“Things have been so insane and hectic here,” a parent wrote to us recently. Maybe you can relate. The old adage that the only constant in life is change resonates especially deeply right now, as we are repeatedly stretched - individually and collectively - beyond what we would have recently considered “normal.” The evidence is all around us, from kids who are continuing their education online, to those exploring new hobbies indoors or practicing soccer in the backyard instead of with their teammates. We see it also in a parent of two beneficiaries who makes time to read children’s books in YouTube videos while putting in long workdays fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic as a nurse. She also briefs community members on safe protest practices ahead of local Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
At the RFC, we are stretching ourselves beyond our “normal” grants to help mitigate the economic fallout impacting the activist families we support. To this end, the RFC Board approved funds to pay for a $200 grocery gift card for each current RFC family this spring. Even though we knew this might only be a small drop in the bucket of financial need for many families, it still felt important to offer what we could.
The response we received made it clear that even modest support can have a big impact. “[The grocery gift card] came just at the right time,” one activist parent wrote. “This is such a generous help for our family!” and “it makes a huge difference, especially right now,” wrote others. One mom shared, “I have to tell you that I am literally crying after reading this extraordinary email! …Please tell everyone on the Board and donors how much this surprise blessing of the grocery card means. Both literally and in terms of boosting our spirits! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
As plans have shifted, we have gotten creative in collaborating with parents on ways to put our regular grant funds to good use at a time when so many summer camps and other programs have been cancelled or moved online. We worked with one mom to purchase some equipment for her 10-year-old son so they can build a garden in their backyard together, providing an opportunity for skill building as well as promoting emotional, physical and mental health. We have continued to pay tuition for online K-12 education and to buy laptops and tablets to help make sure kids who are now dependent on technology to access that education can do so with ease.
For some of our families, the experience feels both extraordinary and depressingly familiar. One activist father shared, “in 2014… we experienced the Ebola virus outbreak... The COVID 19 is almost a repeat of that traumatic experience. …It’s been a very emotional time for me and the entire family.”
As we continue to face an uncertain and unknowable future, we recognize that the risks activists are taking now are even greater than ever before. As one parent wrote to us, “it's so scary to reflect on what the new ‘normal’ is and to come in the future.” We are finding hope in the renewed energy within the broader progressive community to invest in the individual, institutional and societal actions that will be necessary if we are to build a country based on equity instead of exploitation. As the days and weeks unfold ahead, we will continue to stand in solidarity with those on the frontlines of these efforts.