Two UW-Madison students, both involved with the UW-BlackOut Movement, are leading fundraising efforts on campus to provide donations and bottled water to Flint, Mich. as many of the city’s residents are still struggling to find clean drinking water.
In a move to save money during a 2014 financial crisis, the city began to draw water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron, which led to the contaminated water.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint in mid January because thousands of residents had been exposed to toxic levels of lead in their tap water. The declaration has resulted in aid from national funds to celebrity donations and crowdsourcing efforts.
The UW-BlackOut Movement is acting jointly with Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, an all-girls, Roman-Catholic school in Milwaukee, to raise donations for Flint through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Senior Kenneth Cole and sophomore Mia Gates are organizing a campaign on the UW-Madison campus.
Gates said too many people might continue to overlook the situation in Flint. She said the campaign is designed to not only provide immediate relief but also to help raise awareness to the more nuanced form of racism she says persists today.
“Of course we are hoping to give to those in need, especially in a time like this,” Gates said. “But more importantly, we want to raise awareness and to shine a light on the environmental racism that takes place in our country today, that people may not always be aware of.”
In addition to the UW-Madison campus, Megan Gates, a junior at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and sister of Mia Gates, will be raising donations in Milwaukee for the same cause.
The campaign had raised more than $1,000 by Wednesday night, as well as nearly 1,800 gallons of water and 11,200 bottles of water. Cole said there are more pledged donations that have not been counted.
Several businesses in Madison and Milwaukee will contribute in an attempt to reach the campaign’s final goal of $3,000, which can be contributed to online. The amount of donated water bottles will also be matched by Starbucks.
Cole is also attempting to set up a receptacle for water bottle donations through the Multicultural Student Center, which would remain open until the campaign ends on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.
Updated Feb. 3 at 11:01 p.m.