As the supply of water in Flint, Mich. becomes increasingly toxic, environmentally and socially conscientious students at John Carroll University are organizing to help relieve the problem. Deemed,“Operation Hydration,” members of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, African American Alliance and the Environmental Issues Group are coming together to collect bottles of water, water filters and monetary donations for the people of Flint.
The goal of the project is to collect or fundraise for 200 cases of water, as well as buying water filtration systems for the people of Flint, so they can ensure their health once water is deemed safe enough drink again.
Senior Dan Volpe, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, became interested in the subject matter by way of his senior chemistry project. As he began to notice that different water fountains across campus produced unique tastes, he collected and analyzed different water samples across campus. As his knowledge of water intensified, Volpe became more cognizant of the lack of national understanding surrounding issues of hydration, especially in light of the atrocities taking place in Flint, Mich. “My passion was only amplified when I realized there’s a national need to understand the water we drink.” Volpe said. “It is simply inexcusable that there is little to no accountability on the government institutions involved. Thus, I find it important to act as student-citizens to raise awareness of the problems at hand, taking action and holding those who have caused this responsible.”
As Volpe was having his own hydration revelation, members of the Environmental Issues Group were also concerned with the happenings in Flint. Monica Angelotti, President of EIG, said, “We came up with the idea of a water drive, and when I went to meet with Center for Service and Social Action about it, I was informed that Dan Volpe of SigEp had already begun a collection of water and money and that’s when we started working together and came up with the idea of a workshop to provide a long-term advocacy aspect to this project.” The groups teamed up with Sister Catherine Feeley of CSSA to get started on the advocacy project.
The African American Alliance also joined the two student organizations. “AAA’s involvement comes with advocating for poor and minority communities. A majority of Flint is black and the poverty rate there is over 40 percent, and we have seen communities of color hit the hardest when it comes to environmental crises. It is important to make people aware of this truth and understand why this is an issue of discrimination as well, because we are confident that this would not happen in an affluent community.” Angelotti said.
President of African American Alliance, Junior Dwight Venson, stressed AAA’s support of the initiative. “AAA has been in full support of the project. We are in the process of having our own internal fund raiser for the cause and even have members that have been working with outside organizations to transport water. This is a cause that is very important to us because it directly impacts our community. It has been fantastic working with the other organizations for a good cause,” Venson said.
Along with their fundraising efforts, the groups also hope the project acts as a form of consciousness raising. “I’m hoping this thing makes people aware of the grave effects of institutional weaknesses on an already struggling community,” Angelotti said. “This all comes back to the importance of keeping our elected officials in check, some of which we can control and some of which we cannot, but be aware. Putting pressure on our officials to look out for us is something that we shouldn’t have to do, but sometimes it is necessary.”
The student groups will be hosting a workshop on March 10 at 7 p.m. (location pending), which will consist of a panel of speakers to talk about the various aspects of the situation in Flint and how we can protect our community.
To get involved, Operation Hydration suggests donating money to go toward cases of water or filters if one is able. For more information, contact Dan Volpe at firstname.lastname@example.org or Monica Angelotti at email@example.com. “Any amount helps,” Angelotti said. “The easiest thing people can do, though, is spread the word and talk about the issue.”