News / USA

    Volunteers Key to Aiding Flint Residents During Water Crisis

    Volunteers Key to Aiding Flint Residents During Water Crisisi
    X
    March 04, 2016 5:38 AM
    As word of the water crisis in Flint spread, thousands of volunteers from around the country descended on the central Michigan town to help. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the American Red Cross is one of many organizations working to provide safe drinking water to those who live in Flint, with no immediate end to the crisis in sight.

    "It’s a basic human need. You can’t survive without water," says Virginia Bielasco, one of an army of volunteers who have descended here to perform one basic mission: get safe, clean water to those who need it, which is just about everybody who lives here.

    As word of the water crisis spread, thousands of volunteers from around the country descended to offer help to residents of this struggling city in the Midwestern state's southeast. The American Red Cross is one of many organizations working to provide safe drinking water in a crisis with no immediate end in sight.

    Bielasco’s home is in Byron, Illinois, about a seven-hour drive from the middle-class residential neighborhood where she is delivering cases of bottled water. The lack of safe drinking water is a problem that hits close to home, no matter where you live.

    "The most eye-opening experience for me is just to think that we’re in the United States," she said, "and here we have a city where the people cannot just turn on their tap and have reliable water."

    Keith Alvey is the American Red Cross division disaster executive managing the agency’s relief efforts in Flint, where the crisis isn’t the usual sort of thing the aid organization responds to.  

    :It’s just the water supply," he said. "It’s not as if we’re faced with a tornado where you can see where the damage is or a hurricane where the winds have taken out multiple parts of the infrastructure. It’s all concentrated in the water."

    But being a different sort of crisis does not make this less critical. Alvey said the Red Cross has mobilized more than 2,000 volunteers to respond.

    FILE - Lemott Thomas carries free water being distributed at the Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Flint, Mich., Feb. 3, 2015.
    FILE - Lemott Thomas carries free water being distributed at the Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Flint, Mich., Feb. 3, 2015.

    Biggest need: people, not water  

    Water here now comes in bottles instead of flowing from taps or shower heads. And the Red Cross, which is working with several different agencies in Flint to provide relief, says the biggest need isn’t more bottled water. 

    "There’s a need for people to go to all these different centers to help distribute water," said Linda Cieciek, a volunteer services specialist with the Red Cross.

    "They are absolutely essential," echoed Alvey. "It’s one thing to have a warehouse full of water. It’s another to actually get it into the hands of people who actually need it."

    Terence Johnson is one of those people. He has been dealing with the water crisis since December, and while he is grateful for the volunteers, he is growing weary of the wait for long-term fixes. 

    "Passing out water isn’t going to solve this problem. Fixing the pipelines will solve the problem," he said.

    Watch: How Flint's Water Became Toxic

    Explainer: How Flint's Water Became Toxici
    X
    Diana Logreira
    February 26, 2016 4:05 PM
    State of emergency in the U.S. was declared on January 2016. However, problems with Flint, Michigan’s water started in April 2014. Learn more about the roots of this crisis.


    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    March 04, 2016 5:31 PM
    The EPA dropped the ball. It was their responsibility and they failed us. Someone has to go to jail for the cover-up and intimidation of the whistleblowers. Start with the Governor, he was complicit and therefore culpable.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 09, 2016 3:24 PM
    1worldnow, the Flint City Council (with the Emergency Manager) did indeed vote to move to the new water supply - BEFORE there were reports of contamination. After these reports began rolling in, however, the Flint EM denied Detroit's offer to return to its water supply. When the City Council attempted to revert back to their previous water source, the state and EMs blocked it. Please do your research and spare us the whining about demonization of Republicans. "Evil white guys" were, in fact, responsible for forcing Flint to continue using that water.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    March 07, 2016 10:13 PM
    You would be correct, jail all responsible. But you are missing something here. Flint officials (mostly Democrat and black), new the water was poison, yet, still allowed their babies, their citizens, their sick, their elderly, to drink this poison knowing they could blame the governor because he is white and a Republican. Evil has shown its face time and time again, yet the media loves to portray the Republicans as evil white guys.

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