During this pandemic it has been harder for many to meet their basic needs. Stepping up has been local mutual aid organizations, both new ones that have sprouted during this crisis and ones that have existed before. Mutual aid is volunteer-run work that provides resources and services for the benefit of all.
With the way COVID-19 spreads, these organizations have had to change their practices for safety of all those involved. To provide a spotlight on these groups and how they are making changes for this time, I am running a series of interviews with mutual aid groups.
The first interview is with the people behind Neighborhood Anarchist Collective’s Solidarity Share Fair. I spoke with one of the organizers and offered up the questions to be answered by anyone working on the project. Answers have been edited for spelling and formatting.
Can you give a little background on what the Solidarity Share Fair is.
Before COVID, the Share Fair was a really free market connecting 200-300 people with resources the last Tuesday of each month. At the Share Fair you would find:
– Free food, clothes, and supplies
– Free services like haircuts, sewing, and massages
– Helpful local organizations providing information about their services (like HIV Alliance and Women’s Space)
– Music and a space to relax, talk with people, and just be.
The Solidarity Share Fair (COVID-19 Edition) is a monthly mobile sharing project. We distribute around 150 care packages to key locations throughout the city as well as to individuals who express a need for help.
What changes have you implemented to protect volunteers and aid
recipients? What has been the most challenging in making these changes?
The Solidarity Share Fair has changed entirely in efforts to limit exposure in our community. We shifted from being a large resource sharing gathering to a few teams of volunteers, masked and gloved, dropping off care packages to specific and spread out regions around Eugene and Springfield.
The most challenging thing in reformatting our entire event was moving rapidly into uncharted territory. We didn’t know what to expect or how it would go.
How can community members help?
Community members can help by donating items on our wish list or sending money for us to purchase these things.
Wish list: Emergen-C packets, multivitamins, masks, individually packaged snacks, water bottles, body wipes/baby wipes, first aid kits, cough drops, tarps, peanut butter, jelly, sandwich bags
All donations are tax deductible.
What are some lessons and tips you can provide to other organizers during
An important practice for us during this time is to be flexible and reflective. Not all our ideas work. We have to scrap some of our plans and make last minute changes to keep up with the nature of the situation. We
accept this as part of the process and keep moving forward. Collaboration is key. We schedule meetings to brainstorm ideas and pinpoint what is working and what we need to change.
Being kind and gentle with ourselves and others really helps a whole lot. Take space when you need it and give it to others readily. Organizing with a smile and soaking up the light-hearted moments as much as possible has helped keep up our morale.