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Freedom, Inc. passes out over 150 free air purifiers, 2,000 masks to Madison residents in mutual aid event

Freedom, Inc's air quality rapid response team (Photo by Jnae Thompson)

Freedom, Inc., a local non-profit organization, hosted an event on July 5 to provide over 150 air purifiers and over 2,000 masks to highly impacted community members to combat the impacts of the climate crisis. Since last week, Madison residents and communities across the Midwest have been facing the consequences of unprecedented bad air quality levels due to wildfires in Canada.

Symptoms of coughing, throat irritation, dizziness, and difficulty breathing exacerbated by other health-related concerns are what prompted Freedom, Inc. staff to host their community health care drive event.

“We are trying to make sure that our people have the resources that they need to survive at a time like this, and although the air quality has gotten significantly better over the last few days, we know that this is going to be an ongoing issue,” Bianca Gomez, co-executive director at Freedom, Inc., tells Madison365.

Freedom, Inc.’s mission is to engage low- to no-income communities of color in Dane County with a focus on achieving social justice through direct services, leadership development and community organization.

The AQI peaked in the “unhealthy” range (201-300) at approximately 256, last week, and in many Madison communities, residents’ resources for clean air were disproportionately limited, especially for QTI, low to no-income communities and those experiencing houselessness. Freedom, Inc. staff were motivated to create a call to action that rapidly responds to their community’s needs through mutual aid that centers providing resources in the form of direct services and programs that advocate for Southeast Asian, Black, QTI, youth, and low-to-no income communities.

Zon Moua, the Queer Justice Director for Freedom, Inc., defined the mutual aid network as a historical and cultural “exchange of energies” that allows community members, especially her Hmong community, to provide for each other needs and survive. 

Event participants received an air purifier, 15 masks, as well as guides that outlined the different levels of air quality and what each interval represents, in terms of health concerns and risks.

“For the demographics that we work with — Black, SEA, low-to-no income, queer and LGBTQ people — they didn’t know that we were having bad air quality,” says Kaleb Her, Freedom, Inc’s QTI manager and event coordinator.

Many Freedom, Inc. members, clients, and event participants who are still dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic expressed their appreciation for Freedom, Inc.’s services as well as support to advocate for more health and wellness initiatives that are funded by the state.