One of the most effective ways to organize your community and eventually build power as people is to engage in what is known as mutual aid.
Mutual aid can be defined as a network of people working together to meet the needs and improve the conditions of the community. While it may be confused with charity or community service, it is different because mutual aid focuses on the root of community problems, rather than their symptoms.
This type of direct action forms long-lasting solidarity with those in need, rather than a one and done deal that other forms of help may offer.
Mutual aid also does not only apply when a natural disaster happens or during a crisis, it offers constant help regardless, recognizing that our communities are in a constant struggle.
While charity is indeed a viable option to help those in need, people may be more interested in writing off charities for their taxes instead of actually showing solidarity.
Take billionaires like Jeff Bezos, someone who consistently advertises his donations, which are always a minuscule percentage of his wealth.
It can make you wonder: does Bezos really care? Or is he only doing this to help his public image?
In contrast, there are no strings attached when it comes to mutual aid. It comes out of your own time and service, you can directly help others without any incentive other than your solidarity with those in need.
Mutual aid can come in a myriad of ways.
Take the Marmion Safe Haven Temporary Shelter as an example, which provides chronically homeless people with temporary housing in New York. Their system is simple — providing housing to those who need it, unlike city run homeless shelters which often have requirements such as established sobriety.
Clients are provided primary care services, meetings with psychiatrists, laundry, meals, overdose prevention services and more. Additionally, the rooms at the Marimon Safe Haven are much less crowded compared to city shelters. There’s, at most, five people in one room.
The Trans Needle Exchange (TNE) is a service that provides transgender people with hormone replacement therapy to transgender people who cannot afford it. This nonprofit, ran by a transgender person named Oliver, sends out over 150 packages a month throughout the United States with sterile syringes, bandages, alcohol pads, filters and more.
TNE also provides harm reduction supplies, such as menstrual and sexual health products. People can fill out a submission form, and TNE tries to get the necessary supplies out, free of charge.
Invisible Hands is a New York based delivery service that handles groceries, medications and other necessities. It started off last year in response to COVID-19, initially bringing together less than 30 volunteers. Today, Invisible Hands has brought an astonishing 10,000 people to its cause.
The system of delivery is simple: a person in need requests a delivery form and is eventually linked with a local volunteer, who picks up and drops off the necessities free of charge.
This, just like the other organizations mentioned, are consistent efforts of direct action. Simply, they provide what people in their community need.
[Read the rest of this article on slice of culture]