Aaron Dunigan, a 30-year-old father and minister in Flint, Michigan, has been directly impacted by the ongoing water crisis in the city.
His 2-year-old daughter is one of the more than 8,000 children under the age of 6 in the city exposed to lead, which has particularly serious health consequences for children. She's spent every Christmas of her life in a hospital because of disastrous decisions made by Michigan's government.
In 2014, Flint's water supply was switched from Detroit to the Flint River in an effort to cut costs. But the water was not properly treated and became contaminated with lead from old pipelines in the process.
The immense ramifications of this became apparent almost immediately, but the government continued to declare the water was safe. It was only after continuous public outcry and the involvement of scientists from Virginia Tech that the government finally admitted something was wrong, but by that point it was too late.
Flint's water is still not safe to drink, and the city remains under a state of emergency. The situation will not be resolved until the pipes in Flint are replaced, among other necessary repairs to the water infrastructure, the total cost of which could ultimately amount to around $216 million.
As the government debates over the price-tag of returning reliable water access to Flint, people like Dunigan have emerged as vital leaders.
During his youth, Dunigan spent some time in prison, but has completely turned his life around since being incarcerated. Today, he works tirelessly to rebuild a city that has struggled on a level most Americans could barely fathom.
In his words,
As someone who terrorized this community, I wanted to be part of rebuilding it.
Flint has suffered from crippling poverty and high violent crime rates for years. The water crisis only compounded these issues. But people like Aaron Dunigan are offering this city hope at a time when it needs it most.
Watch his story above, and you can check out Elite Daily's full documentary on the Flint water crisis below.