Mutual aid initiatives have rapidly spread during the coronavirus pandemic. But as the crisis is only likely to change and not abate, can community-led action stay the course? Argentina may well have the answer.
On a sunny Thursday afternoon in April, an estimated 500,000 senior citizens across Argentina opened their doors to receive a freshly prepared meal, delivered entirely free of charge. It was a simple, yet touching gesture that showed the recipients that their need to feed themselves despite living under compulsory isolation had not gone unnoticed.
This impressive logistical feat was not carried out by the government. Instead, the initiative, involving 2,000 community-run kitchens across the country and support and funding from small businesses from butchers to bakeries, was the brainchild of the Argentinian grassroots social movement, Barrios de Pie.
It is just one example among thousands of acts of compassion, solidarity and voluntary cooperation that have been making headlines around the world. This groundswell of activity – which falls under the banner of “mutual aid” because it comes from within communities themselves and is geared long-term, as Barrios de Pie put it, at social justice and societal transformation – has, in many instances, outpaced state-led attempts at volunteering.
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