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Foley Akanmu speaks with a student at the Tate Student Center bus stop about the Flint water crisis in Athens, Georgia, Friday, February 24, 2017. Akanmu spends his time between classes building awareness for the Flint water crisis. (Photo/Austin Steele, info@asteelephoto.us)

Every day, Foley Akanmu stands outside by a bus stop, or other crowded areas on the University of Georgia campus, holding a sign that reads, “Do you know about the Flint water crisis?”

“I try to stand out at Tate or just any heavily trafficked spot, like bus stops, for 30 minutes everyday,” Akanmu said. “Such a small effort can make a big impact. The more people that see this sign, the bigger the potential to get the awareness out.”

As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan continues to leave hundreds of people without water, Akanmu, a junior political science and women’s studies major, decided to start a movement, Immanuel’s Well, to raise awareness and provide water for those affected.

Immanuel’s Well plans to raise money to send a grocery store gift card to Wesley Campus Ministry in Flint to be used to assist citizens in the area with purchasing the water they need to live their daily lives.

“If you go to the grocery store you’ll see that water is one dollar a gallon,” Akanmu said. “That means it only takes four dollars to provide someone’s basic water needs for a whole day.”

Flint has been without consistently clean drinking water since 2014, when the city council made the decision to stop getting their water from Detroit, and start using the Flint River.

Upon switching water sources, the city was quickly faced with levels of lead in water reaching 397 parts per billion as a result of water corroding pipelines, exceeding the limit of 15 ppb set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Foley Akanmu said foremost, he hopes to raise awareness for the real issues Flint is facing.

“A lot people don’t even realize these people still don’t have clean water,” Akanmu said. “When news channels like CNN and Fox stop reporting on this, people start to forget. Even I thought everything was better until I saw an article online talking about just how awful it still is.”

Akanmu said he understands that tragedies happen, but the longevity of the crisis is what he finds to be the biggest issue.

“Honestly the fact that the crisis happened doesn’t upset me,” Akanmu said. “What upsets me is that three years is incredibly too long, and there’s not enough awareness. It’s a complete, whole city that just doesn’t have water.”

Immanuel’s Well is sponsored by the Redeemed Christian Church of God City of David Atlanta, and run by Foley Akanmu as well as his sister, Lateefah Akanmu, and friend Jon Pierre, both students at Kennesaw University.

Lateefah Akanmu said she is doing her part to raise awareness on campus at Kennesaw as well.

“We just spread awareness through posters and fliers,” Lateefah Akanmu said. “A lot of people really don’t know. Before Foley told me, I didn’t even know, like at all.”

However, Lateefah Akanmu said the entire project was her brother’s idea.

“My brother is really stubborn, like when he’s for something he’s really for it,” Lateefah Akanmu said. “He always fights for the right things.”

John Emmanuel, a pastoral associate at RCCG City of David Church, said Foley Akanmu came up with the idea for the project entirely on his own, and he is an active member of the creative team in their LightPointe Service.

“We’re just helping him get all the paperwork and everything so there’s not a legal problem,” Emmanuel said. “Foley’s taken this on project trying to reach out of the box, and find an unconventional way to help. That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to support his vision.”

Mars Hallman, a freshman Arabic and international affairs major, and director of education for Lambda Alliance at UGA, said he approached Foley Akanmu when he saw him holding his sign about the water crisis.

“I saw him standing alone, silently, boldly, and no one was stopping to talk to him,” Hallman said. “I saw him and I knew I saw an activist, and I really wanted to know him and aid him in any way I could.”

Hallman said he is glad he approached Foley Akanmu, and excited to help him with his goal to help others through the Lambda Alliance.

“When I started to talk to him I realized it was true that this was a person who has a goal in mind and it’s a good goal,” Hallman said. “We invited him to our executive meeting to see if we could get behind his effort, and we definitely will.”

Immanuel’s Well plans to raise money and send a grocery store gift card to Wesley Campus Ministry in Flint to help citizens in the area with purchasing the water they need to live their daily lives.

“If you go to the grocery store you’ll see that water is one dollar a gallon,” Foley Akanmu said. “That means it only takes four dollars to provide someone’s basic water needs for a whole day.”

“The main thing we can do right now is help them get through this situation,” Foley Akanmu said. “We can’t make them fix it faster, so we may as well do our part in helping these people make it through this tough time.”

As of Jan. 24, Flint’s water source has had a lead count below 15 ppb. Despite this, citizens are still advised to continue using bottled water until the pipe replacement project finishes, as construction may cause unexpected spikes of lead in water.

Foley Akanmu said he and his team are upset about the lack of urgency in the time frame for the pipe-replacement project.

“Some of the water is drinkable but there’s just no way to gauge what it’s really for everyone right now,” Foley Akanmu said. “People are looking at at least another two years without clean water, and we want people to remember that they’re still struggling, and offer ways that they can help.”

Foley Akanmu said he feels it is important to keep the community thinking about as well as helping the people of Flint.

“The main thing we can do right now is help them get through this situation,” Foley Akanmu said. “We can’t make them fix it faster, so we may as well do our part in helping these people make it through this tough time.”

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