Toronto organization helps domestic abuse survivor build better life
TORONTO -- A mother who said that she endured physical and verbal abuse is crediting a Toronto-based non-profit organization for giving her and her family an independent life in Canada.
In 2013, Catarina Ledo moved to Toronto from Portugal with her two children and ex-husband, who she said called her names and beat her.
“My eyes and my face always [were] black almost every single day,” Ledo told CTV News Toronto.
“You’re scared to wake up, you get scared by the time he’s coming home from work, you don’t know how to be yourself,” she said.
18 months after their arrival, Ledo's ex-husband left Canada, but she said she didn’t have immigration papers and worried how she was going to take of care her children.
A friend connected her with Aangen, which in Sanskrit means ‘the courtyard of a home’, said executive director Gurbeen Bhasin.
Ledo said Aangen supported her through her crisis, including helping her access food.
“It was my church, my God,” Ledo said.
“They go shopping, some of the time [they] give me gift cards, cash. They find anyway to provide for me and my kids.”
Bhasin said that the organization doesn’t accept grants. Instead, Aangen cuts costs by purchasing food from farms and generates money by serving meals at homeless shelters. The organization also runs a residential and commercial service.
And on March 3, Aangen is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a community party.
In that time, Bhasin said that the organization has created at least 35 jobs and served more than half a million meals.
“To see people thriving is just so inspirational,” Bhasin said. “If I’m having a down moment, I think about the Catarina’s of the world.”
Ledo has since become a permanent Canadian resident and works as a cleaning manager with Aangen.
“I’m a superwoman, yes I am. I‘m a survivor. I’m a strong person and I’m so proud of the woman and mother I am,” Ledo said.
“Being a mom is already beautiful, but, with Aangen, me together, my kids cannot have a better life than that.”
Ledo wants others to know that Aangen is a place that can help people with some of the most difficult situations.
“Don’t give up on yourself. Never. Fight. Have hope, and everything is going to be okay,” said Ledo.