Georgetown University students have raised thousands of dollars to support peers facing financial distress during the fall semester as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pummel the country’s most financially vulnerable citizens.
Georgetown sophomores Megan Huynh (NHS ’22) and Binqi Chen (NHS ’22) launched the Georgetown Mutual Aid Network on Aug. 14, fundraising over $3,000 in just one week and already redistributing close to $2,000 to students in need, according to Huynh.
“I felt like it was necessary to kind of address those gaps in privilege and income that Georgetown students face,” Huynh said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Binqi and I decided to start the Georgetown Mutual Aid Network, which is both a fund and a network, to connect students to monetary and nonmonetary resources in order to alleviate any financial stress or burdens that they may have and kind of just make sure that everyone has what they need to succeed at Georgetown.”
Students seeking funds or other nonmonetary support such as food, transportation or temporary housing, can submit an online form requesting their desired amount of money and uses for the funds, including textbooks, medical bills, food and rent. Though the fund has capped aid for individual students at $50, students can request additional funds with an explanation, according to Chen.
“Now that we’ve gotten things rolling, we still have plenty of money left but we’re worried that this might not be sustainable for a really long time,” Chen said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
The network has attempted to keep a minimum level of $100 in the fund at all times so they may respond to emergency requests. The average donation to the fund is about $25, according to Chen, and people can make recurring donations through the fund’s website. Much of the money has come from Georgetown graduates, Huynh said.
“This is completely grassroots and just people helping out wherever they can and people supporting their community wherever they can,” she said.
To maintain transparency regarding donations and the distribution of funds, a spreadsheet outlining money coming into and leaving the fund is available online.
“We think transparency is a super important principle of mutual aid, just building trust within the community and trust within us as the organizers of this project,” Huynh said. “We want to make sure that we’re held accountable and everyone else is holding us accountable in what we do which is why we try to maintain as much transparency as possible.”
In the spring, other student organizations established funds to financially support students during the pandemic. Both the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and The Corp fundraised money to bankroll expenses for vulnerable students.
Chen and Huynh also established the fund in response to student outrage and confusion about their university financial aid packages. Funds provided to students are meant to supplement rather than replace aid offered by the university, according to the network’s Instagram. The Georgetown Mutual Aid Network is entirely student-organized and is not affiliated with the university in any official capacity.
“It’s easy to criticize the admin, but I also really just want to emphasize that this is a great place. And I think for the most part, even with some hiccups along the way, that Georgetown has been a fantastic school in terms of financial aid and overall speaking,” Chen said. “Then we’re just here to fill in those gaps.”