A ray of light through the COVID-19 crisis has been the individual and collective actions undertaken to support communities across the country and the world. One example is Public Allies Los Angeles alum and current Program Manager, daNaE Tapia who, along with their family, has set up a mutual aid network on their block in Pasadena, California. During the crisis, the network has distributed food every morning to family members and has created over 75 masks. daNaE is part of a larger network of mask makers in Los Angeles that is prioritizing distribution of masks to the homeless population and those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Knowing that many within our network might be interested in starting mutual aid networks in your neighborhoods, we asked daNaE to share some insights and resources. Here’s what she had to share:
Mutual aid is about coming together to meet each other’s needs. Our health literally depends on each other, so we have to extend community care to its fullest. If you have capacity I encourage you all to start a mutual aid network or join one!
I acknowledge that we are all experiencing this pandemic in different ways, and also naming that this pandemic may be impacting some of us more than others. In no way am I pressuring anyone to take lead in these efforts or that your worth is measured on how “active” you are in the community during this time. It’s whatever you CAN DO. Your health comes first. Mutual aid is not a one way street, it’s about creativity and community solidarity.
My quick tips on starting your Mutual Aid network:
- Reflect on who you want to build a network with. Think about those you already know and also identify those who you would like to start building with. This is what we are calling “neighborhood pods”.
- For starters, smaller is better. Start off with your neighborhood block, or within your apartment complex or a non-geographical social community (ex. Supporting the houseless folks, or creating a network that supports Queer and Disabled folks in need)
- Establish ways to communicate. Text, email, or other social media outlets. Communicate often.
- Identify the needs and goals for your target community. Note: as the pandemic continues the needs may change, so it’s good practice to assess often.
- Create a list of local resources to share with each other. We created a booklet and passed it around to our block (of course practicing social distancing, wearing masks and gloves)
If you would like to support your community but don’t want to organize a whole network or have anxiety around adding something more on your plate, you can provide mutual aid on your own. For example, picking up groceries for the elderly couple that lives next door, or baking weekly gluten free bread for your neighbors with food allergies, connecting with friends and organizing a PJ party via zoom, or dropping off care packages to your friends most in need. I hear toilet paper gift baskets are the new thing! I recently joined a group of parents who are coordinating “reading time” for kids. So for a whole hour the facilitator reads a book, and coordinates silly games for the kids. This is ALL Mutual Aid.
Lastly, here are two additional resources you may find helpful: