Alternative Spring Break program brings water to Flint

Students from Oakland University headed to Flint, Mich. on July 13-14 for a weekend of volunteering. The trip included eight students and several staff members, and was organized by the Alternative Spring Break program at OU.

“We worked with Flint Urban Safety Corps,” said Breanna Walter, the student coordinator for this event. “They operate out of University of Michigan-Flint and provide various community clean up projects.”

The Flint Urban Safety Corps’ purpose is to reduce crime, build community and eliminate blight in Flint. It implements crime watches and holds events in Flint to promote a healthy sense of community and safety.

The trip’s primary goal was to provide support to Flint. The Flint Water Crisis began in 2014 and has left thousands of people without clean drinking water. Lead was found in the Flint water supply, which can lead to heart and liver problems as well as developmental hindrances. As a result, citizens of Flint rely heavily on bottled water.

I hadn’t spent much time in Flint before this trip, so it was eye opening,” said Jennifer Sroke, one of the students who volunteered. “A group of men who lived in Flint saw us cleaning up and they were really grateful.”

Students and alumni were invited to take part in this volunteer experience. The weekend included street clean-up, boarding up abandoned buildings, distributing water and providing a feeling of safety and community to the Flint area.

“We’ve been collecting bottled water donations from the Oakland University community through the Organization for Student Involvement,” Walter said. “The donated water was given to Carriage Town Ministries, which provides shelter and education to homeless people in the area.”

Carriage Town Ministries is located in Flint and provides important services to the community. They host soup kitchens, free clinics, shelters and day care to the citizens of Flint. They welcome any and all donations, and more information can be found on their website.

The Organization for Student Involvement collected approximately 150 bottles of water. Media coverage of the Flint Water Crisis has declined significantly, which has led to a decline in donations. The volunteers from OU were honored to be able to make an impact.

“It’s a good feeling to know that you’re helping, even in small way,” said Daryl Blackburn, another student attending the trip. “It’s easy to forget that small acts can have big impacts.”

In addition to the Flint trip, the Alternative Spring Break program is hoping to offer more local trips in the future.

“Involvement in your own community is just as important as going to other states to volunteer,” Walter said. “It’s not always necessary to travel far to make a difference.”

Alternative Spring Breaks take place several times throughout the year at OU. These trips range from local opportunities to chances to volunteer in states like Florida and New York. More information about how to get involved can be found on the Alternative Spring Break GrizzOrgs page.