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You don’t have to be a member to contribute to Fishadelphia’s Mutual Aid Fund

Many Philadelphia college students are still struggling to figure out where to go and how to get there—you can help by filling our CSN’s form here. If you’re a student in need of support, fill out this form.

Plug in with Neighbors Helping Neighbors and find out how you can help, or get help: Philly Mutual Aid.

Get involved with the Poor People’s Army and sign up to help support folks who are being hit especially hard during the pandemic. If you need help, email [email protected]

Can you offer to help a healthcare worker with childcare? Do you need care for you kids? Learn more here

Do you have leftover/no-longer needed birth and postpartum and infant supplies. Send your name, address and list of supplies to [email protected]

Check in with your neighborhood Facebook page or Friends Of group to see what efforts are underway near you—or to start one yourself.

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Mutual aid across the country

“We’re not just going to wait and hope that they solve our problems—instead we’re going to do something right now to build the world we want to live in. It’s not about saviorism, it’s about all of us practically getting together to meet each other’s needs and solve immediate problems together in a very grassroots, bottom-up way.” – Dean Spade of Seattle-based Big Door Brigade on Mutual Aid. 

Get inspired by community care efforts across the country—from New York City to Seattle—and learn about the history of mutual aid in this clip from Democracy Now.

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Community Cure

As coronavirus upends our lives, community organizers aren’t waiting for the government to help us—supporting each other is the only way through

As coronavirus upends our lives, community organizers aren’t waiting for the government to help us—supporting each other is the only way through

VideoEverybody is scared right now.

Is it possible to be scared and not alone?

That’s a question that’s been occupying the thoughts of Talia Young, founder and director of Fishadelphia—a student-run community supported fishery that provides fresh New Jersey seafood to Philadelphians.

On March 12 (what feels like a decade ago) the Fishadelphia team decided to cancel their upcoming share pickup, and to give their members ways to look out for each other during the stressful and uncertain weeks ahead. 

Through their porch pick-up system, where members pick up their fresh seafood at a business or residence near their home, Fishadelphia has built networks in neighborhoods across the city. And they are diverse—the program offers a lower price to people who have a student enrolled at the schools in which they work, are eligible for SNAP or Medicaid, or are referred by another community discount customer. Folks who pay full price help subsidize the cost of those accessible shares. 

“Part of the goal of Fishadelphia is to connect people who wouldn’t be connected otherwise, and to create an economically diverse community,” says Young. 

Do SomethingWhich means, at a time when the pandemic is hitting people with fewer resources and less cushy safety nets—or none at all—especially hard, the Fishadelphia community is made up of both those who need extra support as well as those who can give it.

So they’re connecting folks who can offer services like grocery pickup for more susceptible neighbors, or parents who can’t leave their kids home alone. They also started a mutual aid fund to share resources among students, seafood harvesters and customers who need extra financial support. 

“The modern era involves moving around all the time and being disconnected and not knowing our neighbors,” Young says. “Let’s leverage the networks that we have, because so many of the organic ones have been broken.”

They’ve received about $500 in community contributions so far, and are taking any requests—no questions asked. They send financial support via Venmo or paper check. And when someone in their West Philly network requests a grocery delivery, they connect them with a fellow member nearby that offered to help.  

“The modern era involves moving around all the time and being disconnected and not knowing our neighbors,” Young says. “Let’s leverage the networks that we have, because so many of the organic ones have been broken.”

Humans have long practiced mutual aid—whether naturally in communities built on cooperation, or intentionally in social movements and as alternative systems to mainstream individualism. Clearly, individualism won’t work right now; we have no choice but to cooperate. 

The nature of a highly contagious virus hits us over the head with the fact that we’re all in this together. The only way we can lessen the impact of the coronavirus is through cooperation, and the only way we can come out of it not entirely devastated is by helping each other out. 

We’re seeing examples in communities around the world, and right here in our city. The Kidcare Coop, a West Philly parents’ group for meetups and babysitting swaps, is working to connect healthcare workers with babysitters. Alchemy Birth & Wellness is compiling resources and collecting extra birth supplies, medications and protective gear for pregnant women and midwives (email here if you have extra to donate). Check in with your neighborhood Facebook page or Friends Of group to see what efforts are underway near you—or to start one yourself. 

A group of community members who are involved in social justice organizations throughout the city created this Philly Mutual Aid—Neighbors Helping Neighbors form, modelled after one created by Seattle’s Mutual Aid Solidarity Network which was launched earlier this month in response to COVID-19. 

