John Alex of Equitas explains it simply,

“To help families living on the pavement we come at it from two directions. If the budget is $8, we aim to help families increase it to $10. If the budget is $8, we need to help limit the known costs that cause it to rise to $10. Then the $2 becomes a saving.”

This is a story experienced across the world. Across every level of society: governments, businesses, charities and households. It is the story of managing income to expenditure. With an allowance for crises.

But for the 10,000 pavement dwellers living on the streets of Chennai (75% have lived on the pavement for more than 30 years), it’s a knife’s edge. There is no 90-day buffer between enough and poverty. It’s more like 24 hours. If today’s income exceeds the needs, then tomorrow there is no food, no education, no basic services.

So, projects like Birds Nest India, a joint initiative between Foxglove Project, Equitas Small Finance Bank and the Saraswathi Trust, work at the pavement level to help people help themselves.

Step 1: Offer skills training, entrepreneurial support and basic literacy that will raise the family income from $8 to $10. This encourages families still living on the pavement to see hope and possibility. It is the start of a new mindset around provision and self-respect and the future.

Step 2: Establish health clinics for health assessments and treatment for pavement families as both preventative and low-cost options for health conditions.

Step 3: Advocate for pavement families to gain public documents such as birth certificates or notarised birth statements for access to public health insurance programs as well as education and housing.

Step 4: Develop housing options in the slum or public housing that are affordable, and provide security as well as consistency for child education and health care.

Step 5: Support women with permanent address in the slums or housing complexes into small self-help groups where they gain friendship, vocational and entrepreneurial training, and access to small business start-up loans.

The Birds Nest journey from the pavement to the slum seems an unlikely destination. But it is a step up. A tentative step. An action to a change of mindset that says, “I don’t have much but I want to start each day with purpose and intent rather than survival on my mind”.

We can help. Foxglove does not rescue, it helps. We help fund the training, the education and ultimately, the mindset change. But she makes her future.

How you can help

Our goal is to help 500 people into better healthcare, education and vocational training so they can relocate from the pavement and cover their own costs.

To do this we need 500 people to give $100 each.  It’s a big goal but we’re more than halfway there!

To be involved visit