North Valley Mutual Aid

NVMA UPDATE December 12 (original November 16 post below):

NORTH VALLEY MUTUAL AID would like to thank everyone for their solidarity and support during the first weeks of the Camp Fire disaster. The outpouring of folks wanting to step up and help our community is inspiring and deeply moving, and we have so much gratitude for all of y’all. We hope to soon be able to thank everyone individually that donated directly to this fund, but for now please know that you are much appreciated!

NVMA was formed in the immediate outbreak of the Camp Fire, which became the most destructive and deadliest in California history, and we began meeting and organizing around the core values and principals developed by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief  (see below).

The first weeks were spent reaching out to those folks directly impacted by the fire, especially those with the least resources. The town of Paradise and the other affected areas were under blockade with National Guard and law enforcement, effectively keeping most everyone out, so our efforts largely focused on the people who evacuated to the Chico area and were now houseless.
Some of our initial efforts included finding sources for donations and supplies and matching them to needs, as well as distributing information on resources, and how to navigate the bureaucracy faced in receiving aid from the state, insurance companies and NGO organizations. We began distributing masks, clothing, tents, food and other essential items to folks in need, mostly around the encampments that began to spring up around Chico, and kept a day and night presence at Wallywood (the Walmart parking lot where the largest encampment manifested) and other locations. We set up heated communal tents that offered hot food and drink as well as other resources. When the weather turned to rain, we provided and rigged tents with pallets and tarps. We created a rapid response network to mobilize in the case of forced evictions.

We feel that one of the most important pieces of the collective work we are doing is to challenge the narrative that places the newly displaced as deserving of help and resources, and the previously houseless as somehow not worthy or entitled. Our community had a housing crisis (disaster) before the fire, and we are now facing an emergency situation with no easy answers. We met with, and continue to meet with homeless unions, activists, and lawyers to collaborate on strategy and action.

We secured a dedicated space with a commercial kitchen and started a NVMA Food Not Bombs kitchen which is collecting food, cooking, and distributing meals daily, as well as herbal medicine, food and teas. The space is also being used as storage for donations, supplies and tools.

We practiced deep listening for people who needed to talk and offered emotional support when asked. We began offering child care to parents and caregivers. Twice a week we facilitate a group space for grieving and carrying on.

We supported efforts to shore up our creeks against erosion and toxic runoff and are helping facilitate long term soil remediation and other environmental protection efforts in the weeks to come. Additionally, the work of challenging the narrative around ‘forest management’ and the cause and effects of climate chaos is integral to our work.

When the encampments were evicted by the city and Walmart, we supported the creation of, and helped transition folks to, a low barrier shelter where NVMA runs the kitchen and feeds people every night, also giving overnight support. The folks who choose to remain outside the shelter system are also being supported and we are planning for the likely return of encampments when the shelters close (which will be soon).

Finally, we also started this fundraising effort as part of the strategy in building our long term vision of what form (or forms) this Mutual Aid project will ultimately take. At this point in our efforts none of the funds raised here have been spent. We have been able to utilize community donations, donated space, people power, and creative solutions to meet immediate needs of food and supplies (money was earmarked for camp support, but the camps have since been evicted).

Meanwhile, the scale and scope of this disaster and its long term effects on our community are still emerging. The Camp Fire is out, but the aftermath is going to change our community forever and we need to have a collective voice in shaping what that change is going to look like. More people are being displaced by greedy landlords exploiting the housing crisis. Toxic dump sites in our neighborhoods are being planned by FEMA. Out of town investors and developers are making land grabs. Our surrounding forests are on the chopping block. Houseless people are continuing to be criminalized. But we are unwilling to let this disaster become another opportunity for the powerful to entrench policies that uphold their privilege and political, social, and economic control.

And so collectively we are beginning to determine how and when these funds will be best utilized to lead our own recovery. By building a long-term, sustainable and resilient project, we aim to be a part of the movements for radical social, political and environmental change. NVMA envisions connected and empowered individuals and communities that will turn the tide against disaster capitalism and climate chaos, in favor of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

NVMA aims to become a permanent resource by and for this community. We are a strong, growing network of committed people, rooted here, and working to meet immediate needs while planning for long term reimagining and rebuilding. Your support of this fund will help facilitate the creation of this horizontal, multidimensional and multidirectional project that contributes to the liberation of everyone involved.

