A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


An Expanded Idea of Leadership

By Jen Osha Buysse

The stories that get me the most are the stories of mothers with children who are sick and asking why the state is not considering it an emergency. Why is the government providing less emergency water every day, even though every day we’re learning new, disturbing issues with the water situation?

We’ve been gathering a lot of liquid baby formula and diaper wipes for the families with young children. We have an incredible group of people working together in unaffected areas to support those affected — local unions, daycares, schools. [One] local pediatrician donated baby supplies and landscape companies have offered their trucks.

I have spoken with many families who haven’t been able to work in the weeks since the chemical spill. They can’t just not buy water, but they can’t buy food or pay heating bills in the freezing weather. They don’t want to ask for help, but their income has been cut off.

Everyone can find a way to use whatever skills they have during this ongoing emergency. Someone has a truck, someone knows parents at a school they can organize – we’ve had to expand our idea of what leadership consists of, and I’ve witnessed all these incredible people working together to fill truck after truck.

This crisis is far from over and we must all work together to settle into a sustainable level of support that we can maintain as long as needed.

Jen Osha Buysse is an emergency relief organizer, co-founder and board chair of educational nonprofit Aurora Lights. She is a busy teacher and mother living in Morgantown, W.Va.