*Please note: the picture above has descriptive alt text that we wrote, but is only usable for screen readers as it is a featured image.
Community care is not a new concept in the Disability Community or collectivist cultures and has been written about at great length. Community care goes beyond the self-care concept in which the onus of care is placed on the individual person, whereas community care means that the community leverages their privilege and resources to provide support for an individual, family, marginalized group, etc. Here is the thing, community care is not a replacement for self-care, but an addition to self-care. Likewise, community care can supplement self-care when the latter is impracticable.
Now, this will be a little controversial, but community care is often portrayed as a selfless act. In some cases, it is, but it is more than likely that the person participating in community care gains something from it. In recent years, people have been leveraging community care as a platform for gaining clout. Especially, when they share their participation on social media. On the topic of social media, posted community care acts can be monetized. Monetization often happens through online content becoming viral through likes and shares which leads to brand deals and sponsorships. Furthermore, it can be for community hours, and can make ourselves feel good about what we are doing. Moreover, in the long-term it can mean asking for support ourselves from the community, because we contributed to it. However, when choosing to participate in community care people need to be mindful of their intentions and assess whether what they are doing is actually helpful or causing more harm to the individual, family, or community.
While community care may not always be altruistic it does provide an important connection for people. Community care can take so many different forms. Everything from protesting, to checking in with someone, and in some cases crowdsourcing financial support. However, community care is so much more than a GoFundMe, and this is important to note because there is so much more work to be done than throwing money at the issue. For example, a Disabled person can crowdsource for a custom wheelchair, and it can help them make the purchase, but it does nothing to address the other hundred people in the same position. The issue is not about getting enough funds, it becomes about putting pressure on companies to make quality and affordable wheelchairs and assistive devices or pressuring the government to have maintenance and assistive devices under their formulary plans and for this you need community care.
In the Disability Community, community care is critical for the survival of so many people, and this community lives primarily online especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We may not be able to support each other financially because we are barely given enough to survive off of on social assistance, but we listen to one another. We raise awareness about disabilities, we use our skills, our education, or our experiences to support each other. For example, a Disabled person who has a degree in law was able to navigate a situation where another Disabled person’s benefits were discontinued, and had helped them get reinstated. These individuals were connected through a private social media group, and that is how most of the Disability Community connects. While Disabled people support each other in the community, there are always opportunities for non-disabled people to use their skills, education, or experiences as well.
This brings us back to the fact that community care is so much more than a GoFundMe. While money can help, it does not fix the overarching issue of ableism. Beyond donating money, it is essential to advocate for Disabled people to be hired in your workplace, hire Disabled people, buy from Disabled people’s small businesses, or support Disabled people’s work. Another way to go beyond a GoFundMe in community care is to help Disabled people consolidate their debt, offer housing, or find housing that is financially reasonable, or use skills to understand the landlord tenant act and how to use it. There are so many more examples and much more that can be done by the community that will make a lasting impact. However, in some cases, it is undeniable as to why donations are needed by Disabled people when it comes to purchasing expensive medical and assistive devices, service dogs, and preventing homelessness due to the inaccessibly of subsidized housing. That being said, this will not prevent the problem from reoccurring. Lastly, please be mindful that if you are not directly giving funds to a person and donating to an organization, do your research and make sure that the majority of the funds go to the community.
Overall, community care builds strength, belonging, and connection for Disabled and non-disabled people alike. This is far from the stigma perpetuated on social media that community care denotes relying on others to have personal needs met. However, as this post states it is community care which means everyone must do their part in whichever way possible for it to work. By cultivating community care we provide support and healing that captures the most vulnerable.
More links about Community Care can be found here:https://mashable.com/article/community-care-versus-self-care?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=Rockwood%20Leadership%20Institute https://www.ualberta.ca/folio/2019/09/self-care-takes-a-community-say-mental-health-experts.html https://allgo.org/some-thoughts-on-community-care/