Why Community-Led Disaster Response Is So Important

Why Community-Led Disaster Response Is So Important

We Actually Explain The News


Angelica Erazo and a team of volunteers are building a community-based website to help Austinites looking for help during COVID-19 find the resources they need.

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Volunteer as a fact-checker or translator for coronavirusaustin.org.

“So one thing we know for sure, is that whenever there is a disaster or pandemic, communities of color are usually left out.”

This is what Angelica Erazo is working to change. Earlier this week she sat down (virtually) with The Austin Common to talk about the importance of community-driven disaster response, especially in light of COVID-19.


(Want to watch our full-length interview with Angelica? Become an Austin Common member today and gain access to the complete video via our Facebook group and Slack channel.)


Angelica is a tireless community activist, serving on the city’s Hispanic/ Latino Quality of Life Resource Advisory Commission, as well as on the boards of Earth Day Austin and the New Philanthropists.


This past week, Angelica and a dedicated team of web developers and fact-checkers built an entire website to serve Austinites looking for coronavirus-related resources, with an emphasis on equity and reaching under-served communities.


The problem during times of crisis, explained Angelica, is that while official government agencies are rushing to get out information, they often forget about those who speak other languages, don’t have internet connection, or have little experience accessing government services.


This is where grassroots and community-led efforts can really make an impact.


“We know how to communicate to our community, in a way that’s digestible and accessible to them,” Angelica said. “But also in a way where they can provide feedback to us so we know where the barriers are.”


This is what Angelica has been focusing on in building out the website (which is being updated every day). For her, it’s not just about throwing a bunch of links up on a page, but ensuring the information is clear, digestible, and understandable to anyone on a 3rd grade reading level. Each day, volunteers are working hard to translate the site into several languages, as well as to walk through the process of applying for things like unemployment benefits and emergency food access to ensure these processes are working correctly (and to notify the relevant government departments and nonprofits if they’re not).


What’s inspiring, explained Angelica is that, “individuals want to help. People want to get engaged. But they don’t know how.”

That’s why Angelica and her team have tried to set up a structure to make it as easy as possible to get involved.


According to Angelica, it’s the volunteer-led, communal nature of projects like hers that makes them succeed. It’s something she noticed when she was doing disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey and it’s still true today during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s healthier when it’s not one organization calling the shots here,” Angelica said. “It’s good to have a bunch of people, that worry about the same thing, have a centralized message around equity…”


Of course, none of this work is easy and it requires a lot of effort from the local community, but as Angelica explained, it’s up to all of us to make it happen.


After all, Angelica said, “government won’t change if people don’t push for it.”


Interested in learning more? Become a member of The Austin Common and gain access to our full-length video interview with Angelica, complete with lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey and Angelica’s tips for getting more involved in politics + the local community.

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