I’ve loved being able to work in downtown Flint this summer.
I grew up 10 minutes away from downtown, but I might as well have lived an hour away. I lived in a safe suburb and went to private school. My experiences growing up were not influenced at all by the issues that were causing Flint residents to struggle to maintain a normal lifestyle. After so many of General Motors jobs left Flint, the city has struggled to make a comeback. There are no large employers in the downtown area. Many residents do not have reliable jobs, and do not have reliable transportation, childcare, or healthcare that would make a job outside the city possible.
In my experience growing up, I remember the comments on how dangerous Flint was and how bad it was. They are areas that are dangerous, but downtown Flint is so much more than that. I spent my high school years playing in orchestra at the Flint Institute of Music, and it was a fantastic program that occurs right downtown.
After the Water Crisis started, I was away at school. I began to do some research, and I was struck by how oblivious I was to problems happening around me as I grew up. The Flint Water Crisis is a heart breaking situation for anyone—and it hurts even more that it is happening to people that don’t have the resources to move away or make major life changes.
Working at United Way in downtown Flint was so encouraging from day one. I was amazed at how many people were working to support Flint. The way United Way’s work is that they partner with different non-profits in the area, and support them financially and with other resources that will help their company run smoother and be more effective. United Way’s are also able to help their communities by allowing for more government funds in the area by taking advantage of any matching fund programs the government has.
As I spent time looking through our funded partners, I was so encouraged. From homeless shelters, to food banks, to support for the elderly, to increasing early childhood literacy, there were so many different programs meeting so many different essentials for people who need it most. I have loved being able to be part of the solution and help people in any capacity I can.
After this internship, I feel more connected with the city. Still, I have many privileges that I don’t want to overlook that cause my life to be drastically different from the people of Flint. The people of Flint also have many things I don’t have—their resilience, their voice, and their determination.