We are a little family, with lots of stories. Stories, which are written everyday. On some days, they are just usual affairs.
On others, they are life changing.
As she enters the premises of Chhoti Si Asha, a fresh bout of energy is instilled in the room accompanied by a wide smile on everyone’s face organically so. The mother of CSA, in every which way, Liza has been nurturing this baby for 10 years. She has seen it evolve, battling multiple roadblocks on the way and extending it into a one big family that we see today.
Liza returned to India after working in the Silicon Valley with Johnson & Johnson and Siebel Systems, only to begin at the grassroots to work with the communities, and not for them, as she wonderfully sums up. Her humility, sensitivity to the issues around, dedicated work ethics and a keen eye for continuous innovation has taken CSA to new heights.
She essays the role of a mother, wife, homemaker, and a working professional every day, with sheer love and energy. Her relationship with CSA is not restricted to the women, but also their families and the community as a collective, as she is also working with the children of these women and running a cooperative bank within the organization.
His day starts at 5:30 in the morning, with his bicycle and a backpack. The first one to enter the premises of Chhotisi Asha, his work begins the moment he steps inside and goes on. Single handedly, he essays every role fluidly, be it the store manager, the marketer, the delivery in-charge, the orders manager or the one responsible for finances. Liza fondly calls him her right hand, as he swiftly handles everything that needs to be taken care of.
Jatinder Maan, juggles his CSA work with studies as he is pursuing PhD in Law from Punjab University. He is one the pillars of the organization. He invests most of his time, energy and efforts at the workshop, as he is closely connected with the CSA family, which he calls its own.
Extremely organized, spiritual and full of humility, Maan is a person you’d admire and aspire to be, once you meet him.
Fondly called as ‘Aunty’ by everyone at the workshop, Jaswinder aunty perfectly embodies the phrase “Age is just a number”. One of the oldest member, yet one of the most efficient and quick thinker, she is closely associated with the team. Often, in times of confusions, members reach out to her and she uses her experience to smoothly rectify the errors and perfectly turns concepts into reality. A mother of three, she has an unflinching attitude towards life and takes everything in a positive spirit.
Calm and composed hard worker, Shiv is one of the oldest members of the team. She has been associated with CSA for the past 3 years.A mother of two, she has gone extra miles to ensure good education for her boys by sending them to a convent school.
Hailing from Amethi (UP),she came to Khurda Laura after marriage in search of a better life for her family. She still remembers buying her first sewing machine, learning stitching and using it for extra income to support her family. From stitching clothes on the machine, to joining CSA and now making bags in bulk, she has come a long way. Shiv brings a very positive, warm and encouraging energy to the team.
She is a wonderful home maker, progressive thinker, a wise woman and someone who believes in the importance of women in contributing to the economic independence of the family.
Seema, can be rightly called, one of the most perseverant souls of Chhotisi Asha. She plays the role of a homemaker, a working woman, a wife and most importantly, a mother to perfection. She began her journey with the team 2 years back, when she required financial support for the treatment of her daughter.
Despite facing a lot of resistance, she bravely overcame the hurdles, be it from her family or the lack of finishing in her work at the workshop.
The team supported her with commendable spirit, and today, Seema has become an inevitable member of the team, making beautiful bags with all her love, energy and courage.
Don’t be fooled by the tiny size of Uma, as she is bundle of energy. Running back and forth in the workshop, she is the officially appointed manager of the team. She brings everyone together, managing the delivery dates, order requirements, raw materials and the inventory.
Associated with CSA for the past 4 years, Uma is a very fast and diligent learner. She ensures quality checks of the products as well as keeps the woman happy by making her special chai for them during hectic days.
Uma wants to study further and develop computer skills, she holds high aspirations from the workshop.
Amidst the chitter chatter of the woman, you’re most likely to spot a boy, dressed impeccably in the coolest jackets (which he designs himself) and uncountable tattoos, giving ViratKohli a run for his money.
Bobby, a refreshing break from the quintessential North Indian male stereotype, has been with Chhotisi Asha long before the women came into the project. A kid, when this initiative began with the men in his colony, he’d rush to the workshops to tweak his jeans, style his clothes using the machines and awed by the products being made.
He started working with CSA and now he makes anything and everything to perfection, especially boxes and magazine holders. Practically a child of the CSA family, all the women are very fond of him and their dynamics with Bobby is a wonderful sight.
Magic bus, as they happily call it, is an extended corollary of CSA in Janta Colony, where the kids of the women at the workshop as well as the colony hop on. Along with their books, they bring loads of energy, excitement and a will to learn.
This bus journey began 3 years back, when Divya, an IndiCorps fellow began working with the organization. She reached out to these families, urged them to send their kids into this space she created for them wherein she intended to help them learn values and skills that our education system fails to teach. For the past 2 years, this bus is being driven by Gurjinder Singh, who is fondly called ‘Mogi’, named after his town Moga.
He doesn’t believe in mainstream education or the idea of indoctrinating the values with conventional pedagogy. Mogi says that he works as a mere facilitator for the kids in helping them learn from each other and the activities he sets up. The library is a curated space for the kids to come, play with each other, read, work on their academics, participate in the sessions conducted by Mogi and organically develop life skills.
Mogi is an extremely light hearted person full of stories to tell, embodying the true huge hearted Punjabi spirit. You cannot take a 5-minute walk with him without stopping 15 times in between for he is a people’s person. He is also concurrently pursuing his PhD in Law from Punjab University and for him his family is the kids at the library, where they have created a safe space for each other to share everything together.
As her name suggests, Swarn has a heart of gold. Extremely witty, she keeps the mood of the workshop upbeat with her jokes, sarcasm and the quintessential Punjabi toughness. You’ll always find her doing her work with a super-fast speed very efficiently with no compromise in the quality of her products.
She hails from Rajpura (Punjab) and has been associated with CSA for the last 4 years. Swarn has evolved with CSA over the years, and always binds the team together with her courageous approach towards everything in life.
Her funny banter with the Masterji is to be watched out for. Relatively educated, she recalls how she once refuted a government job early in her marriage but feels that she was destined to work here as she feels proud to be a part of the workshop.