Chhoti Si Asha started as an experiment in love and has since grown into an organization that not only positively affects the community but also the volunteers who become a part of our story. Liza, founder of CSA, entered the sector 17 market of Chandigarh with an intention to interact with street children. Armed with her intention and no plan, she met two street-smart boys, Anike (10 years old) and Sunny (7 years old). Liza approached them and started a conversation about their lives. In this conversation the boys expressed an interest to learn. From there, the children and other members of their community joined in and built a strong relationship of trust and acceptance with Liza and slowly started to learn not just academic skills but also life skills.
Chhoti Si Asha formally started tuition classes with the children. In addition to the academic tuitions, CSA engaged the children in arts and crafts, to increase their concentration and fine motor skills. These handicrafts assisted the children in earning money which also worked to rehabilitate the children from begging on the streets. Slowly, the boys began to express an interest in learning a livelihood. CSA worked hard to place them in many different vocations. The boys tried everything from electrician work to plumbing. However, the the vocation that held their interest the longest was tailoring and stitching. We invested in machines and began our Stitch-a-Living journey!
As the boys grew more skilled in their craft, Chhoti Si Asha began to get local orders from different institutions. As the orders began to roll in, we realized we needed more hands and more skills. Further, the lifestyle of the street boys was such that it was very difficult for them to commit to a fixed time schedule. Therefore, we also needed some more reliability from our workforce. Enter the women. Liza contacted another local NGO, DIR, also working in slum communities of Chandigarh. With assistance from the DIR field staff, we were connected to a group of women from Janta Colony who had been trained in stitching under DIR’s guidance. Chhoti Si Asha gave these women an opportunity to make an income through stitching. Slowly, the women learned the technique of stitching bags and in the process, also became irreplaceable resources for the team.