Tiffany Cordero

[email protected]

As the city works to keep up with Coronavirus cases and the unemployment rate continues to surge, many vulnerable communities struggle to survive. 

Bushwick Ayuda Mutua (FKA Bushwick Mutual Aid) is an organization dedicated to connecting individuals in the Bushwick area affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to organizations and volunteers that are able to relieve them where the government is not yet able to. These efforts are made possible through the meticulous planning and dedication of the 100% volunteer-run grassroots organization.

Photo of volunteers Maria Herron and Samy Olivares by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

Alicia Fox, a five-year resident and the founder of Bushwick Ayuda Mutua started the grassroots organization as a means to network with other residents who wanted to volunteer their services. What began as a Facebook group with just 500 members and only 70 volunteers – has grown to a network of over 2,000 members.

“This is not life as usual,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo as he announced that New York would go into state-wide lockdown. “Remain indoors, go outside for solitary exercise. Don’t go to a house with multiple people. Don’t go to your daughter’s house. That is a mistake.” 

“I was responding to calls and I remember speaking to a single mother who lived in my area,” explained Samy Nemir Olivares – an admin member of Bushwick Ayuda Mutua who’s running for District Leader in the 53rd Assembly District. “She called worried because she had two babies and didn’t have money for groceries because she wasn’t working”. 

Photo by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

The jarring reality is that this woman is not alone. While the City offer’s residents in need the opportunity to eat three meals a day through relief programs, this oftentimes isn’t enough to solve the ongoing issue of food insecurity in the city’s most vulnerable communities. 

Photo by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

Members like Olivares, who focuses on creating competent, cultural outreach for the organization – first got involved with the organization because he wanted to help his community beyond just staying home to “flatten the curve.” “I was walking in the neighborhood and saw Alicia’s flyer and thought, “I might be able to help because I’m fluent in spanish.”

Little did he know, his bilingual capabilities would be something that would help the group immensely as most of the organizations early calls came from undocumented families in need. 

Photo by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

“As a child of a single mom on food stamps – the calls we got resonated with me. It makes me happy I could help these people who are calling us in tears because they have nothing to eat.”

The grassroots organization maximizes local impact by focusing on the most vulnerable communities, such as senior citizens, undocumented citizens, single mothers with children and coronavirus patients.

Photo  by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

To date, the organization raised $25,000 and are coordinating emails and phone calls in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Currently, the organization receives and handles on average, 250 community requests per week and is in conversation and connection with Mutual Aid groups spanning across almost every neighborhood in Brooklyn and the five boroughs.

The organization’s model is unique in that they don’t usually provide hot meals. Instead, those in need can expect to receive an entire grocery that’s worth around $100 and can last a family of 3-4 for up to two weeks. “We realized we were able to feed a family of 3-4 people with $32 and the groceries we provide are worth up to $100 and should give them a chance to eat a meal every single day at least. We also found that our model helps people avoid having to go out and put themselves and their families at risk”, said Nemir Olivares “which works in everyone’s favor.”

Photo by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

As their network of volunteers grows, so has Bushwick Mutual Aid’s partnerships. Since it’s development, the organization has partnered with businesses such as Food Bazaar, a chain of grocery stores that donated $4,000 in gift cards for Bushwick Ayuda Mutua to distribute to families in need. They also partner with organizations in the community like Hungry Monk, May Day Space – where they feed 75 families every Wednesday, Hispanic Family Services of New York, and The Deep End

They’ve also partnered with Mil Mundos, a local bookstore to set up a donation & drop off/ pick up initiative. Mil Mundos is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 12-4 and the process is easy. It’s just a “leave something or take what you need” system, and there’s a volunteer there to oversee it!

Photo by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

More recently, Bushwick Ayuda Mutua has begun to coordinate deliveries to families on Sunday’s with the food that they purchase wholesale, at Latinos Americanos Unidos on Wyckoff Ave. Since kicking off their Sunday deliveries, they’ve been able to feed 405 families and that number continues to grow. 

The organization also hands out meals on Friday at Maria Hernandez Park as well as coordinates emergency deliveries to families in dire need. 

Photo of Fox and Olivares taken by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

The fight against Covid-19 is a marathon and grassroots organizations like Bushwick Ayuda Mutua need all of the help they can get. A simple but extremely impactful way to help is by making monetary donations to Bushwick Ayuda Mutua. “As I mentioned, we figured out we can feed a family with $32, so a donation of that size is a great way to make sure we can keep feeding people, ” said Nemir Olivares. 

Help can take several forms, from speaking Spanish to connect with families in need, to a driver’s license so that they can deliver to people in need efficiently. As always, any food donations help immensely.

People who want to get involved can also go to Bushwick Ayuda Mutua’s Facebook group and complete their volunteer form – to help them get familiar with volunteers and the skills that would be helpful to them. 

With a long road ahead and light at the end of the tunnel, this team of incredibly dedicated locals has shown a commitment to the families they’re feeding by continuing to connect them with resources that will help them in the long term.

“We were able to build something out of nothing and now we feed hundreds of families each week. Sure, we face new challenges all the time, but still somehow we’ve managed to feed so many people no matter the hurdles we encounter,” said Emily Amick – O’Dwyer an admin member for Bushwick Mutual Aid. 

Nothing says community more than hundreds of volunteers who selflessly give their time to ensure our community is cared for and Bushwick Mutual Aid has quickly become a beacon of hope in a community that was being ravaged by Covid-19 and food insecurity. 

For any residents in the Bushwick/ Ridgewood area who are in need of food assistance and aren’t sure where to turn – feel free to fill out this link to connect to Bushwick Ayuda Mutua for help. 

To keep up with Bushwick Ayuda Mutua follow them on Twitter and Instagram

Cover photo taken by Gabriel Hernandez (@gabriel.himself)

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