Love and solidarity,

[email redacted]

art by: ALBERT CARTER  (thank you)
CORE VALUES (adopted from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief)

Mutual Aid: Voluntary, reciprocal, participatory assistance among equals and being with, not for, disaster survivors.
Solidarity not charity! Disaster survivors themselves are the first responders to crisis; the role of outside aid is to support survivors to support each other. The privileges associated with aid organizations and aid workers—which may include access to material resources, freedom of movement, skills, knowledge, experience, and influence—are leveraged in support of disaster survivor’s self-determination and survival in crisis, and their long-term resilience afterwards, ultimately redistributing these forms of power to the most marginalized.
Self-determination: Individuals and communities impacted by disaster have the agency, ability, and power to make their own decisions and choices about their lives, recovery, and long-term resilience, without interference or coercion from outside forces.
Mandar obedeciendo and Subsidiarity: The Zapatista principle of mander obedeciendo—leadership from below—teaches that those who command positions of power, wealth, and influence should obey the direction of those with the least. The Catholic principle of subsidiarity teaches that the most effective decisions and actions take place at the level of those closest to the problem or most impacted by the solution. By embracing and applying these principles, disaster responders have a responsibility to center and elevate the leadership of disaster survivors, especially those in the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
Participation and Horizontality: Decentralization and sharing of power within groups and communities reduces hierarchies and power imbalances within and between groups of people, enabling disaster survivors and responders to participate fully in rebuilding a better world together.
Autonomous Direct Action: Saving lives, homes, and communities in the event and aftermath of disaster may require taking bold action without waiting for permission from authorities. Disaster survivors themselves are the most important authority on just action.
Intersectionality: Historical and systemic forms of oppression and discrimination work together to make some people and groups more vulnerable to different types of disaster and during the rebuilding process. A just disaster response acknowledges, adapts to, and addresses the different needs, priorities, and perspectives of diverse disaster survivors.
Sustainability: Sustainable disaster recovery encompasses a respect for the intersectionality of all living systems, community norms and practices, as well as the distribution of knowledge about ecologically-sound and economically viable systems designs, which provide for their own needs and do not exploit or pollute. Skills training and upskilling are shared within the community and people are empowered to create or regenerate diverse, resilient communities that meet immediate ecological, economic, and social needs while increasing the health of human bodies, relationships, and the ecosystems in which they are embedded.
Dual Power: A strategy for the bottom-up transformation and replacement of existing institutions and mechanisms of society with self-organized counter-institutions. Disaster response that simultaneously opposes oppressive and exploitative structures while building alternative, pre- figurative structures for collective liberation and resilience unites disparate elements of revolutionary and reformist movements and meets unmet needs without waiting until “after the revolution.”
Collective Liberation: In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” All struggles are intimately connected and movements must work together and share knowledge, power, and resources in order to bring about a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world free of any kind of unjust oppression of others or the earth.

