VT students to spend spring break serving Flint amid water crisis


Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 16 – Where It All Begins: The Newman House of the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry serves as a weekly meeting place for all alternative spring break participants. Photo: Jacob Clore

by Jacob Clore–

For almost two years, Flint, Mich. has experienced one of the worst water crises in recent U.S. history. The crisis will complicate the alternative spring break trip of a group of  Virginia Tech students serving Flint.

The Newman Catholic Community at Virginia Tech has sent groups of Virginia Tech students to Flint for almost 10 years. According to trip facilitator and Virginia Tech senior Kaitlin McCarthy, the group has plans to work with Genesee County Habitat for Humanity and a local elementary school.

“Every spring break trip that I’ve gone on, it’s really nice to get involved with the community and just be there to talk to people,” McCarthy said. “Even more than the work we are doing for them, just having someone to talk to and say, ‘We want to know you, we want to help you.’”

According to The New York Times, the Flint water crisis began when the city switched the source of its water from Detroit’s system to the more corrosive Flint River in April 2014. Trip participant and Virginia Tech sophomore Thomas Finley heard about the crisis through the media.

“This water, I believe, had acidic properties that caused the pipes, many of which that are lined with lead, to dissolve,” Finley said.

McCarthy stated that due to the crisis, the group will have to bring plenty of bottled water. During the trip, the students will let the needs of the community decide what projects they engage in and how they approach them.

“We go and they tell us what they want us to do,” McCarthy said. “We don’t say, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this work for you.’ It’s like, ‘What do you want us to do for you?’”

Many college students view spring break as a chance to unwind from the pressures of school. Ultimately, Finley sees the trip as an exercise in faith.

“We’re supposed to serve others in our faith and that is important to me,” Finley said.

Thomas Finley

Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 2, 2014- Thomas Finley: Virginia Tech sophomore and trip participant Photo: Thomas Finley


Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 16- Kaitlin McCarthy: Virginia Tech senior and trip facilitator Photo: Jacob Clore