The northern Italian region, the economic hearth of the country, was one of the most affected area of the planet. The social and health system was in a very difficult situation and many people have been isolated. In this situation a group of people, related to existing social movements, decided to create a solidarity mutualism project, calling it “Brigate Volontarie per l’Emergenza”. They knew they could not treat Covid-19 like any other political struggle. A virus is different from all those past experiences. It’s invisible. So it was necessary to re-evaluate everything.
As a first step, since the idea was to stay out in the streets, helping people, they decided to find an institution offering shelter, training and discipline. Without a clear and safe protocol people could make things worse, making everyone sicker. They needed to know how to stop the virus spreading. They needed training. That’s why they linked up to Emergency, an experienced Italian NGO that has worked all over the world fighting virus, such as the Ebola Virus in West Africa for example. They learned how to put gloves and masks, how to interact with people who might be infected. Emergency provided the structure and shared its offices.
As second step they created teams that could get out there and deliver food and medicine to people stuck in their homes. They set up a call centre with a unique hotline number to receive people help requests. The city was divided into 9 different areas and groups. Every team took the name of an important partisan of the area. More than 300 volunteers received an online training and worked in teams across the city. In the beginning the help has concerned to bring grocery or pharmacy shops to people at risk. This has helped so much not only sick people but also a lot of aged people who were at risk from getting in touch with the virus. After this first approach they started to create a network of food collection and distributing it in all those most affected and popular districts. The request came through actions in the streets, thanks to the distribution of flyers and the collaboration with social associations. They reached out many people bringing foods, masks, gloves and medicine at their home for free. A team is also giving psychological online assistance. Much of this work it was made possible thanks to NGO’s and city government agreement of letting them go in the street if provided with a badge, without police harassment.
Now that phase 2 has started, brigades organization is changing, but this project is going to last at least for the next 6 months trying to reach the most marginalized areas. It could the begin of a new way to live this city.