Hello, I am Claudia Martinez. I am an Economics major at Florida International University. This is my first semester taking professor John Bailly’s classes and I am so glad I chose to be in his class. Not only was I able to explore Miami while taking his class but I was also able to take part in community service projects that he organized. I love Miami and everything it has to offer whether you are a resident of a tourist and taking this class helps me study more of it. To say the least, his class surpassed all expectation.
I volunteered for both Deering Estate and Bakehouse Art Complex which under both organizations, my classmates and I were exposed to the harsh reality that species and ecosystems are disappearing and the root cause of it being pollution. By bringing exposure to the dangers of pollution and their destruction on the environment we are able to work extensively to carry out awareness on the destruction of out Coral Reefs and other ecosystems, as well as directly contributing to the cause by cleaning up places such as Chicken Key Island or nearby mangrove concentrations. By creating teams of volunteers, we are able to clean marine debris from islands such as Chicken Key Island. Not conformed with this, I decided to return and participate on a twice in one day activity where my classmates and I would clean coastal marine debris that the current had brought in during thanksgiving weekend.
I am not one to be the most experienced in volunteer work but being introduced into it gave me a lot to reflect about and empowered me to see myself as someone who is able to help the local community and even the world’s ecosystem by taking part in cleaning up the coastal areas of Miami. Not only does that change my perspective on the world but also on myself as I feel that my contribution is taken into account and that I am making a positive impact on the environment, something that I lacked before participating on these projects. When I found out that I had to do community service I was unsuspecting of marine debris clean up opportunities or how gratifying it would be. This new experience has taught me to value nature, have a deeper connection with it and see how my small service can go a long way.
As I mentioned before, I am new to the Community service scene and did not know how it worked or where I would even start. Luckily, professor John Bailly who organizes volunteer projects at Deering Estate and even sometimes at Bakehouse Art Complex was able to make opportunities accessible to his students even during the pandemic when it was especially hard to find such opportunities. Not only was it my first time volunteering but on this same day I had canoed one mile to and from Chicken Key Island where we were able to fill up multiple canoes (“Chicken Key Island“).
After doing my first community service project, I was much more eager to be in the next project. However, due to the pandemic finding any opportunities was difficult and every time an opportunity would show up on the days that I was available to participate, the spots would quickly fill up. I was running out of options and I considered taking days off from work to do community service hours. Eventually, professor John Bailly talked about doing community Service hours at Bakehouse Art Complex. Finally, I was able to get my hands on an opportunity that fit my schedule without having to cancel any days. I was so grateful for this chance. When I realized that the project was about bringing forth coral reef awareness and how they are disappearing I felt a stronger need to be a part of it. I believe that no effort, whether big or small, should be taken lightly because it is our duty as humans to take care of this planet and everything that inhabits it. Taking part in this project signified meant more to me than a duty to the honors college.
My last service project for the semester was at Deering Estates’ nearby mangrove concentrations. I knew I wanted to be a great part of this project so when I heard that there were going to be opportunities to join for both the morning and the afternoon trip on the same day, I knew that I wanted to take part in both of them. That day I was able to go to and from the mangroves and fill a boat up twice with marine debris. That day was a little bit more challenging because the higher wind speed caused the current to stir the canoe away but even despite this we had a successful day in cleaning up the mangroves. To say the least, my partner and I, who were both present in the morning and afternoon, actually fell asleep on our way back. Had it not been for our professor waking us up, I don’t know where we would have ended up at. All in all, this new project was a new opportunity to contribute to the ecosystems of Miami and contribute to a solution that will help both at a local and global level.
Where and What?
–Chicken Key Island:
Professor, classmates and Claudia Martinez pictured by Nicole Patrick/ CC by 4.0. Claudia Martinez and Ahdrianna Amandi pictured by John Bailly/ CC by 4.0
& Claudia Martinez pictured by Ahdrianna Amandi/ CC by 4.0
On 14 October 2020, my classmates and I were assigned partners who would work together to canoe to and from Chicken Key Island, as well as fill our canoe with marine debris. As we cleaned up debris from the Island we were surprised to find shoes, Styrofoam, ropes, many bottles and even masks. Yes, the masks that we use to take precaution against Covid-19 were the same type of masks that we found on Chicken Key Island. Our professor discussed on how people that the debris on the island was pollution that the current had brought from the north from the pollution that us humans leave behind without considering the damage that it causes habitats and ecosystems that are vital to maintain life on Earth.
Classmates and Claudia Martinez pictured at Bakehouse Art Complex pictured by John Bailly and Nicole Patrick/ CC by 4.0
On 28 of October of 2020, another opportunity presented itself for my classmates and I to participate into a project that would bring awareness to the disappearing of the coral reefs that is vital to life on Earth. Our tasks required us to to use reusable materials in order to mold colorful clay into a variety of different shells and other marine shapes, stick it to a large panel and repeat the process enough to resemble a real life coral reef. Some shells remained firm and strong while others where gradually fading. The purpose of these two scenarios was to take the concept of coral reefs decay as a result of harmful human activity, and basically convey that same concept from an artistic point of view. Reflecting on this activity, I learned that day that I did not need to be a renowned artist in order ta take part of such a thought provoking art piece, as well as the simple fact that by contributing to Lauren Shapiro’s project I was able to go a long way and bring awareness to the world’s coral reefs.
Professor Bailly Claudia and students pictured by Nicole Patrick/ CC by 4.0
After Thanksgiving break, my professor went on a trip through the mangrove tunnels and to his surprise he found a large amount of marine debris. He then knew what are next class activity was going to take place. So just like that, I was able to do community service by the mangrove tunnels. To put it lightly, I was overwhelmed by the great deal of marine debris we found at the mangroves. If there was a day that I had to canoe to and from the mangroves twice within the same day, I am so glad it was that day. On both trips I was able to fill over three bags of marine debris and in addition to my partner we were able to fill up the canoe with as much marine debris as possible. Both trips felt like a workout but I am so glad that I was able to participate in both.
I was able to complete the Chicken Key Island clean up, the Bakehouse Art Complex and the Deering Estate Mangroves on October 14, 2020, on October 28, 2020 and on December 2, 2020 respectively.
To say the least, with every volunteer opportunity I felt myself growing not only in a personal level but also the way I see myself helping the community and the world’s ecosystems. I learned that contrary to popular belief, I do not have to be a fancy well-known artist to take part in interesting and powerful projects that can help the environment and bring forth awareness about the dangers that us as humans cause on the environment. In the same manner, I was challenged to leave the comfort of my home to places I would have otherwise not gone to. In doing so, I realized that even though I might have felt too overwhelmed by the pandemic to go out, taking the chance and experiencing these opportunities for myself was worth it. All in all, if you are looking forward to stepping out of your comfort zone, I highly encourage these volunteer opportunities that you will absolutely not regret.
Bailly, John. “Deering Estate Chicken Key.” Johnwbailly, 2020, johnwbailly.com/lectures/chicken-key-clean-ups.