Immersing in Flint
Prya Oliveira, Staff Writer
Service in Flint, Mich. was the second option that was given as an alternative spring break trip for Saint Martin’s students. Approximately ten Saint Martin’s students were given the opportunity to fly to Flint and volunteer with the community there. At first, I expected that the students on the Michigan trip would be doing the same thing as the students on the Texas trip. However, after interviewing a few students and reading their blog posts on the Saint Martin’s Ministry website, I quickly learned that this was not the case. Monique Ilae-Hasegawa, a Saint Martin’s junior, shared her experience during this break and helped me to understand the difference between these two service projects.
Ilae-Hasegawa explained what the service in Flint consisted of, and said, “As a group we did not go to Flint to serve their community in the ‘traditional way’ people would think. Our purpose when going into a community is to listen to the voices of the people.”
“Yes, there was some physical work we accomplished while being in Flint and that really helped but we did not go in with the intention to ‘fix’ or ‘save’ Flint. This community was determined to break the stereotypical mold that the media has trapped them in,” she added.
The students were able to attend a mass in Flint and were given a tour where they saw the devastation that General Motors had left on the Flint community. Students also went into the International Academy of Flint, a public charter school, to fix a few bulletin boards and get to know the community there. According to a blog post written by Christian Arakawa, this school offers an after-school program that is free to all members. She says that the program “allows them to get tutoring, food, character building, and more.”
“When they saw a need, they filled it, no questions asked. The resources within the community were astounding!” Ilae-Hasegawa said. “The people of Flint have expressed their distrust in their own government and so the people have stepped up and provided resources for themselves. The kind hearts of the community have stepped up to give money, food, clothes, education, and jobs for the good of the people of Flint.”
According to Arakawa, Flint was in a crisis before the water crisis began. “They were in a crisis when their public- school system started to decrease in size. The city government of Flint Michigan has failed the people of Flint time and time again. To the people of Flint Mich., the water issue was another reason why the people of Flint don’t trust the government,” she said.
It has been stated by other students who attended this trip that they were misled by the information on Flint that was provided by the media. Many students expected the water crisis to be the main issue in Flint, but they noticed that that was not the focal problem in this community.
“I think we learned a lot from Flint and the biggest thing for me was resilience” Ilae-Hasegawa added.
I asked Ilae-Hasegawa if and how this trip has changed her in any way. She says that Flint is a true inspiration due to the way that the community bounced back after General Motors left.
“In recent events it makes me think about the crazy times we are going through right now with COVID-19. Flint makes me believe we can get through anything.”.
It is experiences like this that made the immersion trip to Flint so special. Students got to see a different side of Flint than what was portrayed in the media, allowing them to bring what they have learned back to our Saint Martin’s community.