Hee Tae holds a “Free Water” sign up at the intersection to direct people to the water distribution point at NOW Ministry Church in Flint, MI. Save the Children staff in Flint, Michigan assisted the NOW Ministry Church with a daily water distribution to members of the community. Photo Credit: Save the Children/Stuart J. Sia 2016.

Children's Emergency Fund
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Flint Water Crisis

The impoverished city of Flint, Michigan is currently facing a lead poisoning crisis that is threatening the health and well being of more than 26,000 children. Young children are particularly vulnerable; lead has a significant and devastating effect on children's brains –it can lower their IQ, impact their learning and decision making and negatively impact their social behaviors. Even low levels of lead exposure in children have been linked to learning disabilities, shorter stature and impaired hearing.

Our Response

Save the Children is currently supporting child care providers and families with young children, aged zero to eight, as well as pregnant mothers. We are making sure they are able to access healthy, nutrient rich food as well as early childhood development support to help lessen the devastating impact of the lead exposure on their developing brains. To date, we've helped over 11,000 people in Flint, including over 3,000 young children. Read our latest blog post from staff in the field.

Lead-Fighting Beverage Pilot

Save the Children is currently piloting a healthy beverage ("smoothie") project with a Flint Montessori program serving 90 children, many of whom are among the most at-risk in Flint. The project is an easy, fast and fun way to engage children in consumption of healthy foods, at the same time providing them with nutritious fruits and vegetables that offer the calcium, iron and vitamin C that are proven to help mitigate the longer-term impact of lead on development. Typical smoothie ingredients include fresh spinach, frozen berries, mangoes, pineapples, apples and orange juice.

Focus on Flint: Volunteers Get the Job Done

The sun peeks between the clouds, sending a few errant rays of light to the street below where Eric and three other volunteers with Save the Children are working. They were distributing water in the snow and the rain just days ago, and this pleasant change, however temporary, is welcome. Though Eric deployed to Flint only a few weeks before, he says he already feels like he knows the place because of the work he’s doing. “I like distributing water, because you meet all different characters from all over the city,” he says. “I started to recognize faces. Especially the people I’d see two days in a row.”

“I felt useful, like I was doing something for the cause,” Eric says. “It’s a very poor neighborhood, and I just got a sense of how bad the crisis really is.”

Eric lives in a community in New York and has deployed with Save the Children before. His first deployment was in New Jersey, where he was helping setup computers in schools after Sandy. In 2014, he went to Mississippi in response to the tornados. And most recently, he was in Greece last year responding to the refugee crisis. “I came back from that with a lot of different feelings about the world,” he says. “I was talking with people who’ve had family members killed in front of them.” Eric says that the situation in Greece was mostly, “downtrodden people not having the help they need.”

“In that way, all of these are similar. People need help.”

When he was called to deploy to Flint, he was eager to help, but he admits he didn’t know much about the crisis at the time. “I couldn’t wait to get there.” “I wanted to see how an American city recovers. And I want to make sure we don’t forget these people. I remember all their faces.”

In Flint, Eric was helping distribute water at two churches. “A lot of churches play a huge role in the response, not just in their congregations, but in the community too.” He attended service one weekend at one of the churches and met a mother whose baby had been lead poisoned. “The pastor’s wife beckoned me over. The child was three or four months old and had spent a lot of time at hospitals. They said he had complications with his heart because of the lead,” says Eric. “He looked quite small, because he was born premature.”

Eric also helped with water distributions at another church across the city, which he calls “the most fun part of the trip.” “They just had two older guys there, and one of them had a pacemaker, hauling cases of water out to the curb,” he says. “Imagining these two guys doing it by themselves, I don’t know how they did it.” Mulondo, one of the church leaders who regularly coordinated the water distributions, worked closely with Eric and the other Save the Children staff. “Brother Mulondo was humble, but joyful. A man very much at peace with the world.” Eric says between cars, they spent hours laughing and telling stories. He learned a lot about Flint and the neighborhood that way.

“One day, Mulondo went to the hospital for an operation. But he rolled back up here in a car a few hours later checking in on us,” remembers Eric. “We told him to go home and get some rest. The person driving him was like, ‘typical.’”

“Sometimes, a case of water would break or some water would leak out, and he’d admonish us. He reminded us that people really need this water. That was really good, because after that, we were more careful.”

“I believe in Jesus and serving other people and serving the poor, because that’s what he said.”

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world. Any chance like this to save lives, for sure, I’m keen to do.”

“Save the Children is really great to work with. The staff are good, decent people. I think for them, it’s not just for the job, but the purpose. Everyone really cares a lot and just wants to do whatever is best.”


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