By Alex Eastman ’23
A team of Earlham students and faculty have created a network designed to help the Earlham community deal with problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlham Community Mutual Aid launched on Monday and offers a wide variety of services, including on- and off-campus resources and mental health support.
The largest component is the Mutual Aid Fund, which aims to extend financial support to members of the Earlham community who need it, through a compilation of requests and donations.
To the Mutual Aid team, the need for such a service is clear. “This pandemic does not affect everyone equally, and the concept of mutual aid seeks to distribute resources within the community to make sure everyone can have their basic needs met,” Asa Kramer-Dickie, ’20, the team support coordinator, said.
“The goals of the Mutual Aid Fund are to have a space for those in our community to contribute funds to others who may be struggling right now with the COVID pandemic,” said Jessenia Fanini, ’22, a distribution decision-making co-coordinator.
Roughly 36 hours after the launch, $810 had been raised. But with over $16,000 requested, choosing how to distribute funding is not an easy task. “Right now we’re working on a model where we still anticipate incoming revenue to be able to fund these requests, so we are working on delivering to the people who have the most urgency right now,” Evan Feldberg-Bannatyne, ’21, the financial convener, said.
The type of request is considered, with immediate needs like groceries or rent taking priority over books for next semester, for example.
Privacy has been an important part of the funding operation from both sides. Both donors and people requesting donations can choose what information they would and would not like to share with the other party.
“On both the contributor and the requesting forms, we’re very intentional and very specific about giving people the power to choose which information of theirs is shared, whether they want to keep everything private, or if they’re able to share things publicly,” Feldberg-Bannatyne said.
The launch of Mutual Aid has helped to maintain community, even as so many students are physically distant from one another. “For me, being a part of this project has made me feel more connected to Earlham even though we’re so far apart now due to COVID-19,” shared Thalia Lhatso, ’22, a distribution decision-making co-coordinator.
Those who have requested funds have also felt the impact. “Even if denied or lack of funds, I appreciate the idea of others in this collective group to help others,” one person who requested support wrote in their application. “I feel I finally have a family.”
Rather than an unintended consequence, this community-building aspect is integral to the group’s goal of support. “I don’t think we are doing anything new or different: there have been so many amazing initiatives around the world and even right here in Richmond,” Lan Phan, ’20, the communications coordinator, said. “I just hope that we are able to bring in the resources and ideas together in a centralized system, and let Earlham students know that they are not alone in this time of uncertainties.”
Going forward, the team wants to continue the service even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Unfortunately, it did take a crisis for us to come together and build this network, but I am confident, both in the community and in the people who I’ve worked with on building this network, that we are here to see this through, and it’s not going to evaporate, it’s not going to disappear, once COVID-19 settles down and hopefully Earlham and all of us are still left standing,” Feldberg-Bannatyne said. “We are in it for the long haul, we are going strong, and we intend to continue our efforts in mutual aid as long as there is a community to fight for.
If you would like to donate, request funds, access resources, or volunteer time, please visit linktr.ee/EarlhamMutualAid.