Volunteer Disaster Responders Fundraise For Puerto Rico

disaster reliefThe group Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR) intends to raise at least $20,000 to deliver solar electricity and water filtration systems to Puerto Ricans hit by recent hurricanes. The community has roots in the Common Ground Health Clinic, a free clinic organized as Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans They will be delivering these utility services through November.

People who affiliate with MADR have delivered services to people caught in floods and hurricanes across the country. Their voluntary disaster response is guided by a set of principles including, “solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action.” They were involved in Occupy Sandy in New York and they sent medical teams to Haiti after a 2010 earthquake killed more than 100,000 people. They are connected to the ‘Street Medic’ community that received praise in the media after the ‘Unite The Right’ incident in Charlottesville.

MADR Joins Disaster Relief Efforts On Principle

Their Welcome Packet describes mutual aid as, “Voluntary, reciprocal, participatory assistance among equals and being with, not for, disaster survivors.” It is distinct from any commercial or government relationship between the people caught in catastrophe and the people delivering relief. The voluntary nature of the venture counteracts a tendency to commercialize disaster relief and aid. Their Vision mentions the intention to build healthy networks, “as part of an awakened civil society that will restore hope following crisis, and turn the tide against disaster capitalism and climate chaos.”

disaster relief

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico on Oct. 15. Photo: MADR.

The rich and powerful seize upon the chaos following disasters to pass laws and deregulate industries. Naomi Klein defined this strategy in “The Shock Doctrine” and proved it with cases across the world. Post-Hurricane Katrina, public housing was closed and charter schools were opened. In Chile General Pinochet’s coup in the 80’s came with a heavily deregulatory, and ultimately disastrous, policy package known as ‘The Brick’. These are both cases where the government pushed corporate interests while the public were distracted by catastrophes, a hurricane and a coup.

disaster reliefTo enact a shock doctrine project you need to prepare a legislative program and a plan of enforcement. Then you wait patiently for an opportunity to enact it. MADR can also leverage a shock doctrine campaign. These volunteer disaster responders create their own ‘new reality’ by showing up on the ground in communities experiencing natural disasters. MADR’s world contrasts the ‘new realities’ that oligarchs have sought to create. Where MADR seeks community empowerment the oligarchs seek profit. Where MADR fights for open access to resources the oligarchs push privatization. And where MADR relies on trained volunteers the oligarchs pay their experts well.

The vehicle of the message is the same but the goal of MADR is collective liberation, where the goal of the oligarch is personal gain and reputation. It works because in times of chaos people will be more open to change since they have less time to argue. You can enact your own projects with less interference. MADR does this for free, to help people. People in the aid and development industries do it because they can make an enterprise.                  

The Welcome Packet orients anybody interested in volunteering with them. It covers “strategies and philosophy, group decision making, health and safety, and other considerations for living and working in a disaster zone which helps prepare them for Mutual Aid Disaster Relief activities and actions.” The decentralized form of leadership that allows them to provide their Welcome Packet publicly plays well with their goal of creating stronger, more resilient communities because to build their reality over the existing commercial one, they need more people responding to the to more frequent disasters, and sharing their message of communal good.

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