Even with hundreds of miles separating them, teens from across New York City are showing families affected by the Flint water crisis that distance means nothing in extending a helping hand.
A group of six teens — from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island — are set to hit the road on Thursday to travel to Flint, Michigan where they will deliver cases of water to the Downtown YMCA.
Bottled water has been made available to close to 2,000 families at the Flint YMCA after the city dealt with contaminated drinking water. In 2014, the city switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The water from the river turned out to be more corrosive and caused lead to get into the water supply from aging pipes — contaminating people’s drinking water.
After discussing the issue with participants and leaders, 12 YMCA branches across New York City decided to hold water drives over the last month. The teens are part of the YMCA program called Teens Take The City that includes close to 400 participants, between the ages of 11 and 19 years old, from across the city and helps them get involved in issues that affect them and their communities.
“They are using their skills of empathy and critical thinking to analyze a situation that is very removed from them,” said Yoko Liriano, citywide Director of Teen Programs at the YMCA. “This is a really big opportunity to get hands-on experiences to really deeply effect change.”
Throughout the last month, teens from across the city have been collecting either water or money for the cause.
The six teens that will be making the trip, will be representing their peers and will be joined by Liriano and other YMCA leaders during the 10-hour drive.
“Across the nation, people are moved by the Flint water crisis for whatever reasons, so for us [it’s important] to be able to encourage our young people here in New York City that they can impact change and a community that has no idea that they’re doing this,” Liriano said.
Once they drop off the cases of water at the Flint YMCA, the group will get the chance to attend an afterschool program in a community affected by the water crisis.
Although the teens have come together to gather the water needed to send to Flint, Liriano said that the true learning will come after the group heads home to share their experiences with their peers.
“The learning didn’t come from the act of collecting water, the learning is going to come after,” Liriano said.