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Colby Mutual Aid reaches $100,000 fundraising milestone, shoots for long-term sustainability

After over a year of fundraising, Colby Mutual Aid reached its $100,000 fundraising milestone on Oct. 28.

Mutual Aid began in 2020 when a small group of seniors decided to create the Colby Mutual Aid Fund in response to the financial uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colby Mutual Aid Organization has officially been fundraising and redistributing money since July 1, 2020.

There are currently twelve members of the organization who oversee different tasks such as fund disbursement, communications, and application reviews. New board members joined at the start of this year following the graduation of the Class of 2021.

Terri Nwanma `22, a current member of the organization, told The Colby Echo about the beginning of Colby Mutual Aid.

“When the fund started, mutual aid organizations were entering mainstream conversations, and a few rising seniors reached out to individuals they had seen working in the Pugh Center or organizing in other capacities on campus to join their efforts,” she said.

The organization aims to help distribute money to marginalized students who are in need or experience sudden and unexpected financial difficulties.

Its mission statement is as follows: “This fund is made to bypass other systems of aid that function slowly in their bureaucracy and cannot provide the rapid assistance often needed. As a mutual aid fund, we understand that there are always emergencies that qualify for aid that can greatly disproportionately affect single households ­— whether that is a loss of family income, someone getting sick or hurt, or other unexpected life changes.”

Nwanma said funds are disbursed both as emergency requests come in and during certain moments in the semester such as when students return to campus or just before the start of winter. Since the creation of the fund, it has had eight rounds of fund applications and two clothing drives.

“Institutions like Colby claim to guarantee a full ride to college but still have marginalized and poor students paying arbitrary amounts recalculated on the College’s budget each year, adding to financial instability that these students already face …,” she said. “The creation of this fund is a recognition of the failure of institutions to fully support marginalized communities.”

Although the fund was initially created in response to the adverse financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is committed to offering continual support for students in the years to come.

“We recognize that this mutual aid fund is a structure that is necessary for marginalized Colby students’ survival outside of the financial burdens of the pandemic,” Nwanma said. “Therefore, we are committed to the sustainability of this fund as a long-term project that will seek to continually support BIPOC [Black Indigenous People of Color], first generation to college and low income (FLI), and LGBTQ+ students.”

The organization hopes to work with the College to increase the ways it supports its students.

“We believe that institutions should already be financially supporting students in this way, but they are not,” Nwanma said. “So while we directly financially support those within our community, we will also push this institution to meet the needs of marginalized students on this campus.”

President David Greene recently pledged $150,000 to support students who require additional funds to cover purchases like textbooks, emergency travel, art supplies, and similar expenses. Details on these funds are still forthcoming, but this grant and Mutual Aid’s large fundraising achievement mean that students have multiple sources of funding on campus.

Although the Colby Mutual Aid Fund has reached an important milestone, the organization does not plan on slowing down. Nwanma says they intend to utilize the College’s network and club events to continue fundraising and hope to begin working with other mutual aid organizations at institutions beyond the College.

~ Maura Thompson `24

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