In times of crisis, community is the answer

I wish I was writing to you all under better circumstances. It’s safe to say that we’re living in unprecedented times but we’re doing our best to adjust to this new normal.

A pivot for our Family Leaders Action Group 

Community leadership is a powerful and surprising thing; our family leaders would have been completely justified in taking a step back and focusing on themselves and their immediate family needs, but that hasn’t been the case. On the first day of school closures in Fresno, our family leaders asked our staff to find a way to keep everyone connected. 

And so we came together, on a call. For many of our family leaders, this was their very first experience with a conference call service. We shared news; we shared anxieties; we shared some of the most serious needs expressed by people in our neighborhoods. More than anything, however, we shared hopes that by coming together, we could help our networks overcome their fears and find ways to meet their needs.

We opened up the floor and discussed the concerns being raised by low income communities in Fresno. In that conversation, a variety of high priority challenges emerged:

  • Lost wages due to business closures, especially for families with sole-breadwinners
  • Needs of farmworkers. Many of our family leaders themselves work the fields, or have spouses and relatives that do. Concerns were raised on how to maintain social distance and how to wash their hands regularly when soap is not readily available
  • Misinformation about the coronavirus circulating on social media
  • Getting materials so that children don’t completely lose crucial learning time
  • Accessing relief for undocumented families without risk of detention or deportation 

As this first meeting came to a close, it became abundantly clear that our leaders had no intention of putting their commitment to community service on pause. They agreed to meet weekly on a conference call to share updates and information, and to look for solutions to the major challenges that our communities will face in the coming weeks.

Most importantly, we recommitted to closing information and equity gaps that largely impact communities of color.

How can you help?

I’ve met with most of you since I started as GO Fresno’s Executive Director over a year ago. And while you all have different family stories and professional journeys, you are all united by your love for this community and your willingness to do whatever it takes to help Fresnans thrive, especially in difficult times. 

As I mentioned, this pandemic continues to place a financial strain on many of our families. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation to the United Way Coronavirus Relief Fund

Our doors may not be open, but we’re still here. If you have any questions or would like us to share any resources with our network, please reach out to me directly. 

I’ll leave you with some words that lifted my spirits in this dark time:

“Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life… [R]each out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful… Know that our lives are in one another’s hands… Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.” -Lynn Unger, Pandemic

Stay safe everyone — we will get through this together.


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