Born and raised in Saharanpur, Charlie Maxwell Khan has known hard times. Until about seven years ago, he used to run a small phone booth where people of modest means and without a phone line at home could keepin touch with family and friends. But it seemed like that was what everyone else in Saharanpur was doing and competition was stiff. Barely able to get by at the best of times, business plummeted with the growing popularity of cell phones, .and Charlie decided to try something different. Strangely enough, he ended up doing what the other half of Saharanpur was doing: making wooden handicrafts.
Charlie started Diamond Handicrafts, where his six artisans use their skill and expertise to make toys, furniture and other objects for the home out of locally grown sheesham and haldu wood. The handicrafts they make include decorative boxes, trays, tables, toys, and book ends. Charlie makes sure that his artisans pay attention to detail and that the wood they use is of good quality. Sustainably farmed ssheesham, Charlie believes, is good quality wood that is both sturdy and strong. When Charlie first started his business he faced a number of difficulties.
He had no knowledge of the wooden handicrafts market and had to discover what would sell and what would not. He was also ignorant of the world at large, unable to imagine a market for his goods beyond the local outlets. Then, around three years ago, one of Asha’s welfare workers contacted Charlie, and his life changed overnight. With steady orders, business advice, and design input from Asha, his business grew. For the first time, he was interacting with knowledgeable and compassionate people who understood him andhis business. Charlie feels that Asha helped him when he needed it most. "Everyone in Saharanpur has heard of Asha", he says, their medical camps, workshops, and welfare programs. Thanks to their faith in humanity, I have started attending church as well. Charlie belongs to the minority Christian community in Saharanpur; his grandfather having converted as a young man.
Asha’s welfare workers visit Charlie regularly, making suggestions to improve working conditions and monitoring child labor laws. He enjoys their visits and feels they are like family. As his business with Asha has grown over the years, his standard of living has improved. His financial problems are now a thing of the past. He has a new TV at home and has recently bought a water filter. He wants to educate his children and make them pious, upstanding human beings. "This is the hope that Asha has given me," he says with a smile.