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Working Through the Pandemic

Aangen’s founder stays motivated while working through COVID-19


It has been nearly two years since the pandemic began, and everything we've known has shifted to fit with the new reality we face each day. Aangen is no exception to this, but, two years later, we are going stronger than ever. There are a number of reasons why - our successful programs, our continued dedication to our core beliefs, our amazing team, and, of course, our ever-optimistic Executive Director, Gurbeen Bhasin. In 2020, she was interviewed by York University to discuss how Aangen has fared during the pandemic. The article delved into how she maintains positivity throughout the pandemic. With all the time that's passed, we at Aangen wanted to catch up with Gurbeen once again and see how things Gurbeen Bhasin have changed over the last few years.


What is motivating you now, especially with the Omicron variant and with the pandemic continuing?


The pandemic keeps showcasing the increased need for food and shelter - no question that exists. But, the reality is there are so many people on the front lines that the pandemic has relied on that have been taken for granted. At Aangen, we always ask what we can do to create sustainable employment above minimum wage while providing wraparound services so people's lives are supported, too.


Is there anything else that has motivated you?


The isolation, depression, and anxiety the pandemic has brought out in everyone. When we took on working with Parkdale Community Food Bank we'd call their clients to check in and for some of them it's been a lifesaver to have that support. The Toronto Doctor's Lion's Club helps us call people too, especially when Aangen is overwhelmed. They also help us put together holiday gift packages and run initiatives. Ultimately, making sure we are supporting people's mental health is just as important as their physical health and needs.


How do you remain positive and keep those "happy thoughts" going?


Leadership, to me, means keeping hope and positivity, and I commit to using all the tools in my arsenal for discipline - meditation, working out, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and making time for me. I cook all my meals on Sunday. I'm learning Spanish. I have to do these things because the other option is falling apart, which isn't an option. Life is going to be hard. It's a silly phrase, but they say "heavy is the head that wears the crown". But really, it is hard to think about making sure everyone gets a pay cheque and how we are serving our community. It starts with making sure I take care of myself.


Has COVID changed how you view Aangen's goal?


Overall, we want to make sure people are thriving. Since my 20s, I’ve been working on a strength-based model. I’d ask what my team liked to do, and depending on their answer I'd adjust their role to fit their strengths. If you feel like you're valued, like you're working with your passion, it doesn't feel like work. We want people to be passionate here.


Has anything surprised you about 2021 in regards to Aangen's goals and mission?


I think what surprised me the most was All Dried Up. That was our COVID baby, and Alicia, our Creative Director, and I have been talking about this for years prior to COVID and the fact that we went from concept to consumption in just 90 days is shocking. Going into production, looking into dehydrators - we really did it!


Do you have additional thoughts?


The commitment from the team has been unwavering. No matter what roadbump we hit, we move over it together. That is what is so good about having a work family. We can lean in when we need to, and it means we thrive. I could not be more proud and humbled.


Aangen continues to thrive through community support. If you would like to become a donor, click here. All support goes straight into our programs, services, and efforts.

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