*We are engaged in a horizontal, multidimensional and multidirectional process that contributes to the liberation of everyone involved, not charitable acts. This means we share resources, skills, experience, knowledge and ideas without perpetuating relationships based on hierarchical power.
*We seek as much as possible to break down the barriers between givers and receivers of aid. Everyone has something to teach and something to share. And we all need assistance at times. We seek to acknowledge, challenge and subvert perceived and actual power imbalances, and use any privileges we have—including access to material resources, freedom of movement, skills, knowledge, experience, and decision-making influence— to support people’s self-determination and survival in crisis and their long term resilience afterwards, ultimately bridging the gulf between ourselves and “others.”
*We recognize that “natural” disasters are different in degree, but not in kind from the ongoing experiences of social inequality inherent in a capitalist, racist, colonialist, and patriarchal society. Therefore, we oppose and seek to confront and dismantle these and all other systems of domination and oppression within our society and within ourselves.
*We recognize disaster survivors’ rights to determine what their needs are and how best others could assist them. We therefore commit ourselves to acting humbly, asking, listening, and responding, while embodying in our current actions the future society we want to create. We believe in creative grassroots organizing and action that prioritizes and highlights the voices and power of marginalized individuals and communities and furthers their capacity to take action on their own behalf.
*We engage in and encourage autonomous direct action, an alternative to bureaucracy and red tape, including the creation of new, alternative projects in line with these principles to assist people’s self-determination, acquisition of additional resources, and to increase their resilience. At the same time, we believe in democratizing knowledge, sharing experience, and engaging with technical experts when needed to ensure safety and quality of work.
*We believe in a participatory, horizontal, decentralized movement-building model of social change from below. This requires shared leadership and decision-making in an environment that is safe and inclusive for all participants. We, therefore, strive to integrate these principles into our organizing and decision-making processes.
*We recognize that disasters are times of localized upheaval and suffering, but are also opportunities for the rich and powerful to consolidate power and to take advantage of shocks in order to institute economic reforms that further reinforce their privileged status. We oppose this disaster capitalism and affirm our commitment to environmental, social, economic, and climate justice. Instead, we see the sense of community and mutual aid that develops in the wake of crisis as fertile ground to merge social movement theory and praxis by supporting and enabling community members to help themselves and each other.
*As natural disasters increase in intensity and frequency, we recognize that our hope for a livable future rests in developing resilient preparation for and response to crisis as individuals and communities, while simultaneously opposing intensive resource extraction and other root causes of climate change. We support community resistance to resource extraction, environmental injustice, and poverty, and community-led adaptation to climate change, as governments and other large institutions have not responded to climate change with the urgency, gravity, or support required to avert climate chaos.
*We believe in being accountable to the communities and people we serve as well as ourselves. We therefore recognize, honor and respect the differences across cultures, traditions, and religions in regards to experiences, languages, food, clothing, personal space, relationships, and other differences even if we do not agree with them. In recognition of this, we listen and support rather than prescribe solutions based on our own personal or cultural values, while still staying honest and authentic to ourselves and our principles.

Original post (November 16)

We’re North Valley Mutual Aid (NVMA) and we’re asking today for your help as our community responds to the destruction caused by the Camp Fire. As you’ve probably heard, the Camp Fire that started on November 8th is the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. What you should also understand is how connected the people of the north valley are, and the impact this disaster is having on everyone here.

There are many relief efforts but ours is different. We are operating on a set of values defined by a national network known as Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR). We’ve got more information about our values and guiding principles below, but what’s important to know is that we are rooted here, are all volunteer, we offer solidarity instead of charity, and our group seeks to break down the top-down model of powerful givers vs. passive receivers of assistance—we recognize disaster survivors’ rights to determine what their needs are and how best others can assist them. We place a strong emphasis on the emotional and physical needs of survivors. We currently have six working groups and a loose network of around 100 community members participating—but this number is increasing.

Our fundraising effort will allow us to be impactful right now. As well, we define “disaster” and “relief” broadly. Our immediate priority is to assist victims of the Camp Fire but recognize that our ideas, energy, resources, and organizational values will still be in demand down the road and in many contexts. By working with, listening to, and supporting impacted communities to lead their own recovery, especially their most vulnerable members, we build long-term, sustainable, and resilient communities.

The town of Paradise and the surrounding communities are generally low-income, with a largely elderly population. We will support these community members who are going to face a stiff headwind in their efforts to rebuild their lives from bureaucrats, developers, and institutions like FEMA.

Immediate needs for funds include, Kitchen and First Aid supplies (medical and emotional), Clean-up and Building materials, Organizing and working space(s), and more, but as this disaster is emergent we will be on the ground to listen to the voices of the impacted community to understand where we can best be of service.

Please also let us know if you have specific materials to donate or otherwise want to get involved on the ground. And anyone from Paradise and the surrounding communities is encouraged to get in touch with ideas and needs to keep our efforts centered on those impacted directly who might not know their community is here to help in this manner.

Contact us at : [email redacted]

In solidarity,
—North Valley Mutual Aid

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