San Juana “Juani” Olivares Community Advocate

San Juana “Juani” Olivares Community Advocate

When the Flint water crisis first started, San Juana Olivares, or Juani as most know her, realized that the Hispanic and Latino community in Flint would need help.

At the time, she was the Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Community Center, but started to volunteer for the Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative. She jumped right in to help Spanish-speaking residents of Flint be more aware of the dangerously high levels of lead in the water supply and where to get safe water.

Now Juani is the President & CEO of the Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative (GCHLC). Juani’s knowledge of the needs of her community, combined with a resolve to make a difference, have led to GCHLC becoming a hub of activities, educational programming, social services, water and filter pick up location, a food pantry and health fairs.

Last fall, Juani accompanied a delegation to Washington, DC to lobby Congress to reauthorize and bolster national infrastructure funds like the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Water Resources and Development Act.

Freshwater Future is thrilled to name Juani as a Freshwater Hero for 2017

DRINKING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE Many Challenges for Great Lakes Cities

The Flint Water Crisis and water shutoffs in Detroit have opened our eyes to the many challenges facing public water supplies of our communities. Last year, Freshwater Future committed to working on this issue and hired Hilliard Hampton to direct this work using our approach of collaboration, citizen knowledge and community connection to find solutions.

Addressing a big problem like drinking water infrastructure is going to take a lot of people and many different solutions. The natural place to start was a conversation with local activists that have demonstrated a deep level of expertise and understanding. A group of these community leaders from Detroit and Flint, (including Juani Olivares) organized a meeting along with Freshwater Future staff to get the conversation going about water infrastructure, quality, conservation, and affordability.

Over 90 dedicated activists, lawyers, community organizers, funders, and leaders participated in the meeting in February and made important progress on relationship building and identifying next steps. Participants identified an urgency to get to actions and solutions, that water and environmental efforts are community centered, and that leadership roles are deliberately created for local and underrepresented communities.

The Steering Committee continues to meet and share ideas. With the help of our Associate Director for Urban Programs, Hilliard Hampton, we’ll continue to host a series of roundtable conversations and opportunities for information sharing through 2017. If you want to know more, please contact Hilliard at

Thanks to the Erb Family Foundation and the C.S. Mott Foundation for funding support for the gathering


If you would like to participate on issues pertaining to public water supply in urban areas, contact Hilliard Hampton or (313) 516-8821

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.