My Name is Aimee Zuniga, and I am a junior studying organizational communications. I will be graduating in the fall of 2021. After graduating, I will continue my education at Florida International University and pursue my master’s. I will get my master’s in international business. I was born and raised in Miami. Miami is full of beaches, as a high school student, I would constantly volunteer at beach cleanups. Those clean up made me appreciate different volunteering opportunities that one could find in Miami.
I did my service hours at three different locations. At chicken key in Deering Estate, the Bakehouse complex in Wynwood, and the FIU nature preserve. Deering Estate provides people with various volunteering opportunities. Opportunities such as coastal clean-ups and event volunteering. I did not volunteer with the actual Deering estate preserve, but out in Chicken Key as a class. Professor Baily took us out to chicken key to pick up trash. At the Bakehouse complex, I also volunteered there during Professor Bailly’s class. Lastly, the FIU nature preserve offers plenty of volunteer opportunities for students like gardening, weeding, planting, and picking up trash.
I volunteered at the nature preserve because It is one of my favorite spots on campus. I enjoy spending time in nature and being outdoors. The FIU nature preserve is the only nature on campus. I tend to spend most of my time out in the preserve so when I found out about this opportunity to volunteer there, I could not resist. I have volunteered before in other locations to clean up parks and beaches, but I have never volunteered to do anything in FIU. Living in FIU made me feel like I have somewhat of a responsibility to take care of my environment and make it worth living here. This change to volunteer does not necessarily apply to what I am studying at FIU, but it does have to do with my passion which is the outdoors and nature.
As a class on October 14, 2020, we canoed to Chicken Key to collect trash that has drifted from the Miami bay area to the island. Professor Bailly and Deering estate provided us with canoes and trash bags. Since I have had experience with beach clean-ups, I connected with this volunteering task by actually enjoying and finding it to be sort of a meditative thing to do. The ride to the island where we collected trash was incredibly beautiful and the water was still. The reason why I enjoy cleaning trash is because it is very sad to see the way people treat the planet and litter without thinking about the consequences. At the end of the day it was satisfying to see everything that was collected, and it made me feel like a good citizen of Earth.
As a class on October 28, 2020, we went to the Bakehouse Complex in Wynwood to help a local artist, Lauren Shapiro, with one of her projects. This volunteering opportunity was made possible because the Bakehouse Complex contacted Professor Bailey for us to come as a class to volunteer with the Future Pacific Project. I connected with this trip because we made clay molds of coral and put it on what was supposed to resemble a dead coral reef. Being that I care about the environment, protecting ecosystems, and the ocean, it resonated deeply with me. Just like the amount of trash that we saw in Chicken Key, seeing coral reefs go from the lively and colorful ecosystem to a bunch of dull dead sea life is incredibly sad.
-FIU Nature Preserve
I found out about this opportunity through the FIU Go Green Instagram. Not only that but I always have peers that talk to me about the chances to volunteer at FIU. What I did that day was go out to one of the entrances of the trails and I picked weeds to make the entrances look nicer. This connected with me because I felt like I was helping out my community and I felt like a good person. FIU is my community, it is where I live and spend most of my time so why not make it look nice. I have had experience with being out in the sun and picking weeds ever since I was a little girl and I would go to my grandma’s house and help her pick the weeds out of her garden. When I picked the weeds in FIU it only felt natural.
Where and What?
On October 14th at 10 AM, as a class, we met up at Deering Estate and gathered canoes, paddles, and life jackets. We got on them and paddled all together towards Chicken Key Island. Once we got to the island, we parked our canoes, took out our trash bags, and collected trash for about five to six hours. The island was absolutely trashed from things that you wouldn’t even expect to find there. Some of the most absurd things that I found were pairs of shoes and large bottles of liquor. My partner and I were able to collect about 4 bags of trash and took it with us on our canoe. As a class, we tried picking up as much trash as our bags can collect and once we were ready to go, we put the bags on board and canoed back to Deering Estate. Once there, we all put our garbage bags and put them all together in one pile.
On October 28th at around 11 AM, I met with my class to assist a local artist by the name of Lauren Shapiro. She explained to us what she had in mind with her project and what she needed help with. She explained to it with a clear passion for the environment and art. She then explained the instructions as to how we are to use the clay mold in order to use them for the project. For about three hours we made clay molds in the shape of coral and put them on the model.
-FIU Nature Preserve
On November 19th at 1 PM, I arrived at FIU’s Nature Preserve where I met up with two FIU Go Green Employees who were in charge of taking care of the area. They gave me an explanation of what I was going to be doing. What they told me to do was to go to a certain section of the nature preserve and told me that I was going to be taking out weeds. They gave me instructions as to how to pull the weeds and which specific weed I was going to pick. One vivid thing I remember was the smell of the weed. It was so strong that it would normally stick to my hands but fortunately, I was wearing gloves. For two hours I was on my knees under the hot sun picking weeds. Even though it was very hot, it was something I enjoyed doing because I like to help my community and I had experience doing so with my grandma.
After the many times, I have volunteered all over my city, every time I have a sense of a newfound appreciation for my community. Every single volunteering opportunity worked because I enjoyed every minute of it. One of the biggest accomplishments of them all were when we went to Chicken Key. Seeing the amount of trash that was there when we got to the Island compared to when we collected all the trash was absolutely accomplishing. Every single time we volunteered for something it went smoothly and was a good time.