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Caledonian & Barnsbury Wards Covid Mutual Aid is all of us
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Here we are in the second wave
Our foodbank needs your help!
This fund has been created to both help complement food donations for our weekly food bank in which we deliver food parcels and hot meals to households in need and to cover the costs of providing some basic needs for those self-isolating and unable to cover these costs. This would be used in emergency scenarios as we do not want to replace the day-to-day payment of people picking up groceries and prescriptions.
We intentionally DON'T want to create a large pool of money with this. We just want to have a small pool of ongoing money that we can use to cover expenses where necessary. We don't want this fund to replace the day-to-day payment of people who are picking up groceries and prescriptions.
Our group does not have any external affiliations except loose ones to other local mutual aid groups. Our group of about 12 coordinators for the wards of Caledonian and Barnsbury mostly did not know each other before we came together a few weeks ago. A few of us happen to be members of political parties e.g. the Labour Party, but most are not and it’s absolutely not a requirement for coordinators or volunteers to have a particular external political commitment. We won’t tolerate any kind of spam, abuse or demeaning language in our groups, but other than that we welcome people of all political persuasions.
That doesn’t mean there are no politics at all involved in mutual aid - it’s just not politics in the usual sense. For example in our coordinating work we place an emphasis on helping the disadvantaged, as they are even worse affected by this crisis, and some of their current problems stem more from structural economic disadvantages than the virus.
In addition, mutual aid has a long history that carries with it commitments to a few important ideas:
Mutual aid is just that, mutual, it goes both ways. There are no specialised classes of helpers and helpees. This is good because it means we all can both give and take, build our capabilities, and trust one another in the neighborhood. In this way it’s not like a charity, no one is a saviour and no one should be embarrassed to ask for help.
Mutual aid is also not like charity in other ways. Except for a very very small reserve of money to help buy food for the food bank if requests happen very suddenly, we don’t handle money, and generally avoid being part of the “nonprofit industrial complex”. No one gets paid, etc.
In addition we don’t have rules about who qualifies for help. We try to trust people to tell us what they need, rather than regulate them.
We’re also not part of the government. While we work from time to time with the local council because it’s in the best interest of the community (e.g. following NHS guidelines, coordinating with NHS about discharge patients, coordinating with the council about the food bank and food vouchers), we make decisions separately from them, and are well aware that there are issues with e.g. government policies or, for example, the way the police operate.
There are minimal hierarchical structures. We try to make decisions in a transparent way, by consensus and (as you can see) devolve decision-making to small local groups as much as possible.
The goal is firstly the health of our community at this difficult time, but also the building of mutual support in the community for the long run.
We hope this makes sense and would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have about this. You can also see some good resources on the long and fascinating history of mutual aid here: http://bigdoorbrigade.com/what-is-mutual-aid/