Nicodemus Wilderness Project
Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genessee Counties Flint, Michigan, USA

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Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genessee Counties Flint, Michigan, USA
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Registered: December 2016
City/Town/Province: Kane
Posts: 1
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Apprentice Ecologist Initiative
Nicodemus Wilderness Project
Giving Drink to the Thirsty
Science is everything we as humans can observe and experiment on. My name is Riana Smith and I have been engaged in the STEM field since the seventh grade. As a high school junior attending Kane Area High School, I have strived to take as many STEM related courses to learn more about life around us. I aspire to become an astrobiologist and learn about the origin, distribution, evolution, and future of life not necessarily on earth. I am determined to go to college in the STEM field and carry out my aspirations. In the 2015/16 school year, I enrolled in an Advanced Placement Environmental Science class to learn about the world and simultaneously gain college credits while attending high school. It was during this class that I had learned about the infamous Flint, Michigan water crisis occurring only six hours away from my hometown. I had wanted to do something to help these people. It wasn't until after the project had been completed that I had learned about the Apprentice Ecologist projects. I didn't start this project for recognition; however, after learning about the Nicodemus Wilderness project I want to share my story to inspire others to help our earth.
Flint, Michigan is a city along the Flint River, about sixty-six miles northwest of Detroit. It was known as the "Vehicle City" mainly because it is where the auto company General Motors was founded. Most recently it is known for the Flint water crisis. This crisis started when the state of Michigan took over the city's finances after being in debt. In order to prevent water shortages, the city switched their water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Although this switch was designed to be temporary, the damage was done. The Flint water was tested and found to be nineteen times as corrosive as the Detroit water. This water corroded the old lead pipes that connected to the peoples' homes. The lead had broken off the pipes and went into the water the people used. Many obtained lead poisoning which can seriously affect the heart, kidneys, and nerves. Many died from this crisis, and something needed to be done to help them.
When I had learned about this crisis, I knew I had wanted to help out. I confronted my mother, who is the religious education director at St Callistus Catholic Church, and asked her if there was anything we could do. Together we had decided to take the confirmation class and other volunteers on a mission trip to Flint. However, we also wanted to bring donations to these people, so we could spread help further across the city.
I had created some advertisements for the parish website and the school announcements. We announced to the parish that we wanted donations of water packs or money. At school, myself being the student council treasurer, the student council got involved. I made an advertisement for the school announcements with the help of the teachers and superintendent. We collected money for over a week and held a fundraiser event to spray more teachers with squirt guns. After collecting the money and water, we held a packing party at St. Callistus the day before leaving to Flint. Parish members packed three pickup trucks full of water and had a barbecue and water fun outside afterwards.
On June 29, 2016, myself, my family, my priest, some students from the confirmation class, and some parish volunteers woke up early, had morning mass, and headed out on our six hour drive. We drove from Kane, Pennsylvania, through Ohio, through a good majority of Michigan itself to reach Flint. We stayed at the St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Flint. We slept in two different rooms for two nights. We had to tape cups to the faucets to remind ourselves to not use them. We used bottled water we had brought for ourselves for everything including brushing our teeth, washing our hands, and drinking. After the long drive, we all tuckered down, excited for the next day to come.
On June 30, we started the day with a Morning Prayer service at the chapel. We then packed up and went to the Catholic Charities center to help volunteer. One man had driven to the center the day before with a truck full of water we had packed at the packing party. He had driven up and back in one day. The people in charge said all the water he had brought was gone in half an hour. We unpacked our pallet and a half and got to helping. There were three stations we could help at, soup kitchen, clothes/essentials department, and water distribution.
The soup kitchen allowed us to cook food for all those who needed it. The morning was spent chopping meats, tomatoes, and others to help the chefs out for the day. Around lunch time we were able to serve those who came in for lunch. At the end of the day we had helped feed over two hundred people not including extra servings.
At the essentials department, everything from toys to clothes had to be sorted. Huge boxes of clothes would be donated so others could use it. The volunteers helped to organize the clothes by size and the toys by age. For an hour people were allowed to go in and grab what they needed. People were filed through lines to get to where they needed to be. It was extremely busy because it was only available for that limited time. It was incredible how many people came through and to see how much need there was in this community.
The last station was water distribution. At this station, water was distributed by carload. A car could get four packages of water, maxing out at eight packages; however, they could come back if need be. This was where our biggest accomplishment came through. All of the money donations from the school and church were used to have Save-A-Lot send a semi-truck full with five pallets of water to the Catholic Charities center. These five pallets equated to around three hundred and ninety packages of water. In the morning, all the water we had brought ourselves was gone in around a half an hour. This was where we could actually see how much people really needed water, especially on a hot summer's day. We were able to more fully interact with the people here and talk to them while stacking water. The other workers at the center had talked to us and had told us about the problems going on around the place. We were told that there were three more soup kitchens residents could visit around the same part of the city. Even in this turmoil people were facing, it was amazing to see the other people there supporting each other.
When we had left, the center had already distributed three and a half pallets that we had brought. We got back to the church and relaxed for the rest of the day. We had played along with a youth group that came in later that evening, and talked to even more people from around the area. We woke up early the next day to get a head start on the long drive home, and headed back. This experience changed all of our lives for the better.
It is extremely important to continually show support to the city of Flint. The biggest thing that we had all learned was that this isn't over. People still have lead pipes and poisoning. Even though the media has moved on, the city hasn't. People are still suffering, still dehydrating, but the news has moved on. The news was big on the Flint story around December-January of 2015/16. We went down at the end of June and there was still need. Especially with the presidential election, there were other things people wanted to talk about. Flint needs the support of others so that they can survive. This crisis won't be over for a long time. Most citizens are in too much poverty to replace the pipes, so they continues to have to survive off bottled water from others donations. This wouldn't have happened if the Flint River had been checked for corrosiveness and stopped from this disaster. These people need donations to either fix their pipes, buy more water, or help revive the Flint River. We cannot give up on these people.
In Kane, we were able to bring together a whole community to help others in need. Although it was a Catholic community who brought down the water, we brought them together with an entire school district to help people away from our own town. For the Flint community, we were able to give people a necessity that wasn't already being provided to them. We need water to survive, and giving it to these people helped them to do just that. Learning about the state of the environment inspired us to help these people. Hopefully with our efforts, we were able to contribute to the end of this water crisis.
This project changed my life forever for the better. It showed me that with just an idea, I can help change the world for the better. I made the effort to help those in need, and it turned out better than I originally imagined. I only hope that through this example others can follow to help. Through this experience, it has inspired me to continually reach out to others. I'd like to continue to go on these mission trips to help people in environmentally deficit areas. I want to make a difference in life, and this has showed me that I can do that, one step at a time. I hope to continually help those in need.

To see the videos used as advertisements, they can be found through these links:
Church Advertisement:
Wrap-Up video:
Date: December 30, 2016 Views: 5442 File size: 26.9kb, 1350.2kb : 2178 x 2178
Hours Volunteered: 519
Volunteers: 15
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 11 to 73
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): .413 hectares (location of Catholic Charities Center)
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