The idea that an entire city is at risk of lead exposure because of its drinking water brings out many emotions: fear, anger, sadness, helplessness.
The people most at risk are low-income children whose families do not have the option to stay elsewhere and can’t afford to buy bottled water for their daily needs. Such families often do not have access to healthy foods that help the body flush out lead, or the ability to make multiple trips to the doctor. We read the stories and we wonder what we can do in response.
Well, there is something many of us can do: we can volunteer with an organization called Crossing Water to deliver water and water filters to people in Flint who are affected by the crisis.
Crossing Water sends out “rapid response service teams” each Saturday and Sunday to households who have expressed that they are in need. The teams do many things, including the following:
- Deliver bottled water to families without transportation, who have no way to get water and bring it back to their homes.
- Deliver bottled water to elderly homebound individuals.
- Check kitchen water filters to make sure they are working properly, install filters on kitchen taps that don’t have them, replace outdated filter cartridges, and educate households on the use and maintenance of the filters.
- Talk with parents who are concerned about their children’s health and link them with medical or social services if necessary.
- Deliver baby wipes to parents with newborns because they are advised not to give them baths.
- Provide verbal encouragement when needed.
I have volunteered one weekend day with Crossing Water each of the past five weekends, and visited approximately 25 homes as part of a rapid response team. During these visits I have talked with:
- A mother in tears because her 13-year-old son’s hair has been falling out and her doctor did not test for lead as promised.
- A man whose home was stripped by metal thieves and has no running water, but remained optimistic and had a can-do attitude as he prepared to move to a different city with relatives.
- An energetic and outgoing 83-year-old “block grandmother” who looks out for her neighbors, has lived in her beautiful home for more than 50 years, and is a cancer survivor who volunteers at the hospital encouraging and helping cancer patients.
- A middle-aged couple who have been running hot water through their kitchen water filter, unaware that doing so destroys the filter cartridge.
- A family whose kitchen tap water comes out the color of coffee.
- A woman who was told by a friend that she should put bleach in her bath water and wondered if her skin rashes might have been caused by that.
While visiting four to six homes in an afternoon might seem like it is not making a big difference in addressing the overwhelming need, it makes a big difference in the lives of the people being helped. The more volunteers, the more people helped.
If you have read this far and find it in your heart and within your ability to be part of the solution in Flint, I urge you to sign up to volunteer with Crossing Water. Rapid response team volunteering on Saturday or Sunday is from 1:00-6:30, including training and debriefing. If you would rather volunteer on a weekday, you can help deliver water at 10am or 3pm.
The Flint water crisis has dominated the news for months, but when the media coverage begins to fade and the attention of Michigan and the country turns elsewhere, the people of Flint will continue to need help. Please consider being part of the solution and come out to Flint to volunteer.
— Peter Ruark