On January 9, chemicals started leaking into West Virginia’s Elk River. On January 10, the water turned off. On January 12, Angelina Sarro, a senior in New York City, told one of her teachers, Don Poland, that she wanted to help.

Sarro lives in East Rockaway, which was hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. She told her teacher, who had recently organized a service trip to tornado-stricken Moore, Okla., that she wanted to pay forward the kindness others had shown her community by bringing water to the 300,000 West Virginians who were going without.

Together, they organized a week-long collection of “227 cases of bottled water and more than 100 gallon-bottles of water,” the Huffington Post reports. Sarro, Poland, and Sarro’s father drove the water 12 hours to West Virginia and distributed it to churches there.

As lovely and touching as this journey was, it did not escape the water deliverers that the West Virginia community they visited is at the mercy of deeper and more systemic lacks. Here’s what they posted on the Pay It Forward East Rockaway Facebook page:

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It was very rewarding to help the people of Clemendin this past weekend. We renewed their faith in humanity but I figure that those feelings will disappear as quickly as the water we brought. the residents were scared & shell-shocked. I was dismayed (PO’d) of the lack of any authoritative presence there to help. The CDC says drink the kool-aid.(I mean water) , Everything is fine.

Everything is not fine. And it shouldn’t be up to teenagers to show some human kindness in a situation like this.

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