Kiran Ahuja, CEO of Philanthropy Northwest and actor and activist Maulik Pancholy, were honored at the Chhaya CDC Architects of Change Gala, held on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Studio 450, which was attended by about 150 people.
Ahuja began her career as a civil rights lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice and she has served as the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an advocacy and membership organization with regional chapters around the country, after which she spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal services, resources and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and went onto serve as chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
“It is very humbling to receive an award and recognition like this. It means a great deal to me that I am receiving it from Chhaya an organization that for a very long time have had high regards to,” said Ahuja, who was happy to be sharing the award with Pancholy, who himself has put together a project about “the work that we need to do for our Indian American communities” and woks with a number of non-profits including the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the LGBT community.
“I had a much easier time in this country than many of the clients Chhaya serves. But at the same time I know that as immigrant we all struggle and I think we can forget that. When I think about growing up in the Deep South in the wake of the civil rights era where there were very few immigrants, I struggled to find my place in those communities,” she added.
Ahuja then went on to ask the audience “what does it mean for us to have our own voice in this country” and told them that “all of what we do and we accomplish means nothing unless if our entire community doesn’t work with us and I think that is the work that Chhaya does.”
Chhaya CDC is an organization that was founded in 2000 to advocate for the housing needs of New York City’s South Asian community and helps immigrants become economically stable.
Chhaya provides immigrants with free direct services, education and outreach, community organizing, research and policy, and both local and citywide coalition-building and helps them with their tenant rights, financial capacity building, sustainable homeownership, foreclosure prevention, energy efficiency, women’s financial empowerment, workforce development and civic engagement.
By giving immigrants these tools and resources, Chhaya is able to impact a range of social outcomes, including education, employment, civic participation, community pride and mental health and well-being.