FLINT (WJRT) - (06/05/16) - As they measured out land on Flint's East side Sunday morning - Latinos United for Flint started their first official garden.
The new coalition is made up of organizations and people who want to help Flint's Hispanic community deal with the water emergency.
"We really want to send a loud a message that this is Flint's doing, not us coming from the outside. And I think this is really important because I think in times of crisis you have a huge surge of people from the outside and then what people have already done in those areas get lost. And here we're to learn from them,” said Dr. Roxanna Duntley-Matos who helped start Latinos United for Flint. Duntley-Matos is a social work and anthropology professor at Western Michigan University.
Some of Dr. Duntley Matos’ students, along with U of M Flint students and volunteers, are making the garden happen Sunday. The plot they’re using belong to the Hispanic Technology and Community Center and will be for flowers and shrubs to help beautify the neighborhood.
"When you look around you see abandoned buildings you see overgrown lots. And people already have such a negative view of Flint and that's not even true. That's not what Flint is, Flint is not a scary place,” said Kayla Cross, who just graduated from U of M Flint with a social work degree and volunteers with the coalitions when she’s off work.
Another garden is being planted on the outskirts of Flint - where vegetables will grow to help combat the effects of lead poisoning. The goal is to also give people the tools to learn themselves.
"What we plan on doing here, with the collaboration of the churches and the other organizations in the neighborhood, is to help families build their own little gardens in their houses,” said Dr. Duntley-Matos.
It's the beginnings of benefits for people living in Flint - and for the students and volunteers working to make it happen; especially those studying social work.
"Social work is social change. And we're working with the community to brighten up the community and ask them what they want from us in terms of how can we help you. We're not here to say this is what's going on. We're here to learn from them and work with them,” said Pat Klein, one of Dr. Duntley-Matos’ social work students.