Riverside Mutual Aid Testimonial

The start of Riverside Mutual Aid primarily focused on UCR and its student body, since many students needed help getting home, rental assistance, and other things surrounding their security. We initially began with google doc spreadsheet that would allow ppl to help each other fulfill one another’s needs. However, over the course of a few days, we ran into issues since UCR already programs in place to do this already, so we stopped working primarily for the UCR student body and turned our focus to start working on the greater Riverside area. 

The idea of mutual aid first entered my mind when I got on national call with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who was hosting this call to discuss how we could help each other with the beginning covid-19 crisis back in March. Here, the concept of mutual aid popped up, which compelled me to want to start my own mutual aid organization here in Riverside, CA. However, I want to of course acknowledge that I am fully aware of how this concept of mutual aid has existed within Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Working-Class communities for decades, if not, even centuries. We want to be mindful that this has been happening for a while now and to not co-opt this form of community-aid, and want to collaborate and support one another. 

We want to break down the silos of how Americans are taken care of. America used to be different; neighbors used to help each other, and now we’ve allowed government and nonprofits to step in and take away our power. And now they don’t even want to care for us at this critical time. It’s time for community to care for itself again. We believe the current system set in place to help underserved people in our country locks people in their position, breaks community bonds to help one another, and takes away their agency.

This influences the structure of our mutual aid organization, which would we describe as an equally democratic association. volunteers are consistently solicited for their input, which makes people are excited as they truly do appreciate the bottom-up structure of our organization, which we believe aligns with the tradition of mutual aid societies.

We have many programs in place which our mutual aid organization provides to our community! First I want to acknowledge our mobile meals program, which helps deliver food to people around Riverside. We have partnered with a local business and local farm in the area to help with free meals across the city; occasionally we help the local farm with veggie picking, which is then delivered to people. Other times we also deliver to food banks in the city and connect those in our contact to them. We also conduct medical supply collection and distribution for those who don’t have PPE to protect themselves; this is supplemented by our collaboration with the People’s First Aid Collective, which is a group of paramedics who attend protests to provide medical aid if needed. We seek to collaborate with anyone at anytime, and hope to expand partnerships with other organizations in the city for further ability to help. We provide financial crisis planning for those who need help with budgeting due to the economic impact of this pandemic on the population, and do weekly isolation call-check ups on the elderly plus disabled folk who cannot leave their homes for safety reasons. We also have a Frontline Series! This is similar to your archive actually, which seeks to highlight people’s stories in response to Covid-19 in our humble town of Riverside, CA in the Inland Empire. 

Roles and responsibilities are always shifting in response to need of course. Ultimately, we hope to continue this mutual aid organization past this pandemic and build dual power, along with neighborhood power across the city. We have the power to better our communities and create a good standard of living, which everyone is deserving of. Please check out our website for more information: Riverside Mutual Aid. Thank you to everyone who helped coordinate this, which includes all volunteers, and with special regard to: John Stefan, Rebecca Riddle, Kirstin Curtis, and Sally Mahmoud.


Aram Ayra, Riverside Mutual Aid

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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