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Rising Stars: Meet Lysandra Diaz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lysandra Diaz.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
More Hope Project began as an idea. During the initial phases of the pandemic, I volunteered at the San Bernardino neighborhood food drive where people from all walks of life were arriving in need. Their experiences and stories of survival detailed a great deal of urgency, the need for a safe and just living environment in San Bernardino was necessary. It went beyond anything a box of food could do for the community. So I decided to gather the local organizing radicals and introduce the idea of bringing mutual aid efforts to the Inland Empire. After that, it was no longer a matter of if but when. Soon after, we established More Hope Project and we brought whatever resources we had to the table. It began with 20 to 60 care packages being put together at the 99 cent store to full-scale events working with various other mutual aid groups; handing out food, clothes, shoes, PPE, hygeine essentials, and fulfilling community requests. We managed to keep continuous bi-weekly distros, monthly mutual aid malls, and a community pantry running for over a year.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
One of the most significant obstacles we encountered was the pandemic. Most people who wish to get involved are from marginalized areas like San Bernardino. It’s typically folks from low-income, warehouse-filled neighborhoods. Corporations that settle in the region frequently dump chemicals or trash there, which can harm the environment or result in diseases that can be fatal to the community in need or assisting. So it was very important to always keep capacity in mind to avoid burnout. We briefly had the impression that we were circulating goods amongst ourselves at one point. The lack of resources was intimidating and occasionally discouraging, but the goal of mutual aid is to develop our own unique resources inside our networks. We had to make our best effort to contribute what we could when we could. Another challenge we faced was the hive mentality that most, if not all, local non-profits exhibit. Being acknowledged by most people, much less being helped, was difficult.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a Latinx graduate student at NYU. My overall goal is to continue with More Hope project mutual aid efforts and be able to create long-standing resources for queer, black, brown, disabled, and indigenous folks. I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Riverside and I would love to see the Inland Empire community finally receive the resources and equity it deserves.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Time management! Definitely do not burn yourself out trying to help others. Please remember to take care of yourself first to properly take care of others. Also, it’s okay to ask for help, it might get lonely or even isolating but the community is all around you.

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Image Credits
More Hope Project

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