What is Mutual Aid?
You might be familiar with Athens Mutual Aid Network (AMAN), but what is mutual aid?
Mutual aid is a community taking care of each other. Have you delivered extra toilet paper to your elderly neighbor? Have you cooked meals for a friend who just became a parent? You have participated in mutual aid!
Since humans have existed, we have always survived together. Mutual aid's goal is to make sure everyone has their human needs met, including food, shelter, safety, healthcare, education, social engagement, and emotional support. American humanist psychologist and theorist Abraham Maslow, defined a useful way to think about our human needs, beginning with needs that mutual aid serves.
No one person can do everything to meet these needs. We need farmers, teachers, construction workers, therapists, chefs, childcare professionals, and more. When we work together, we collectively have the skills and resources to meet everyone's needs. Everyone has something to offer and everyone is an important part of our community.
Mutual aid is difficult to implement on a large scale because we are increasingly being separated from one another. Many of us feel isolated from our community. Getting help from government institutions or charities can be frustrating. Intense red tape and paperwork is exhausting and ultimately many people fall through the cracks of the current system. The goal of mutual aid to care for everyone including those that are incarcerated, undocumented, un-housed, disabled, provide sex-work, or struggle with addiction.
When everyone in our community is cared for, we thrive as a community. We learn better; we are kinder and more productive; and we feel more fulfilled in our lives. As Paul Wellstone said,
"We all do better when we all do better."
An essential part of mutual aid is that it is mutual. That means everyone gives the help they can and receives the help they need. Mutual aid is not charity or top-down. Mutual aid is about all of us helping each other because we all need each other. While each person's needs and contributions might be different, we are all equally a part of mutual aid.
If you don't like the term "mutual aid" that's ok! Some people call it solidarity, direct aid, or just being a good member of our community. The terminology doesn't matter, your participation does.
What is Athens Mutual Aid Network?
AMAN is a coalition of a lot of organizations who have already been doing the work of mutual aid. These are immigrant rights organizations, racial justice organizations, LGBTQ+ organizations, unions, and political groups. AMAN connects and amplifies these groups in response to the increasing community needs in the wake of this pandemic. AMAN shares resources, volunteers, funds, and coordinated action to support our community.
How can I participate? Here are just a few ways to share in mutual aid:
Give funds. If you have steady income right now, helping out your neighbors who don't is a huge help. Venmo @mutualaidathens and find updates on those funds here.
Volunteer your skills through the Athens Mutual Aid hotline! AMAN needs all types of people with all types of skills. Volunteer how you can best here.
You can also sign up for volunteer opportunities listed under Athens Help with COVID, a partnership with New Haven Help with COVID
Sign up as a regional volunteer with COVAID.
Want to learn more about mutual aid? Check out a panel by the American Studies Association about mutual aid movements across the country in the context of Covid-19.