This word encapsulates what the coronavirus pandemic has caused so many across the world to need: help.
But its Spanish translation highlights the need for a specific community, one to which Diana Anzaldua, MSSW ’17, belongs. A few months into the pandemic, Anzaldua co-founded Ayuda, a collaborative errand service to help members of Austin’s Latinx community stay home.
“Culturally, our strength and pride prevents us from asking for help,” Anzaldua said. “There’s a stigma behind needing help. We often avoid asking for help because we believe we can do it solely on our own.”
Destigmatizing the need for help isn’t the only reason she created Ayuda. Nineteen million of the nation’s essential workers are Latinx, yet service apps such as Uber and Instacart, as well as the Austin-grown Favor, are inaccessible to them because of language barriers.
Ayuda serves Spanish-speaking individuals and families who need assistance with daily errands such as prescription pickups, food delivery and more. Among the many individuals using Ayuda was a mother of two children who lost her administrative position when schools closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“My life drastically changed,” she said. “Adjusting to being an unemployed stay-at-home mom and becoming my kids’ teacher was a big change.”
Unlike others, her family was fortunate enough to rely on her husband’s income who continued his work in construction. But she still needed support while adapting to the new normal of lockdown and social distancing. She feared shopping for groceries because that would mean potentially putting her young children at risk of contracting the virus. Curbside pickup was booked for weeks on end at her local Austin grocery store, so she requested help through Ayuda’s Facebook group and was able to stay home with her babies.
“I was stressing,” she said. “I remember putting in a request to get just a few things like bread, milk and eggs, and someone dropped off the groceries the same evening. I’m so grateful for Ayuda.”
As conceived by Anzaldua, Ayuda connects individuals with an Ayudante (helper) who can run errands for a negotiable fee. Anyone can be an ayudante. The connection happens through Ayuda’s Facebook group, which was launched on July 2. Spanish-speakers largely use social media platforms such as Facebook, which is why Anzaldua selected it as the medium for Ayuda’s communication.
The rapidly growing group has 695 members and is where all of the coordination happens among Ayudantes and those in need. An individual who needs groceries can make a request in the group to see if anyone is available to pick up groceries. Individuals who are able and willing to pick up groceries will respond and the two will continue communication privately from there. All deliveries are contactless and subject to negotiation between the ayudante and the person requesting help. Facebook has worked as the primary means of communication for Ayuda for now but Anzaldua’s ultimate goal is to create an app that serves the Latinx community nation-wide.
Creation of the app is currently underway. Ayuda has a local team volunteering their time to develop the app and maintain the website in the interim. Anzaldua said the majority of people using the service are in between the ages of 30-60 and are typically essential workers and immunocompromised, homebound or disabled individuals.
“Part of me is doing this work because I know the suffering from this community,” Anzaldua said. “I share in that suffering and I really just want to help minimize it and advocate for many in my community who feel unheard, unseen and undervalued.”
Visit ayudatx.com to become an ayundate or to donate.
Posted by Montinique Monroe on Sept. 1, 2020.