What is community care?
Community care, which interrelates with “caremongering” and mutual aid, is a long-standing concept that involves two or more people collaborating to help meet each other’s needs. These needs can be basic, e.g., housing, food, healthcare, but they can also be expressive, e.g., holding space for each other.
It is important to recognize that especially marginalized populations have practiced community care throughout history. For example, people of colour have created and tended to community gardens for decades. Moreover, they have organized to provide children and families with free meals, which has served as a model for present-day free meal programs.
The impact of COVID-19 on community care
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought community care more into the mainstream. The closure of certain services, as well as the call for physical distancing, has made it more challenging for people to meet their basic needs, including housing, food, and childcare. For example, the shutdown of schools in certain regions has affected families who rely on free breakfast programs. Moreover, parents who cannot stay home from work have had to scramble to find childcare support. People also face additional delivery charges for food and other items being delivered to their homes.
Since March, North America has seen a rise in community care networks. In Hamilton, we have seen the inception of groups such as Downtown-East Hamilton Mutual Aid. This is a “grassroots network of neighbours supporting each other during the COVID-19 crisis, prioritizing those most vulnerable.” Some of the services provided by this group include shopping for neighbours and delivering purchased items, offering various supports via phone, and sharing information about people’s rights as renters and workers.
CareMongering Hamilton, a collaboration between various local organizations, was also created as a response to COVID-19. This group delivers food to folks with disabilities as well as lower-income people.
Community care at McMaster
To promote community care within and through student groups, McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre has launched the Caring Communities Network (CCN) for its third year. Through CCN, student groups have access to online training modules on topics like mental health promotion, sexual violence response and prevention, anti-oppression, navigating support resources, and more.
CCN modules familiarize student leaders with issues that impact student wellness. Moreover, this training shares tangible ways of incorporating wellness into programming, helping student leaders practice community care even virtually. These wellness applications are not limited to formal student groups; students can practice informal community care, too. This is crucial especially in the online learning environment, where students are facing added challenges such as difficulty concentrating or remembering school deadlines. Some examples of informal community care include:
Recently, the first round of student leaders started their CCN journey, but opportunities to engage and learn with CCN are ongoing. Any groups interested in participating can sign up on our CCN programs page by January 18th, 2021. Not only will you learn how to continue promoting wellness in and through your group’s initiatives, but you will also earn a Certificate of Completion and opportunities to engage with other CCN members.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped popularize community care, but this practice is timeless. Initiatives like CCN recognize that the process of creating a more compassionate community is an ongoing one.
By: Shraddha Mishra