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Flint is one of Hamilton’s sister cities. It is located in the state of Michigan, and it has a population of 102,434. It would take roughly four hours to fly there, and like Hamilton, it was built upon a prominent trade industry (in our case, steel; in theirs, lumber). We don’t typically have much to do with Flint, and most of the time the idea of a “sister city” seems like something arbitrarily assigned across the globe.

Our status as sister cities was made official by Sister Cities International, and we have been linked to them — along with our other sister city, Fukuyama, Japan — for close to 60 years.

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We aren’t very close, geographically or socially, but we hold a connection with them that is beyond our local bounds. For those who do not know, the citizens of Flint are currently the victims of a water crisis. Their only sources of water have been contaminated due to old and poorly maintained piping infrastructure made of lead, and their water is currently considered poisonous. They need $55 million dollars to fix the existing damage, and their citizens, including children, the elderly and animals, are falling ill at a rapid pace.

We know that they need help, and we know that we’re intrinsically on their side, but why aren’t we, as a community, doing anything?

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Hamilton’s Mayor Eisenberg has reached out to the mayor of Flint, offering to provide necessary aid, but aside from one dedicated citizen donating a few thousand water bottles to the city, we don’t have much else to show for ourselves in terms of providing tangible help in any form. And when I refer to “us” or “our,” I don’t necessarily just mean the city as a whole, but the separate McMaster community as well.

It’s an age-old fact that McMaster students have found it difficult to assimilate into the city and become members of the community. But so long as we are living, working, or being educated here, we are part of the “City of Hamilton.” And with that being said, we are more connected to our brothers and sisters in Flint than any other university community.

Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities.

Flint has multiple colleges and universities within its borders. Students and faculty are people who are being affected by this lead poisoning, and if we were in their place, the support of our sister university could mean a lot and make a difference.

The University and its hospital are two of the largest businesses in the city. Even if the city may not necessarily be able to provide some form of financial support to the citizens of Flint, it could be possible that the lucrative business of our institution could be able to provide help in some way, shape or form.

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Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities, a shortcoming that we have been trying to mend. Many people have no idea that Flint is Hamilton’s sister city, let alone that Hamilton has sister cities. While most students can get away with going a full undergrad not getting to know their city, when something like this comes up, as members of this community, we should be proactive (as we are with many other initiatives on campus) in doing something to help or raise awareness for this cause. As a campus, the biggest thing we have going for us, outside of our finances, are our numbers. We have bodies, and lots of them, who can stand up and make a difference for a municipality that doesn’t have a lot of support from elsewhere, and one that is an innate part of our own city culture.

Not too far from us, and not too long ago, the town of Walkerton, Ontario was in a somewhat similar situation with an E. coli problem. The town benefited from the help of its neighbours, and Flint is now in an even worse situation that needs dire help. We may not always identify with this city we live in, but when Hamilton and its related communities needs us, we need to be there to help facilitate action and effort.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Cook/ Reuters

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