In January 2005, Liz headed back to Pune. She spent the spring house-hunting and working at a drop-in center for street children near the Shivaji Nagar railway station in order to develop a better understanding of the logistics and administrative experience required to run a grassroots NGO working with street children. In May 2005, she was joined by directors Amber and Zahra, and the three spent long days assessing options for nearby schools, arranging for necessary fixtures and furniture, working through red tape with social workers, and setting up the house until they were ready to collapse each night (who would have thought that building shelving units, painting cupboards, and clearing pigeon nests out of lofts could have been so taxing?). One month later, June 2005, the hard work of AIC supporters and directors around the globe was rewarded when we welcomed our first batch of children (Sanjay, Akash, and Basraj) and celebrated the much-awaited opening of the Ashraya Initiative for Children home for street kids.
We won’t pretend it wasn’t a challenging first summer as a family, as we all (kids and adults included) had to learn to adjust to the new surroundings, schedule, and most importantly, to each other. We made it through intact, however, and stronger for the wear (or, at least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves!). Outside of India around the same time, the Canadian branch registered as a non-profit in July 2005, and the Japanese branch was formally established around the same time. Back at the home, we took in a fourth child, Geeta, in September, and our first live-in caretaker, Sangeeta, joined the family about a week later.