The public was first introduced to 10 year old, Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny back in 2016 when she wrote a letter to Barack Obama asking to meet with him while she was in Washington D.C. Her letter gained national attention and highlighted the struggles the people of Flint still deal with til this day. Although President Obama couldn’t meet with her during her trip to D.C, he decided to fly to Flint and meet her there.
If you’re unfamiliar with the clean water crisis in Flint, you’ve been living under a huge rock. The story begins in April 2014 when Flint city officials decided to switch the city’s water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in an effort to cut down costs. After the change, citizens noticed discoloration and an old smell in the water, and many complained of rashes and hair loss. A year later, researchers discovered the water contained high amounts of lead, rendering the water undrinkable.
Initially, after people learned about the crisis, many sprang into action. Everyday people created and shared GoFundMe campaigns to help the residents of Flint, and many celebrities including Big Sean, Cher and others stepped to donate money, water and spread awareness about the issue. While those efforts did help the city, the media slowly stopped paying attention, and people started to forget.
But Copeny refused to allow her hometown to suffer, and alongside her family, she works to help the citizens of Flint. If you’re wondering how exactly a 10 year old can make a lasting impact on an entire town, you are underestimating Mari Copeny. She didn’t allow her age to prevent her from trying to make a difference instead Copeny sets up campaigns and fundraisers to benefit the people of Flint.
Before the start of the school year, Copeny joined forces with Pack Your Back, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children through distribution events and community activities, and in two weeks, she raised $10,000 which supplied 1,000 students with backpacks for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.
“Education is everything, especially when dealing with kids who have had to live with the water crisis in Flint. “ Copeny told SmartGirls. “A good education can help Flint kids to change their world. “
This isn’t the only time Copeny worked to help underprivileged kids in Flint. In February, Copeny and her mother, Lou Brezzell, and cousin, Felicia Copeny, started a GoFundMe campaign to help children from low-income families see “Black Panther”. Brezzell worked with shelters and boys and girls clubs to find children who wouldn’t have a chance to watch the movie.
The fundraiser did exceptionally well, and Copeny and her family raised more than $16,000, an accomplishment way over their $5,000 goal. With the enormous amount of support they received, they rented a theater that seated 150 people and still had enough money to buy tickets for 600 more kids as well as “Black Panther” apparel for each of them.
“Kids need to see themselves as superheroes,” Copeny said. “Black kids are seen as victims- and we’re not. “
Not long after the success of the “Black Panther” screening, Copeny campaigned to help kids in her town see “A Wrinkle in Time” and make sure each kid walks away with a copy of the novel. “Books not only take us to places unknown, they empower us to be whatever we want to be. “ Copeny writes in the campaign description.
Copeny continues to work for the children of Flint, but they are not the only receiving her help. All of the residents of Flint benefit from her work. When Michigan governor, Rick Synder, decided to end the bottled water program in April, Copeny quickly stepped in.
She started a T-shirt campaign with the words “Don’t Forget Flint” written in the center to spread awareness and bring clean water to the city. On May 27 she passed out 135,000 bottles of water to 1,000 residents. If you follow her on social media, you will see that she’s still passing out water.
At such a young, Mari Copeny is such an inspiration. I have learned so much by just keeping up with all of the projects she takes on. Through her actions, Copeny teaches the world that you are never too young to make a difference. She demonstrates that if you want to see change, you have to start with yourself.
As she wisely told SmartGirls, “There is so much you can do as a kid to really help change your community and the world. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t change the world because you can.”