As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout California, anxiety and stress levels run high among every population, whether you are “young and healthy”, or a mother who is being laid off, or an immigrant who can not find childcare. We know that those with immunocompromised immune systems(a person with a weakened immune system due to a number of factors such as someone with cancer or heart disease)the elderly, POC living in lower-income communities, and homeless people are highly at risk for this virus.
And in the midst of the anxiety, stress, and the uncertainty that many of us are experiencing, members of the Sacramento community are partnering together to slow down the spread of fear.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 6 million Californians are over the age of 65. In 2015, 24% of California’s seniors(over the age of 65) had a disability. 37% of elderly(over 60 years old) in the US were recorded to be immunocompromised in 2016.
“There’re a lot of elders right now who are literally scared out of their life to go shopping and it kinda seemed like the ones who have no reason to be panicked are being really greedy in this moment”, says Jackie Moreno-Meza.
Jackie, 20, and her partner Sekina Ward, 24, are offering a free errand and grocery run service to the elderly of Sacramento.
Jackie Moreno-Meza is the founder of Break The Gap, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the homeless and marginalized people of Sacramento through outreach projects.
“Some people might not even have family members nearby. It might just be them or you know, a lot of them have friends that aren’t here anymore so they don’t have anyone to call”, says Sekina.
Sekina Ward, a recent Communications graduate from Sac State, felt terrible knowing that there are so many elderly people who are in fear of how they are going to prepare for this time.
“We’re taking any requests for any elderly people who need the help and assistance in shopping. We’re gonna go out and do grocery runs at no cost”, says Jackie.
“We need to start posting content, content that can really break the fear that’s going on in our community… Since we received so much support in people willing to go shopping with us, we want to start providing elderly shopping services as well as just taking in donations for sanitary supplies like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, just anything that we can get our hands on. Or even monetary donations where we can really just start distributing these because I just feel like in the next couple of months it’s going to get really bad” Jackie shares.
Her organization, Break The Gap, was officially recognized as a non-profit to the state of California about a year ago. Jackie watched the climbing numbers of homeless people in California, and did not understand how that number was growing when the number of organizations created to serve homeless people were also growing.
“We can all roll down a window and give a dollar to someone who’s unfortunate on the streets, but what about that true connection?” she says. “Like what’s your name? How did you get here? How can I help you? What are you passionate about?”
“My ultimate goal with this is to just unite humanity, you know, through art. Unite humanity through purpose. Unite humanity through breaking every gap that’s keeping us from truly accessing who we are and for me it starts with the homeless”, says Jackie.
Sekina is the founder of Sekina’s Realm, a business that specializes in bringing people self-care through holistic healing. Sekina’s Realm focuses on the practice of meditation, yoga, sage, incense and crystals.
“Right now, it’s really prevalent to me to bring that self-care to people because there’s a lot of people freaking out”, says Sekina.
“It’s not just us. There are so many people out there working hard to, you know, remove the fear”, shares Sekina. “And bring people together and motivate people to help each other.”
Jackie and Sekina hope to have a hotline for anyone in need of assistance, available by the end of this week and will be providing many more resources to the Sacramento community in the following weeks.
Another member of the Sacramento community has also stepped up this past week to help immunocompromised and disabled folks by creating a Spreadsheet where people can list their needs during this time. People are requesting financial support, groceries, toilet paper, and childcare. Community members who simply just want to help can go into the spreadsheet and list the resources that they have to offer- and there are a LOT of people who want to help.
Elliott Geneste de Besme, the creator of this Spreadsheet, is a local queer, transgender, and immunocompromised activist who has a background in social justice and community organizing.
Elliott knew immediately that many people were going to be impacted by this pandemic as people are beginning to lose their jobs and are forced to stay at home.
“As climate change worsens, and as profits are continuously and more excessively prioritized over people, we do not have the social net, nor infrastructure in our country that is required to keep people supported, most especially in times of crisis,” says Elliott.
“As always, the most marginalized amongst us are facing the worst of these circumstances–people of color, queer people, transgender people, immigrants, disabled folks and people without housing. The most vulnerable amongst us are who need the most support and Mutual Aid is a beautiful way to create that support.”
“I started this Mutual Aid network in Sacramento because I strongly believe that taking community care into our own hands is the only way we will be able to start to move beyond the rampantly capitalistic, profit-driven way of life that will eventually be our demise, as well as the demise of our planetary home. There is no better time than now to create the changes we so sorely need, so that all life can survive and thrive.”
Nearly 100 people have listed resources or have asked for help on this spreadsheet. Members from East Sac, Antelope, North Highlands, Arden Arcade, North Oak Park, Colonial Village, Folsom, Davis, Midtown, Downtown, and so many more neighborhoods are volunteering to do grocery and errand runs, offer emotional support, financial support, and other services.
During this unexpected chaos, it is crucial for everyone to unite and for us to remind ourselves that we are all, as an entire species, undergoing immense change and struggle to save peoples lives.
No war, no border, no color, no president, can interfere with the connectivity that is forcefully happening between every single human at this very moment. A pandemic is forcing us to act as we always should; like every human matters.
“Stay present. It’s okay. Try not to dread in the past on how you could have prepared for this better. If you are, or if you’re living in the future and worrying about what’s going to happen next, just surrender to the present moment. And give it time”, Sekina reminds us.
“Try not to worry. We’re in this together. There’s so much love in the world and you know, we’re going to be okay. We’re going to get through this.”