“At an age when we are supposed to go to school and get to play with friends, we are forced to earn a living instead. Chhotu (small child), Kalu (dark-skinned), Gudiya (doll) – these are just some of the names we are called every day; but never by our real names. I was lucky to get a chance to escape the hardship of living on the streets. The life of street children should not be left to chance or luck, but it should be a matter of fulfilling their rights, because children have rights too.”

These words of Salmaan, a 17-year-old boy who survived living on the streets and has now been a part of 6 Bollywood films, now echoed in the corridors of one of the busiest malls in Delhi. But these words also sum up the harsh reality faced by 2 million children who live on the streets.

Save the Children in India has been at the forefront of transforming the lives of street children- known as #TheInvisibles- most of whom do not possess a valid identity in society.

In our efforts to make children on the streets count, we were excited to partner with Decathlon Dwarka in hope of reaching out to the young and active citizens of the country, encouraging them to be pioneers of positive change for street children. Decathlon (a chain of sporting goods stores) were able to dedicate the opening of their 65th store towards making #TheInvisibles visible.  Through this collaboration, we urged a young and active citizens of India to recognize the children who live on the street, act on their behalf and be supportive of change for them.

Pragya Vats, Head of Campaigns, Save the Children said, “All of us would have encountered a child on the street – knocking on our car window, or selling books and toys, or working at a local stall. We see them, yet we don’t, hence making them #TheInvisibles. First step to change is to acknowledge that each one of us have a role and each one of us can make a difference.”

The opening of the 65th store was celebrated through a weekend gala and #TheInvisibles were everywhere. We started with a ‘Cycloride’ that saw over 500 people cycle on the streets for those who actually live on those very streets! We collected pledges, played games, showcased a play by 14 children on what it was like to live on the streets.

Keeping a keen focus on “Integrated Campaigning”, our fundraisers attended the event for 3 days at the Decathlon and helped to raise awareness of the cause to the 20,000 visitors over the weekend.

The collaboration with Decathlon, which we hope will be the first of many to come, was given media coverage by over 50 leading media houses in the country including Times of India, Hindustan Times and had a mention on Radio City. Overall, we are pleased the event was successful, and we are confident that together we can inspire change and do whatever it takes to make #TheInvisibles visible.