Mutual Aid Centers - Puerto Rico

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Tom Llewellyn:

"Puerto Rico ... was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The deadliest storm to hit the United States, or its territories, since 1900 left a lasting impact on the island. With the majority of the island left without power for months on end, most people, including Rodriguez, were unable to do basic things, such as cooking.

In response to this untenable situation, the Centros de Apoyo Mutuo (CAMs), or mutual aid centers, began springing up all over the island. When Rodriguez learned about a community kitchen, she wanted to contribute. She donated her dishes because they wouldn’t be of any use until the power was back on anyways. She loved the idea of people cooperating with each other, calling it a beautiful project.

The CAMs began as community kitchens with volunteer cooks eventually taking on a whole new life, evolving into full-fledged community centers that share electricity, provide weekly acupuncture clinics to reduce the symptoms of trauma, and offer classes. Acting as an excellent example of what community-led disaster response and recovery can look like, the CAMs focus on the needs and abilities of the people and provide an avenue for the general public to participate in mutual aid, not charity.

The mutual aid centers in Puerto Rico are just one of innumerable examples from around the world of communities that create systems change after disasters. This kind of collective heroism seems to naturally emerge every time a disaster occurs across cultures, be it an environmental, social, or political disaster. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect upon this phenomenon because it could be an important avenue for accelerating positive change if acted on with more intention." (

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