In these times of "social distancing," it can be tempting to turn inwards. But as members of a community that extends up and down the Peninsula, we urge our friends and neighbors to look outward instead.
COVID-19 has shown that when our systems fail the most vulnerable people, the ripple effects touch everyone in our communities. We are living in a country with no social safety net, where people who provide the backbone of our local economies — our restaurant workers, our pre-school teachers, our contractors — are not able to withstand the financial hit by COVID-19. The latter is particularly true for those who are undocumented and are hesitant to reach out.
So we all must step up, even if that takes us out of our comfort zones.
Through the Kafenia Peace Collective, we have seen firsthand what happens when people reach past the boundaries imposed on us by geography or government. Our members come from all over the world and represent all of the communities of the Midpeninsula region. By building what we call the "village of all together," we have learned some essential lessons about how to support each other in times of crisis.
The most important step in protecting our village is staying home and keeping a safe physical distance from others. But there is plenty more to be done, even as we shelter at home. Here are five practical things you can do right now to help support our community.
1. ALLY. Be an ally to those affected by COVID-related racism and xenophobia and those who need extra support. Speak out when you see injustices happening and support anti-racist language and behavior in your interpersonal interactions and on social media. People who are undocumented need extra support and resources, as they cannot access most services and are still being targeted by ICE during the shelter-in-place.
2. SHARE. If you have financial resources to spare, give money to local organizations that can help with rent. Many of our neighbors lost their sources of income and are living in fear that they won't be able to pay rent. It's encouraging that Palo Alto and Santa Clara County have passed anti-eviction measures, but that action just gives people a little more time to pay the same amount of rent. It doesn't reduce the amount of rent that is owed.
3. PAY. Keep paying your gardener, nanny, housekeeper and other domestic workers for the duration of shelter-in-place, even if they're unable to come to work. If you are a salaried employee, advocate with your employer to cover lost wages due to COVID-19 for all hourly workers.
4. HELP. Check on your neighbors and offer support if needed. Is anyone living alone and needing an extra pair of hands? Is anyone at increased risk from COVID-19 and unable to leave the house? Find out who is organizing in your area through NextDoor, or visit our resource guide at the URL below.
5. LISTEN. Stay connected and offer an ear to those who might need it. It's a mentally and emotionally difficult time, and the technology we are using to stay connected at home can also provide a social lifeline. Check in with your friends, even those you do not necessarily talk to regularly, and loved ones — including those on social media — to see how people are doing.
We need our village now more than ever. And these five things will help us stay connected and support those most at risk of falling through the cracks.
You'll find specific resources for each action in our Civic Engagement Guide at kafenia.org.
Sarahi, Melanie, Mary Jane and Barbara are friends and members of the Kafenia Peace Collective, a network of diverse cultures working together for a thriving Peninsula. The authors live in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.