Women leaders are building mutual support in the time of Covid-19

As the Global Pandemic hits certain communities harder than others, people are turning to each other to solve local problems. And, women are on the front lines of creating and spreading these solutions. A group of women in the barrio of Garrochales in Arecibo, Puerto Rico are spearheading an urban farming movement in their backyards which they are documenting on AtmaGo. Marta Santos, one of the leaders of this effort,  emphasized that “this initiative seeks to create a sense of community and support families in Garrochales to achieve sustainable development.”  

In her piece on AtmaGo, Marta highlights that the movement has secured four agricultural specialists to support community members through virtual trainings and serve as a resource while families transition their backyards into urban farms. The training is divided into two parts: urban gardening and urban poultry production. 

Puerto Rico es un pueblo solidario, Puerto Rico is a nation in solidarity. To me, the way this is demonstrated in Puerto Rico is through people showing up for other vulnerable people. Community members show up with the little resources they have, and they show up for others with even fewer resources. I see this from the participants in the citizen journalism trainings, and the stories of mutual support on AtmaGo. AtmaGo is the portal for documenting all of these incredible stories of solidarity and mutual support. From neighbors shopping for each other, to taking collective action to address food insecurity, AtmaGo is helping to document and amplify these incredible moments of solidarity. 

AtmaGo is connecting users to online and offline community building activities and resources in their neighborhoods, and users are highlighting community members and initiatives meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. In one post on AtmaGo a user highlighted an Americorps volunteer who is educating low income communities on environmental conservation and sustainable waste management to alleviate poverty levels. In another post users are sharing resources being made available to small, locally owned businesses to ensure that these small entrepreneurs can continue offering goods and services during the pandemic and stay afloat. And in other posts, users are documenting how their households have reinvented their day-to-day lives with the shelter in place orders. 

Citizen Journalism Trainings

Since the start of the pandemic Atma has moved all of our programming online. COVID-19 has greatly reduced the ability to gather in person, and the needs in Puerto Rico have increased with the pandemic. Through remote connection, our virtual citizen journalism and community empowerment trainings continue to build networks of leaders throughout the island, enabling community members to elevate needs and mutual aid initiatives by their community and other leaders throughout Puerto Rico. All of the participants of our trainings have been women who are active in community development initiatives or are interested in getting involved in mutual aid. In one of our trainings in July with Garrochales Produce, we trained participants involved in an initiative to address food insecurity and household income diversification through urban gardening and urban poultry production. One of the leaders for this initiative had this to say about their work:

This group of women participating started with the Garrochales Produce initiative which was born out of this pandemic. We as a community have seen how certain issues do not get the attention they deserve. We want to bring attention to our community garden initiatives so that other community members can feel inspired and replicate it in their communities.

We wanted to continue being productive during this period of social distancing through our community garden initiative.

In another training, the group of women participants were trail guides for the Punta Tuna Wetland Reserve, a wilderness reserve in the eastern part of the island, in the municipality of Maunabo. These guides have taken on the responsibility of being stewards for this reserve, educating the immediate community and visitors about the flora and fauna of this particular ecosystem, and carving out for themselves a source of income in a municipality with a median household income of $20,000 per year and an unemployment rate that can fluctuate between 13-20% in any given year. These women also participate in other community building efforts, like the care of the elderly community and supporting families who care for family members with Alzheimer. They are sharing accounts about their work and community organizing on AtmaGo. Diany, a guide and environmental educator for the wetland reserve, has shared information on AtmaGo on the inception of the trail guides for the reserve and the importance of their work for the reserve and their community. 

In another post, Johanna, a reverend, wrote about a support group for families caring for family members with Alzheimers started at the congregation she serves. In her post she highlights the generosity and kindness of the people of the municipality of Maunabo and also shares that there is a high population of elderly people, some of whom have been diagnosed with Alzheimers. In her post, Johanna chronicles the lack of social support services available in her community, the resources the support group has been able to tap into like membership to a national Alzheimer’s association, and how other community members can participate in the group.

After the citizen journalism training, we survey participants about their experiences, so we can continue to improve the training and measure the impact they are having. In the post-training evaluations, 100% of participants said the training increased their knowledge on mutual aid support networks and on citizen journalism, and 93% said that the training increased their knowledge on engaging and inspiring others to take action.


Clinton Global Initiative – Effective Communication Strategies During a Crisis

In July, Atma was invited to present at a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) webinar for the members of their network on Effective Communication Strategies During a Crisis. Atma highlighted the importance of building community through crowdsourced information, showcasing how community generated stories can catalyze peer behavior change and how empowering community members to tell their own story allows them to be protagonists in the change that they envision for their neighborhood. We presented alongside Fernando Lloveras, President of Para La Naturaleza, a conservation trust in Puerto Rico, and Dervan Malcolm, Communications Specialist, and radio show host in Jamaica. We were honored to share our insight with the CGI Network members on communication tactics for compelling and effective online communications that build community, and to share the importance of user generated stories during post-disaster response and recovery. 

Thank you for your generous support in making all of this possible! We look forward to sharing more stories with you about the impact we are having together in empowering women and communities to rise to the challenges of Covid-19 together. 

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