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‘We call it solidarity, not charity’ Immigrant advocacy group seeks donations for COVID-19 relief fu

The immigrant advocacy group Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project has issued a callout to the community for monetary donations to help support families who have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group created a COVID-19 Family Solidarity Fund to help those in need. It all started in the spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.

“The fund was started to ensure no one in our community went without help in these unprecedented times, especially the most vulnerable that are not eligible for other benefits,” said Jose Eduardo Vera, the executive director of the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project. “We also approached this as a mutual aid effort. We call it solidarity, not charity.”

The SSIP would like the donations to benefit those that did not receive a stimulus check or qualify for other government aid in response to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Family Solidarity Fund is meant to help provide emergency relief to community members.

Vera said it is clear that the need for the COVID-19 Family Solidarity Fund is real.

“Many of our community members are considered essential workers and don't have the luxury of staying home,” he said. “So they are in the front lines, working at grocery stores and warehouses, but feel their places of employment can probably be taking more precautions to prevent the spread of this virus.”

Initially, the SSIP set a fundraising goal of $25,000, and now has raised more than $150,000.

“We are very grateful for how our community has responded,” Vera said. “We have been able to receive funding from the Chicago COVID Fund, United Way of Will County and have raised over $150,000 that have been redistributed here in our community.”

Vera said that because the health & safety of the immigrant community is directly related to the health & safety of the wider community, they must respond quickly to the gaps in safety nets and infrastructure that are leaving immigrants out.

In recent months, the SSIP has seen an increase in calls, he said.

Vera said staff has been fielding questions about food security, public charge and impact of seeking healthcare, legal questions, employment, and general inquiries about the pandemic and what it means to the immigrant community. He said something has to give.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put the systemic failures of our health care, labor, economic and public safety infrastructure on full display,” Vera said. “This is even more felt in suburban communities who lack social infrastructure to respond. Our communities have been uninsured, underpaid, and over-policed long before this crisis struck. As the faults of these systems are laid bare, we have an opportunity and responsibility to fight for a vision of a world where the most vulnerable are not left out, but also given the opportunity to live lives of dignity and respect.”

The group intends to continue to raising funds so long as the pandemic persists.

“We know that COVID is going to be here with us for a while and want to ensure we continue raising funds so we can assist families that may need the assistance,” Vera said.

Those interested in applying for assistance are advised to call the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project office at (630) 296-6755.