Chhaya CDC

Award Recipients - 2002

Seema Agnani, Co-Founder and Managing Director

Chhaya CDC (ChHaya) is a community organization launched in 2000.  Chhaya means “shelter,” which embodies its mission “to address the housing, community and economic development needs of South Asian Americans and other immigrant communities regardless of class, caste, country of origin or religious affiliation.”  It “seeks to establish equal access to support systems and promote civic participation, collaboration with other ethnic a minority populations and better understanding among these communities.”  Chhaya, an affiliate of Asian Americans for Equality, works in partnership with social service providers and conducts tenants’ rights counseling, English as a Second Language classes and legal referrals.  Monthly forums on issues such as tenant rights, homeownership, fair housing and civic participation are translated into three languages: Hindi, Bengali and Urdu.

Chhaya began with a community forum series discussing housing issues and a survey interviewing 500 South Asians at mosques, temples, churches and major commercial street throughout New York City.  Findings show severe overcrowding with two or three families living in one apartment and a high number of families living in unregulated housing and in illegally converted units resulting in unsafe and insecure circumstances.  After September 11, as the South Asian community wad subjected to hate crimes, civil rights violations, and institutional discrimination by the government, Chhaya launched a regular informational column in three South Asian newspapers, increased participation at community events and established its visibility as a reliable and professional place to go for assistance that is culturally sensitive.

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