Often, when world issues stop appearing in our Facebook feeds or stop being discussed by our favorite news outlets, we assume the problem is resolved or forget that the tragedy even happened. We aren’t bad people for moving on, there are so many catastrophes and crises in the news to worry about. As human beings and residents of Michigan, there is one group of people in need we should keep on our minds—the children of Flint.
During the height of the media coverage of the water crisis in Flint, many of us stepped up and helped out. We donated clean water, we donated money or we expressed our rage at how the government could allow something like this to happen.
While those efforts helped the people of Flint in the moment and may help prevent something like this from happening in the future, they won’t repair the damage caused to the children who had already been drinking water containing toxic levels of lead.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who discovered lead in the blood of her young patients, estimates that more than 8,000 children under the age of 6 consumed the lead-contaminated water. In an article she wrote for the New York Times, Hanna-Attisha writes that studies done of lead exposure in children, particularly those under the age of 6, “indicate an increased risk for damage to cognition, behavior and employment prospects, also lower I.Q.s, poor impulse control and decreased lifetime earnings.”
Aside from exposure to lead, some of the children of Flint face the severe systemic problem of poverty. According the U.S. Census Bureau, 41.6 percent of Flint residents live below the poverty line and the median household income in Flint is $24,679. A lack of money and resources will make it much harder for these children in need to receive the proper medical and educational care that they will require.
This summer, I had the pleasure of working at Wooden Acres Camp and helping out with a program there which brought children from Flint to camp for a week. The camp raised approximately $19,800 and ended up being able to send 38 kids to camp at no cost to their families. Throughout the summer we were able to watch as the children from Flint gained experiences other kids often take for granted.
Many of the children learned to swim or swam in a great lake for the first time. Many of them learned archery, how to make lanyards and how to water ski. These children left camp with lasting memories, brand new experiences and possibly even new friends to keep in touch with from outside of Flint. With three meals of “kid food” a day, activities planned for them all day long, extra individual attention from caring adults and all the sugar-filled snacks they could possibly imagine, these children were able to go for a week with very little to worry about.
Unfortunately, these children eventually had to leave camp and return to their homes in Flint. Having spent time with some of these children, I can tell you that their lives at home contain more obstacles for them to overcome outside of the water crisis. They live without many of privileges others don’t even know they have.
We, as people who are at least privileged enough to make it to college, need to keep those less fortunate than us in our minds as our lives continue on. We need to bridge the gap between those of us with privileges and those of us without like the program at camp did this summer. The city of Flint will not repair itself. The children of Flint need us to keep stepping up to help out as time goes on.