As you all may know, Flint is facing a water crisis. To many of you, this is news. Unfortunately, for Flint residents this is not news, it’s our life. Flint residents have been living with (and paying for) contaminated water since April 2014. After nearly two years, our governor has admitted that this issue is bigger than previously acknowledged. On January 5, Gov. Snyder declared that Flint is in a state of emergency. We have received funding for immediate aid services. In disaster situations such as this, the American Red Cross is the lead response agency in the U.S., while fire stations are assigned to be crisis relief centers in Michigan.
For the past 35 days, the American Red Cross has coordinated volunteers and helped make the work of the National Guardsmen a lot easier. Guardsmen are assisting with distribution and lifting. At our fire stations, residents pick up water. How much you get is supposed to be dependent upon how many people are in your household. Residents can also pick up faucet filters. MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) and the American Red Cross have coordinated to administer water testing kits to residents when they come to the fire stations. Fire stations are open 9AM-9PM every day.
Aside from the fire stations, local churches and organizations are receiving large donations. Many churches have coordinated water drives for residents. Some allow residents to fill up their vehicle. The Islamic community has stepped up by coordinating drives every Saturday, along with providing free lead testing and pre-counseling to Flint residents. Free lead testing is happening every week, but it is hard to get tested because these events draw large numbers.
This crisis has gained so much attention from national celebrities. Celebrities have donated, with the wave of donations started by Cher. A California-based rapper, The Game, donated $1.5 million. Some celebrities have come to see Flint for themselves. Many people who I never imagined meeting in my life. I saw Russell Simmons film his segment in my neighborhood and it’s something that I won’t forget. I won’t forget how I nearly fainted when I saw Jesse Jackson sitting fifteen feet in front of me. Growing up in Flint, we used to always say, “Man, nobody will EVER come to Flint.” I can admit how wrong I was during my whole childhood.
Living in Flint, MI right now is very different from everything that I’ve endured in my nearly 25 years. First, it is really difficult to avoid the media. Second, the water rate in Flint is four times higher than what it was five years ago, along with being one of the highest in the nation. In residential living quarters, using bottled water for everything is beyond an inconvenience. Our water is really only good for flushing purposes. I have to clean dishes and food with bottled water. I have to brush my teeth with bottled water. I have to wash my hair with bottled water. My eczema has been much harder to manage, and my mother can say the same for her psoriasis. My family no longer has to buy bottled water, so my family is saving around $300/month. But, we have so many donations that we have cases of water in our kitchen, living room, bathroom, and our broken car. My family is determined that we will be prepared for when the donations and aid stop coming and we are forced to combat this issue on our own again.
Citizens like my family and I feel minimal faith in our government right now. We have to think more long-term for ourselves because our government still isn’t doing it. The immediate aid that we are receiving will cease come early April. Our government isn’t providing feasible and sustainable temporary solutions. Our government refuses to acknowledge that shower filters are a necessity, in addition to faucet filters. Our government hasn’t begun action on any realistic and sustainable long-term solutions. We haven’t heard anything about support services being given to students and children of Flint. Our government failed to inform all citizens of the lead contamination. Our non-English speaking population was forgotten.
As a citizen, I can believe that we are all thankful for everyone who has donated. We are thankful for the journalists who made this crisis become a national story. I’m very thankful for Rachel Maddow filming a town forum inside the gymnasium of Holmes STEM Academy. I am thankful for every national leader and celebrity who has taken the time to walk the streets of Flint. I’m thankful for everyone community leader who has coordinated a water distribution drive. Caring about our community is what keeps us strong.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!