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Aangen: Where empowerment meets opportunity!

Everyone here is part of ‘chance for change'

Amy Lester - Community Outreach and Sales Manager

Christmas 2019, I received an email from the Davenport NDP asking for volunteers to help serve meals at the Exhibition Respite over the holidays. December 27th, 2019 I had an experience that would totally change my life.

I joined my MPP and a friend to help Aangen prepare and serve meals. We made pizzas with english muffins and served them to 100 hungry clients at the respite centre.

This was my first time serving food to housing insecure folks. I was struck by the diversity of the group. Some men in 3 piece suits, others with hearing and visual impairments, another woman who I had often seen on the street, sleeping outside. Each of them in this same place at the same time, and me, only a few months after being reno-victed and feeling like my

"life was completely over"

I have worked in customer service, catering and served food at restaurants for many years. With my hairnet on my head and spatula in my hand, being behind the chafing dishes again felt like service as usual.

I said:

“Hello” and “How are you?” “I like your top” and “Happy New Year” to each of the respite clients as they chose their pizza, plain or veggie, and when it was time,

I gleefully called:

“Anybody who wants seconds, we are open for our next round!”

I couldn’t describe what I had experienced at the time, but I knew that Aangen was special, different. I had a gut feeling that I would have to learn more, I would have to meet this wonderful person everyone was talking about, Gurbeen.

We all know what happened in January of 2020, and the lockdown that followed in March. I was working at the Ontario NDP in Fundraising and was suddenly thrown into the vortex of working from home in a crisis. As my phonebank contract drew to a close for the fall, I got an email from Indeed that lit up my heart. Aangen was hiring!

I know it was fate. I feel that in my gut.

I had the right combination of experience, a keen interest in social enterprise and the classic “gift of the gab '' that they were looking for to make outreach calls for Aangen’s cleaning department. I got the job! What started as a short term contract grew into a permanent role and in that time I grew from a keen 'absorb everything' sponge into a smart, strategic business woman and the ways in which I was able to shine at Aangen have given me such confidence in what I do.

Over the past 9 months, I have not only had a challenging and inspiring job- I have become part of an amazing “work family”.

The people at Aangen are not only inspiring, dedicated and intelligent,they are kind, funny and infinitely generous. I have had room to grow, to create new opportunities and discovered so many things about myself that I am deeply proud to share.

At Aangen, the core of our work is to “Support and Empower” and that’s exactly what my experience has been. From birthday cards and strategy meetings to outreach initiatives that have brought Aangen onto the national stage, I am deeply proud of the impact and dedication Aangen has brought to our community and in turn, the impact that I have made on Aangen as a whole.

Wherever the future takes us, whatever I may do in the years to come, as Community Outreach and Sales Manager at Aangen I have gained more experience, friendships, insights and commitment to social justice and equity causes that I had only scratched the surface of before.

Like our founder likes to say

“Everyone here is part of ‘chance for change'”

and I completely understand what she means. Aangen is not just a paycheck, it’s a way of life!

Without the creativity and openness of Aangen’s team, I would not be the person I am today. From the moment I sent my application to the moment I type these words- a world of possibilities has landed at my feet.

When given the chance, anything you want to chance can change. Even in ways you don’t expect. Aangen is my family and with the uncertainty and heartbreak of 2020 behind us, the future looks bright, different, delicious.

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