learn about inspirational female leaders and their positive impact on society. Gender equality is also at the core of project, providing equal opportunities for girls and boys to mix, participate and lead the activities.


Street Educator for the Sure Project

Nisha has been working for our partner CHETNA for the last four years. “My favourite part of the job is the sport and teaching the children. They want to study but due to the financial crisis they have to work – and sometimes I feel helpless. My greatest achievement is when a child performs better in their life as a result of the life skills we teach. My hope is that the children learn and come forward and that they do something for themselves in the future."

Adapting during the pandemic

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown in Delhi in March last year meant that the project had to quickly adapt many of their activities, with sports clubs and informal educational support moved online for several months. During this time the project focused on meeting the immediate and most pressing needs of the children who rely on the casual jobs to earn a living. They knew that they would be unable to fully engage with the project at time when everything was shut down and the city’s informal workers (who already live a hand to mouth existence), were suddenly left out of work with no guarantee of when they would start earning again.

The project distributed emergency food parcels, hygiene kits and stationary supplies along with play equipment including skipping ropes and balls to support the children to stay physically active.

The team also developed a series of online videos for the children and supplied them with mobile phone top-up credits, so they could access these and continue to learn life skills, as well as basic Hindi, English and maths remotely. This approach also meant that our street educators could check on children’s progress and wellbeing. In cases where children attending the project lacked access to a mobile phone or the internet, other children from the project acted as a link between staff and the children.

Meet Mohini

15-year-old Mohini lives with her family in a large slum settlement in Delhi. When she was around 12 years old, Mohini was forced to leave school due to her poor health. Without the daily interaction and structure of school, Mohini spent her time at home, undertaking chores and helping to supplement the family’s income by assisting with her mother’s clothing repair business.

Distributing essentials


When the street educators from our partner first met Mohini she was very shy. The team told her about the SURE project and asked her if she would like to join but Mohini declined, saying she was too busy at home and didn’t like to play. However, the team persevered and when two girls from Mohini’s local community started attending the project, they began to share what they had been learning and the skills they had developed. Over time, Mohini became interested in games and sports and eventually decided to join the project along with her friends.

Mohini has now been attending the project for almost two years and during this time her interest, confidence and skills in sport have deepened, so much so that she was recently selected as the leader of the Kho Kho team. She has also encouraged many of her friends to attend the project too.

When asked about his greatest achievement Aruna answered, “Helping children to make a choice in terms of behaviour change and living a life of positive value. Once one of the children was totally out of school and living in marketplaces. This project has changed his behaviour.

Since his enrolment at school, he has been committed to his schooling activities. His teacher confirmed this during our visit to the school. He is now one of the child ambassadors who raises awareness amongst their peers through community and radio outreach activities.”

Inevitably, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the way Aruna and the team are able to undertake outreach work. As a result of the government restrictions in Freetown, it has been necessary to change the team’s working hours to fit within the citywide evening curfews imposed. In addition, Aruna says that more recently he has been unable to make as many follow up visits to the communities in person as he normally would, so contact has been maintained through regular phone calls with the children. He explains how the situation for the children he works alongside has changed, “Their situation became very bad as a result of the outbreak. Many of them became stranded without food. This is very common during major lockdowns. Their chances of going to the market areas to find money and food became limited.”

Meet Pinky

14-year-old Pinky is one of six children. Due to her family’s difficult financial situation, she has never been able to attend school. Over the years life has been incredibly hard for Pinky. Her family originally moved to Delhi in search of work and have only been earning a small amount through casual jobs.

Distributing essentials


At the start of the pandemic, Pinky’s father was sadly involved in an accident which required medical assistance. The family had to cover the cost of his hospital treatment, putting them under even greater financial pressure at a time when they were already struggling to make ends meet. To ensure Pinky and her family had enough to eat during the lockdown in Delhi, Pinky would often have to stand for hours in long queues in the hot sun to receive food handouts supplied by the government.

Pinky began working in a shop to help provide for her family. Pinky has been attending the SURE project for almost two years and says the best thing about being involved is learning lots of new things through games and sports. When asked about her hopes for the future, Pinky says she wants to change the outlook of people towards girls and their oppression of them – this is an issue that she says sees affecting girls and women in her community. Her involvement in the project and the life skills she is learning will undoubtedly help her with this ambition.

Emily Malcolm

Emily Malcolm

Programme Manager

Emily Malcolm, Toybox’s Programme Manager for India reflects on how the project has been impacted by the pandemic over the last year:

“The project’s sport activities were normally held outside in large groups, however when the first lockdown hit it was necessary for the team to develop games that could be played inside or in a smaller space, with fewer people. When the project activities were taken online, the team found that some of the children initially lacked knowledge and experience of using smart phones to undertake the educational activities. Also, understandably not all children from the project had regular access to a phone, which impacted their ability to participate.

The lockdown and subsequent lack of work in Delhi caused many families in the city, including those with children attending the project, to migrate back to rural areas and project staff have learned that six of these have since got married. The additional financial burden faced by children and their families at this time has meant that some of the children have had to focus their time on trying to earn money and have had less time to focus on their studies or attending the project activities.”