Modern society has become accustomed to getting nearly everything on demand. We take many modern conveniences—from instant meals to instant messages—for granted. Yet one of life’s most essential commodities—simple, clean drinking water—has become a luxury for the people of Flint, MI.
Flint residents are facing an unprecedented water crisis as their sinks, bathtubs, and hoses have been contaminated with lead for more than a year. While the responsibility for cleanup and crisis oversight is slowly decided, critical action is needed.
During the busy first week of the semester, the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, the Equity and Campus Diversity Office, and the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC) collaborated to quickly organize a bottled-water drive.
“During our spring-semester meeting, Iota fraternity president Cory Fletcher expressed that he and his brothers were interested in organizing a project that would support the residents of Flint,” said Jason Parker, diversity program coordinator for the Equity and Campus Diversity Office and adviser to the Iota fraternity. “This project is a great example of how a student’s vision can become a reality overnight.”
“I put myself in their position and thought how I would want people to do something to help me out,” said Fletcher, a senior criminal justice major. “We brought the Idea to Jason and he said he would do anything he could to make it happen. Less than 24 hours later, we were sending out emails, posting on social media, and collecting water from different students and organizations.”
Laura Rao, VSLC coordinator, was able to provide the students with information about other community initiatives benefiting Flint that were already taking place. Buffalo’s True Bethel Baptist Church was in the midst of an active donation drive that included plans to transport thousands of bottles of water directly to Flint and gladly accepted Buffalo State’s donation.
“When the VSLC learned that True Bethel Baptist Church was organizing a city-wide response to this crisis, I saw the opportunity to connect the Iota’s idea for getting clean drinking water into the hands of Flint residents,” said Rao. “This is a social justice issue. I truly respect the fraternity's interest in responding to the needs of Flint—a city not unlike Buffalo in many ways."
The Buffalo State groups gathered 18 cases of bottled water and 20 gallon jugs in total, which were added to the three truckload’s worth of donations received by True Bethel Baptist Church and delivered to those in need.
“We feel like it shouldn't stop here, but should set a tone for others in Buffalo to follow and help the Flint community,” said Fletcher.