What is Mutual Aid?
You may have noticed various organizations cropping up that offer something called mutual aid. Who are these groups, and what is mutual aid?
The mutual aid concept is that people from a community volunteer to offer up resources like food, transportation, and other essentials to each other, according to what they have and others need. This can take the place of low-risk individuals volunteering to go grocery shopping for high risk individuals, or walking dogs for people who are advised not leave the house, or even sharing crafts, recipes, and virtual companionship. The guiding philosophy is “We all have something to offer, and we all have something we need.”
Accordingly, your local mutual aid group is likely to be composed of your neighbors and/or coworkers. The point of mutual aid is to connect people to resources in their local community, so that folks don’t need to go far to get what they need.
Is there a Mutual Aid group near me?
Almost certainly! In the last few weeks mutual aid groups have been organizing all across the city, state, and nation. Below is a list of mutual aid groups in the Greater Boston Area, along with some resource lists put together by other organizations that include groups for places further from Boston.
- The Human Network Initiative is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They have put together this collation of local and state resources
- Likewise, the Massachusetts Jobs With Justice group has put together this collation of resources and mutual aid groups
- The Asian American Resource Workshop has created a wider ranging sheet of resources and mutual aid groups. It includes a lot of information on how to combat prejudice and xenophobia in this unprecedented situation
- A Facebook group titled "COVID-19 Greater Boston (mutual aid and resources)" has been set up
- The folks behind the news site Boston.org have set up the Boston Helps network
- A neighborhood group has been organized for Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, with similar groups in many Boston neighborhoods
- The staff, faculty, and students of Tufts have created their own mutual aid group for their community, as have other schools
- Just outside of the city, communities like Belmont and Cambridge have also seen mutual aid groups being set up
An important note on safety: Since these mutual aid groups are being organized specifically to respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19, they should be operating in accordance with the prevailing guidelines around social distancing and medical isolation. The library advises you to personally ensure that any activity you engage in is in line with those recommendations.
All of the specific organizations listed above are ones I specifically contacted and communicated with for this post, and the collated lists are from trusted nonprofit organizations.
Most mutual aid groups are operated on the basis of volunteer labor and mutual compassion and trust. I encourage you to engage with them in that same spirit, but it is vital to also exercise common sense and personal safety as well. Don't put your health — and the health of those in your community — at risk.
How can I get help? How can I get involved?
Simply find your local group among the resources above, click on it, and follow their instructions! With so many different groups serving local needs, there is not one way they operate. If you have questions about your local group, contact its organizers and they should be able to help.
Getting involved could also include volunteering to help coordinate and organize remotely. If there isn’t a mutual aid group in your area, you could start one using this handy guide made by the Somerville/Medford mutual aid group. If you don’t have the ability to get directly involved with a mutual aid organization, but have stable financial means, you may be interested in donating to relief organizations.