New to Gonzaga University this year, the Mutual Aid Club is setting out to provide students a clear opportunity for involvement in fulfilling the needs of Spokane's local marginalized communities.
Haydon Ramirez, GU senior and co-founder of the Mutual Aid Club, said he started this idea with his best friend and co-founder Anthony Maucione at the end of last semester. They’re looking to expand their membership and in turn, their ability to provide local aid.
“We both have a mutual interest in politics, activism and service," Ramirez said. "We were thinking of ways to combine those interests, and we were definitely inspired by really awesome local Spokane groups and we wanted to bring what they do to the Gonzaga community.”
Ramirez said prior to starting this club, he volunteered with organizations like Spokane Community Against Racism and Mutual Aid Survival Squad.
One of the many goals for the club is to begin connecting with these larger organizations and collaborate with them to expose students to more options of aid.
“The term 'mutual aid' itself comes from the idea of collaborating and working together for a greater goal or common good,” Ramirez said. “This could be literally anything from working together to put food on the table for a struggling family or working to put a temporary roof over the head of somebody who’s houseless — there’s tons of different things.”
Starting school in a place that isn’t home often leaves students unsure of where and how they can help in the new communities they have joined.
Ramirez said that is part of what led to the beginning of a mutual aid club on GU’s campus — to give students a guide to service in their new city.
“The goal of the Mutual Aid Club is to offer Gonzaga students an outlet in which they can do some of these service things that are absolutely necessary in a time when a lot of people are struggling and the system itself is leaving a lot of people behind,” Ramirez said.
There are other aspects of the club that extend beyond general service and outreach.
Ramirez wants weekly meetings to be an opportunity for education and discussion for members to keep everyone aware of the political, social and economic issues they are working against.
“Part of the club activities aren’t just going to be service and outreach,” Ramirez said. “It will also be weekly meetings where we talk about issues that need to be addressed.”
New club members can also expect to watch documentaries related to local and global issues, gathering supplies and fundraising for future outreach.
Using awareness as a motivator for hands-on service is a key to the functions of the Mutual Aid Club.
“It’s a problem that I think a lot of people see and they think ‘that’s really unfortunate but I don’t know what I can do,’” Ramirez said. “This club is a tangible way that we can directly improve people’s lives.”
Aidan McGehee, a junior at GU, joined the Mutual Aid Club at the end of the spring 2022 semester and is looking forward to collaborating with other local organizations going forward.
Over the summer, he spent time in the Mutual Aid Club doing community outreach during some of the hottest days of the year.
“There’s a coalition of local Spokane organizations called Cool Spokane that set up a cooling station downtown and in the city to keep people cool and get them out of the sun,”McGehee said.
Mutual Aid Club is one of many service groups on GU’s campus but the hands-on nature of this one sets it apart from other GU affiliated service groups.
“Helping people is important and I’m sure there are other clubs at Gonzaga that do work to help others,” McGehee said. “[Mutual Aid Club] itself is very welcoming. It’s a really friendly environment within the club.”
An aspect of the new club that Ramirez and McGehee both emphasized was the communal nature of the service and what the club stands for.
McGehee gave the scenario of seeing a marginalized person on the side of the road who is in need of basic acknowledgment and aid.
“Mutual Aid Club recognizes all people as equals,” McGehee said. “This club is important because it’s meant to acknowledge that person as a person.”
For Zags who don’t know where to start when it comes to integrating into the Spokane community, this could be a way to understand the city as more than just a college town.
There are several opportunities for education and involvement through attending Mutual Aid Club’s weekly meetings and the possibility of contributing to outreach projects in different ways.
“It’ll give them a better look at the city and the people that live in it,” McGehee said. “It’s going to be good to get more people involved.”
Meetings will be Thursdays at 6 p.m. The location is still being determined.
For more information, contact the Gonzaga Mutual Aid Club at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @mutualaidclub and Instagram @gonzagamutualaid.