[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #10 in October 2010]
How can play support progressive movement building? The Chicago Childcare Collective (ChiChiCo), formed in 2008, is a group of volunteers who support the participation of parents and guardians, especially mothers, in racial and economic justice work. The collective matches volunteers with community organizations across the city. Volunteers play with kids while their parents participate in and lead organizing efforts to defend community rights and build a better Chicago.
Many of the founding members of ChiChiCo are organizers who recognized that organizing work gets stunted when guardians cannot fully participate in informational meetings, community events, strategy sessions, and other grassroots activities due to childcare needs. Thus ChiChiCo sought to meet that need by building relationships with social justice organizations and providing voluntary, on-site childcare. Some of the organizations we currently assist include: Pilsen Alliance, Southwest Youth Collaborative, Southside Together Organizing for Power, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Chicago Freedom School, Females United for Action, National Training and Information Center, and Organization of the Northeast. This summer, for the first time, we also sent volunteers elsewhere in the region to provide childcare at the Allied Media Conference and US Social Forum—two powerful national gatherings of organizers and movement-builders.
I got involved with the organization because of my desire to be more intentional about creating connections to people and to the work that I support. Here in Chicago, a city of 2.8 million people, there are endless options for how to construct a sense of community. When I thought about who I’d befriended since moving here in 2004, who I pulled into my chosen family, and what was missing, I thought about youth. Many other volunteers have also observed that as we mature, opportunities to engage with youth decrease, particularly for adults without children. ChiChiCo allows us to engage with young people as caregivers while providing space for guardians to be involved in social justice organizations and movements.
In my own childhood, there were dynamic, nurturing networks of people who took care of each other’s kids, oftentimes without compensation. There was a need and that need was met by the community. This core value of community support is actualized by the work of the Chicago Childcare Collective, as we provide a critical resource to social justice work. ?
To find out more about the Chicago Childcare Collective or to join us as a volunteer, email us firstname.lastname@example.org.