Access to clean drinking water is a concern all over the world, but in the United States it’s often a foregone conclusion. That is not the case recently for the residents of Flint, Michigan, many of whom we now know have been exposed to lead in their tap water. It’s a crisis, one to which the American people readily responded by donating water and resources to help alleviate the immediate pain. But the problem won’t go away quickly, and understanding its extent is both challenging and an absolute necessity. Today, Google.org is providing $250,000 to partners in the Flint community to help, with a special focus on a technical solution for understanding and resolving the crisis for the long term.
First, we’re making a $150,000 grant to the University of Michigan-Flint to enable the University of Michigan-Flint to develop a comprehensive data platform that will assist government and community leaders in making more informed decisions about the crisis and providing critical information to citizens. The funds will support student researchers at the University of Michigan, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses, to do this work under the leadership of Professors Mark Allison (Flint) and Jake Abernathy (Ann Arbor) to answer key questions about the crisis and response, such as the probability of lead levels before they are tested. The team plans to develop a platform and app that visualizes the data and also provides the ability for citizens to seek out and request key services, such as reporting concerns about water and requesting testing kits. Google volunteers will provide guidance and mentoring on the technology and product design.
We’re also making a $100,000 donation to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for the Flint Child Health & Development Fund. The Flint Child Health & Development Fund was founded to ensure the long-term health of Flint families, especially newborns to children 6 years old—the group most vulnerable to developmental issues from lead. The Fund is a supplemental resource to state and federal funding and gives grants for childcare-related initiatives such as early childhood education, student support services, continuous access to a pediatric medical home, access to infant and child behavioral health services, and research.
With Google offices in Ann Arbor and Birmingham, Flint and its residents are also our neighbors. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, a group of 20 Google volunteers went to Flint and volunteered at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, where they helped with distributing bottled water and food in the greater Flint area. Around $35,000 has been donated through employees and Google’s gift match program to the United Way of Genesee County and the Flint Water Fund to aid in the crisis, and our employee groups, like the Black Googler Network, continue to explore more ways to help.
As a native Michigander, I’m proud that we can help our neighbors in Flint. We hope we can support a resolution to this crisis and assist the residents of Flint in getting the resources they need and deserve, both for the short and long term.
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