Written by Stuart Foxman
In Sanskrit, the word aangen refers to the front yard of a home where community members gather to give each other comfort and nurturing. That was the tradition in Gurbeen Bhasin’s family.
Her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother all opened their homes every Wednesday. They’d make food for anyone who wanted to drop by, and people could find a shoulder to lean on if they were going through a tough time.
“It was all about the community gathering and supporting each other,” says Bhasin.
It was only logical for her to name her own Toronto-based venture Aangen (aangen.com). The not-for-profit social enterprise has found a novel way to give back to the community.
Aangen has two main lines of business, with all proceeds going to those in need. One service is purchasing ethically-sourced farm products within a 100 km radius (like eggs, butter, bread and honey), and supplying them to local businesses. The other offers commercial and residential cleaning services. To make a further impact, that one employs marginalized community members.
All of this is in service of a mission to provide sustainable, solution-based responses to social injustices. That happens locally and globally.
Among the local initiatives are Heal Hunger (community meals and kitchen workshops), and One Love (support for shelters). Another program, Families in Need, provides personalized emergency relief to people experiencing disadvantaged life situations.
One recipient of assistance, who has been dealing with economic and health challenges, wrote this to Bhasin: “I don’t think we could have survived without the love, support and incredible generosity from everyone who participates to create Aangen.”
Globally, Aangen supports orphanages, Come and Eat (a kitchen and dining hall in Ebe, Nigeria), and Send a Girl to School (sanitary supplies for girls for their menstrual cycle, so they don’t miss as many days of school each month).
Bhasin has an educational and professional background in social policy and international relations, and has been practicing social work for over two decades. While she’s comfortable in that world, she felt she needed more grounding in leadership and how to evolve Aangen. So Bhasin started working with One More Woman.
The educational, training and consulting platform supports female business owners. CEO Jennifer Love says that One More Woman helps its members to grow as leaders and take their organizations to new heights.
“I told her I’m not terribly interested in money, but I want Aangen to be a global entity,” says Bhasin.
She says Love has helped her to clarify and distill her goals, and create a blueprint for growth. “We need to have a merge between the business and social aspect,” Bhasin says. “Having Jennifer on board was like getting an MBA in the work we’re doing.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real