Hello PISA members! This week we wanted to highlight an amazing organization that was started just weeks ago by Bishop's students. Below is an interview we did with Liam O'Toole, a student in International Political Economy and one of the leaders of this group. We hope you will enjoy seeing PISA students at work and that you may be inspired to help out this great cause. Q: What is “Lennoxville Empowerment: Mutual Organizational Network”?
A: “LEMON” is meant to function as a casual mutual aid network, abiding by traditional organizational theory. At the moment, however, it exists purely as a Facebook page where we match those who need some sort of aid with those willing to help. The primary principle is that we’ll help you now, and down the line, you’re expected to help someone else who needs it, so that your aid comes full circle to a day when
you might need some help.
Q: What is the main goal of this cause?
A: When traditional institutions fail to accommodate for the needs of participants, communities have to take it into their own hands to ensure that their neighbourhoods are properly provided for. That means organizing amongst ourselves, and providing aid to fellow residents who might have been left behind by our economic system. The goal of the cause is to make sure our community maintains material stability in the face of adversity, not only during disasters, but for the foreseeable future, so long as there is
economic inequality. Additionally, we’re posting educational material so that people can better understand the principles of mutual aid, organizational theory, and the relationships between consumers and capital.
Q: What is a mutual aid network?
A: Mutual aid networks are a way to network with your own neighbourhood, and create a system where people help other people for the sake of helping them. They are organized horizontally, meaning that the effort is entirely organized by community members without a central leader, and all decisions will be made democratically. In a mutual aid network, we offer goods and services without the incentive of profit. We try to help each other because it is paramount that we have a sense of solidarity, especially in times of crisis, and aid our community because it’s what will help us survive, not because it’s profitable.
Q: What made you decide to create this group?
A: While in quarantine, my roommate and I found it very difficult to find people who were able to run errands on our behalf. We thought it would be useful if there were a platform where students could request somebody to run their errands, and then deliver whatever it is they need to their doorstep. We expanded on this idea and instead decided to create a mutual aid network.
Q: How do I ask for help?
A: Make a public post under the discussion tab detailing what it is you need, along with other relevant details. Don't be shy about asking for aid, whether you're asking for someone to get something from a store while you're quarantined or you're looking for material help. Are you just looking for someone to pick up a package for you? Does this person need a car to help out? Any specific time when this task has to be completed? When somebody is available to help, they'll comment on your post. If you want to ask for help anonymously, either ask a friend or one of the admins to make the post for you. This is a judgement free group.
Q: Who can I contact if I wish to remain anonymous when asking for help?
A: For the moment, those who wish to retain their anonymity can message either Liam or Alex, but in the near future, we plan to create a Google forum where participants can anonymously place a request for aid.
Q: How do I offer help?
A: There's two ways to offer help. You can comment on a post of someone asking for help, where you can then coordinate with that person. This is the most direct way of offering assistance. Alternatively, if you have an item or service to offer (i.e. if you have an old piece of furniture that you no longer need), you can also make a post letting residents know that you're here to help. Additionally, if you have an idea for a larger project that requires more people (such as food or mask drives), you can always use LEMON as an outlet to gather more people in order to assist with that endeavour.
Q: How can I join in this cause?
A: Join our Facebook group!
Q: What commitments do I make by joining this cause?
A: By joining the group, you make zero commitments. Simply help out when you can, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, either.
Q: What are examples of help services one could offer/ask for?
A: Something we’re placing an emphasis on is creating a service where isolated international students completing their quarantine can have goods delivered to them for free, but the possibilities for what aid could be requested/offered doesn’t end there. If you’re looking for some food that someone else might be able to spare, or old furniture, utensils, household items, or someone else to just help you move in, the group can be used for any and all of these tasks.
Q: How can we ensure that helpers/people seeking for help continue to respect public health and safety guidelines?
A: We’ll have to hold each other accountable. One of the participants involved in a physical exchange needs to ensure that public health and safety guidelines are being abided by, and make sure that before aid is administered or accepted, that the other participants are also respecting those regulations.
Q: Where can I find more information on this cause?
A: All information is available on our Facebook page.
Q: Who can I contact if I wish to know more about this cause?
A: Liam O’Toole or Alex Pountcheva, both of who are organizers for the network.