Texans Form Mutual Aid Networks to Aid Neighbors Amid Crises

Texans form mutual aid networks to aid neighbors amid crises Reese Baloutine was awakened early by the sound of crashes. Neighbors texted her photographs of trees that had fallen on their houses and limbs that had clogged their yards after this month’s ice storm roared through Austin.

The ripping of another branch every now and then divided the air.

As downed trees stood on roofs, stopped walkways, and disrupted electricity, Baloutine, owner and founder of Seedlings Gardening, determined to aid anyone she could. “I was like, ‘I’m sure there are people that, for whatever reason, just need help. And we have the ability to go out and help people. So let’s just see how we can,’” Baloutine explained.

Below is a tweet that shows mutual aid workers fixing the electricity.

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Baloutine was one of many people around the state who stepped forward to aid their neighbors this month as roads became impassable and hundreds of thousands of people lost electricity. Mutual aid is a behavior that involves individuals swiftly stepping in to satisfy the needs of others — and then asking for support in return.

Mutual Aid groups sometimes can be overlooked but they can put a huge impact on someone’s life. Below we have given a tweet which shows the reaction of someone getting help when in need 

In addition to this spontaneous communal action, there are structured, longer-term mutual aid groups that try to fill gaps in people’s needs with “solidarity, not charity” when government agencies are overwhelmed or underprepared. Mutual aid initiatives have a long history in the United States, primarily as a means for Black communities, Indigenous peoples, and other oppressed groups to protect and care for one another.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people increasingly used social media and internet contribution channels to spread aid pleas in the aftermath of business closures. Mutual aid became particularly obvious following hurricanes, tornadoes, and the 2021 Texas power grid failure. However, it is also something that individuals do in between crises.

mutual aid workers
mutual aid workers

Acts of service can be fulfilling. However, since Texas governments frequently mishandle communications and support during emergencies, people who maintain cohesive mutual aid groups face funding issues and weariness.

“We get fewer volunteers every time,” said Sasha Rose, an organizer for Austin Mutual Aid. “So many of us feel like we are trying so hard to make a difference. … We just feel exhausted. It feels like we’re fighting an uphill battle.”

In the case of Baloutine this month, what began as an Instagram post inquiring who needed trees cleared for free grew into a days-long effort in which neighbors collaborated to bring relief.

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Initially, only a few people reached out for assistance, but things quickly escalated. Neighbors came out of their homes to help chop up massive fallen branches and limbs as the group moved up and down an Austin street. They pitched up to supply the chainsaws that Seedlings Gardening was missing. One elderly lady who had her trees cut down handed the team homemade chocolate chip cookies and coffee.

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