Our goal is to prioritize those most vulnerable and affected by COVID-19 : the Custom Halosick, the elderly, disabled, undocumented, queer/TGNC, Black, Indigenous, and or people of color, those quarantined without pay, limited in work/income, parenting/care taking,” the organizers wrote in an outreach email. Philadelphians are signing up to share resources and look out for those of us who need extra support.

“I call it community crowdsourcing aid,” says Due Quach, founding chair of the Collective Success Network (CSN) a Philly-based nonprofit that supports low-income, first generation college students through mentorship, professional development and leadership opportunities. 

When college campuses made the decision to evacuate, many—especially first generation college students—didn’t have the ability to comply with the university’s demands. 

Over the last two weeks, CSN’s student-led campus groups at Temple, Drexel and UPenn has been sending updates, keeping the organization informed about university announcements and the panic they’re seeing from students trying to figure out what to do. (Penn announced on March 11 that students should leave just four days later, by March 15.)

“Their families didn’t have the budget to cover moving costs, to help them put things in storage, help them rent a car,” says Quach. Some students simply couldn’t return home because their families couldn’t support them or, in the case of some LGBTQ students, they wouldn’t be welcome. “All of the things that other students can take for granted, our students were panicking because there’s no one they could turn to.” 

The nature of a highly contagious virus hits us over the head with the fact that we’re all in this together.

The student needs informed the way the Collective Success Network set up their community crowdsourcing forms. Folks can offer financial support to help cover the costs of a student’s car rental or airline, train or bus ticket home; airline miles to fly a student home; use of a car to help a student move back home; storage space to keep students’ belongings; or a spare room or couch to temporarily house a student. The form asks specific follow-up questions to ensure the organizations can match students in need with the right support. Students can request help using this form

“As offers come in and as requests come in, we’re kind of a go-between broker,” Quach says. “But there’s also a lot of need for clarification because students’ situations are changing day by day.”

That’s one of the benefits of community crowdsourcing: it’s fast, nimble and flexible. The more transactional, time-consuming processes larger organizations might have to implement in order to provide support don’t work in times like these. 

One community member Venmoed a student $250 so he could rent a car and drive home to Connecticut. Another picked up a student and provided housing to a student whose family isn’t able to support her. 

“One of the great things in this type of work is learning how many great people are out there wanting to help,” says Quach. “It’s reassuring when you put out a call for help and people start to respond and offer.”

Read More“I’m a formerly homeless mother and the only way that I survived that 30 years ago was through a mutual aid process,” says Cheri Honkala, anti-poverty activist cofounder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign . “I’ve been pressing that, what we call the politics of love,” she says. “While we’re cash poor, we have developed a lot of social capital in terms of relationships with people all over the place.”

The organization, which has its roots in Philly, started the Poor People’s Army—a network of organizers across the country working to fight poverty and injustice. “We have boots on the ground here practicing this politics of love,” says Honkala. 

And they’ve mobilized the army through a mutual aid page and form where you can sign up to help support folks who are being hit especially hard during the pandemic.  

Photo courtesy of Poor People’s Army

“We’ve turned ourselves into social workers, because people are just flipping out,” Honkala says. “The first thing we can do is listen and tell them they’re not alone.” One woman Honkala spoke to lost four jobs in one day, she says. She was a school bus driver and a driver for eldery people at care facilities and disabled students. 

Beyond emotional care, people need food, access to computers, and—the number one need— cash assistance. “People talk about the folks who have less than $400 in savings,” Honkala says, “Most of the people I know don’t have five dollars in savings.” 

The unavoidable fact is that these folks needed money before COVID-19 happened—the pandemic is just another factor that makes their situations even more precarious. Here in Philadelphia and across our country, COVID-19 is shining a blinding light on disparity. 

“This moment is exposing the ways in which our systems are not working,” says Young. “And therefore it’s super important to have models of inter and codependency and support that we can use that enable us to be less dependent on the systems that we use everyday but that are broken.” 

Organizations like Fishadelphia, the Collective Success Network, and the Poor People’s Army have already been working to create these models. We can plug into those efforts, or learn from them to create our own mutually beneficial ways to exchange resources and services.  

“This is really about people figuring out how to share what they have,”  says Honkala. “At the end of the day, regardless of what the crisis is, all we have is each other.”

COVID-19 may feel like the end all be all crisis at the moment. But it’s not. There will certainly be more to come—more pandemics and more extremely devastating and wider reaching catastrophes as our climate crisis deepens. 

So it’s about time we start to take very seriously the work of building truly equitable communities we can all depend on. 

“This is really about people figuring out how to share what they have,”  says Honkala. “At the end of the day, regardless of what the crisis is, all we have is each other.”

Header photo courtesy Poor People's Army

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