During my time at Brandeis the past 2 years, I have learned that the greatest resources may not always be from the faculty, staff, or institutions but rather from my own peers. Building and investing in relationships with my classmates is one of the best things I could do during my time at Brandeis. There is a strong collective at Brandeis that push towards helping their own peers through the Mutual Aid funds. Unfortunately, this was created in response to Brandeis unable to fully meet all the student’s financial needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain students were denied funds and resources, so they took it upon themselves to create a mutual aid fund that works towards helping students at Brandeis that are experiencing financial burdens. At that moment, I realized that during crises like these, we only have each other to depend on and we just act as a collective to meet the needs of each individual. Learning this was significant to me because throughout time, I learned the power that we as individuals have if we work together towards an agenda, even if we feel like we don’t have the position of power to do so. Forming coalitions holds a lot of power than one thinks.
Working at RAICES, we also have a community that is experiencing financial burdens and lack of resources as well. It may not be exactly the same struggles as those from college students, but we got a sense of the type of resources that the community needs. Mutual aid informs my thinking about my organization’s work because it shows what RAICES stands for and their mission. Because the state and national government is unable to help its immigrant community successfully, RAICES has to step up and provide these resources instead. They took initiative to help the community. Their missions and drive to educate, help, and provide to others as a non-profit organization reminds me of why I wanted to work at RAICES in the first place.
The idea of a mutual aid changed my approach to my internship. I started to learn more about what RAICES really does for the community as a non-profit organization and how they do not capitalize off of vulnerable individuals unlike other institutions. RAICES mission is more than just providing legal services, but also basic services that everyone should be entitled to such as a home, food on their table, and a healthy life. Currently, we are conducting check-in’s with our community leaders to see if and how they are being affected by the pandemic and what type of support they need. After collecting the data, we will have a better understanding of how we, as a collective, can help each other during these struggling times.