Toronto non-profit helps employee's family escape war, sends supplies to Ukraine
Aangen says one of its goals is to respond to community needs as they happen
Oksana Kandiller says when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it was hard to focus on anything else knowing her family was in a war zone.
"I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I was constantly feeling sick and just praying all the time," Kandiller said.
Kandiller is the director of finance at Aangen — a Toronto non profit that helps address hunger and poverty in marginalized communities locally and globally. The executive director and founder of the organization, Gurbeen Bhasin, told Kandiller she wanted to help get her family out.
Feeling helpless, Kandiller wasn't sure it was even possible.
"She calls me and she says, 'We have to get your family here,' and I said, 'Gurbeen, I don't know how to do it; we have to figure out their visas and everything.'"
Bhasin, and others at Aangen, were up for the challenge.
"At Aangen, one of our goals is to respond to community needs as they happen, so when the invasion of Ukraine happened, we decided we needed to help right now," Bhasin said. She added the war brings back painful memories of her own past.
"Not once, but twice, I've had to escape a war zone, and it's very traumatic to leave everything you know behind and know that your home is not your home anymore."
The organization came together to raise the money needed to bring Kandiller's sister, nieces and mother to Toronto. On top of reuniting this family, Aangen has also been busy in its kitchen, sending hundreds of packages of dehydrated soup to Ukraine.
"It's very light, it has more than half the nutrition you need for the day and it is very easy to make. At the other end, all you need is boiling water," Bhasin told CBC Toronto.
The product has helped hospitals, the military and refugees who may not have access to kitchens.
For Kandiller, watching her workplace rally together to help not just her family, but many more in her home country, has brought her hope.
"At a time when you're losing hope in humanity, small things like this are restoring faith all over again."