Loyola University Chicago

Gannon Center for Women and Leadership


Ruth Kristensen Cabrera

Ruth Kristensen Cabrera
Environmental Science
Graduation Year
Dr. Marlene Brito-Millan

From floods and earthquakes to food inaccessibility and mass incarceration, disasters can be environmental or social crises that harm communities, leaving the already most vulnerable under further distress. In particular, women and gender-queer people experience the impacts of disasters at a disproportionate rate. Current systems of disaster and crisis response have gaps in answering these inequities. Mutual aid and community organizing allows communities themselves to harness the power of grassroots first-response via solidarity networks. This demonstrates that there are several layers of key players and horizontal processes in creating systemic change and resilient cities. Hence, my research question is “How can mutual aid in Chicago fortify environmental and social disaster response and make more resilient and inter-reliant communities? And how do women, trans, and non-binary (WTNOB) folks lead in mutual aid spaces?” My methods include a literature review, thematic online-accessible mapping, as well as connecting to a network of WTNOB community organizers via horizontal relationality and transparent consent practices for participation in sharing circles. I aim to write a thesis to capture my research praxis and findings on mutual aid as a driver of legitimate disaster response. It is important that mutual aid community organizing be recognized as a form of agency that can meet local needs during disasters with immediacy, solidarity, self-determination, and reciprocity.