Hello everyone! My name is Komila Kholmatova. I am from Ferghana, Uzbekistan. Currently I am a junior at Honors College at Florida International University. I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in International business with a focus on a certificate in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics.
Photo by Komila Kholmatova at the Deering Estate/ CC BY 4.0
I volunteered for the Deering Estate Foundation. The rich in history and culture the Deering Estate is a house that was owned by Charles Deering until 1927. The Deering Estate foundation was organized in 1989. The main goal of the foundation is to raise awareness of the public, conception, and enjoyment of the Deering Estate. The natural area of the Estate is preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “There is no other parcel of land of greater historic importance in South Florida” (M.S. Douglas, 2020). It is an amazing place with a century museum, various tours and events, and most importantly with volunteering opportunities. As a part of Miami in Miami class taught by Professor John Bailly, I was able to attend two coastal clean-ups at the Deering Estate: one of which was cleaning marine debris at Chicken Key Island and another one was mangrove canoe cleanup. Aside from coastal clean-ups, the Deering Estate provides other volunteering opportunities as “Gardening, Weeding, and Adopt-a-Trail Volunteer”, “Visitor Guide and Museum Exhibit Volunteer”, and “Special Event Volunteer”.
I am very passionate about helping people and saving our environment. I strongly believe that we come to this life with a meaning of living it for the good of each other. I believe that every person has kindness inside, thanks to which we can make the world better than yesterday.
Before coming to study in US, I have annually attended orphanages together with my family, did service work, and raised funds with my friends for disabled people back home in Uzbekistan. Having come to FIU, I have joined UNICEF at FIU, student-led organization that helps to improve well-being of children across the world, and ICEP, International Community Engagement Project that educates FIU students about global issues and creates opportunities to engage with the community. In both FIU organizations we did a great range of service work, and I am very blessed to have had various volunteering opportunities that I am beyond grateful for. But this time I wanted to engage in something different from all the experience I had so far, I wanted to try myself in different sphere and step out of my comfort zone. I got lucky to have the Chicken Key Island clean-up at the Deering Estate as a part of my class. I really enjoyed it and felt amazingly connected to the environment, and I expanded my knowledge on the impact of marine debris on the world, and therefore, I could not miss the second chance of volunteering at the same place for mangrove canoe clean-up.
Photo by Komila Kholmatova at the Deering Estate/ CC BY 4.0
The opportunity of Chicken Key clean-up on the scenic Biscayne Bay was a part of our Miami in Miami Honor’s class. Professor John W. Bailly arranged and organized the clean-up for students. Professor got canoes for the whole class and we were also provided with bags to pick up trash. The second opportunity for mangrove clean-up at the Deering Estate was also a part of our class, and due to the reason that some students were not able to attend the morning session, some of us including me got a chance to spend the whole day at Biscayne Bay and enjoy this amazing opportunity.
WHERE & WHAT
-Chicken Key Island Clean-up, Deering Estate:
Photo by Komila Kholmatova at the Chicken Key Island/ CC BY 4.0
On October 14th at 10:00 am, I got to the Deering Estate. As soon as everyone arrived, we were paired by two per each canoe, whoever was experienced enough had to sit at the back of the canoe to direct it and less experienced person had to go in front. I was paired with our Teaching Assistant Nicole, and since I was not confident in canoeing, I went to the front. It was my first time canoeing and collecting marine debris, so I was very excited and scared at the same time. Even though it was a challenging experience and at times we had to push the paddles hard against the waves, with the help of Nicole, we were able to synchronize our movements and safely reach the island.
Once we arrived to the Key, we tied our canoes to a mangrove trees. I was astonished and sad to see so much plastic was there at the island which . We had four bags that got filled up with trash so quickly. We found so many plastic and glass bottles, flip flops, random small pieces of plastic, containers, crayfish traps, and big blue plastic water container that Nicole saw on the way to the island. Also, we had a small picnic time and we swam in the ocean.
Photo of Komila Kholmatova at the Chicken Key Island. Photo by John. W. Bailly / CC BY 4.0
Fun fact, I held a crab in my hands for the first time in my life, even though I was very scared Professor Bailly calmed me down saying that they are harmless.
After making it back to the departure point, the Deering Estate staff helped us to throw the trash to the needed location. We washed the used bags and helped the staff put the canoes and paddles in place.
Photo by Komila Kholmatova at the Deering Estate / CC BY 4.0
All in all, we collected 6 canoes of marine debris. Each of us was felt great that we somehow helped to save our environment.
-Mangrove Canoe Clean-up, Deering Estate:
At 9:30 on December 2nd I arrived to the Deering Estate. It was our last class, the great end to the most excellent semester, and my birthday! This time, the experience was different than the previous one since I got a chance to be at the Biscayne Bay for the whole day and attend both morning and afternoon clean-up sessions. I was confident enough to sit at the back of the canoe, and Professor said that we with my partner, Claudia, became experts. We were changing our places with Claudia, she was at the back when we were heading to the mangroves, and I sat at back on the way back to the Estate. In both sessions our canoe was filled up with trash quicker than we expected. Compared to the Chicken Key, mangroves appeared to have a lot more tangled trash.
Both of the times I went to clean-up I found the areas that were in their natural state, but unfortunately whenever I looked deeper into the island the was no end to trash that was there.
Having filled all the canoes quickly we headed to the middle of the Bay, far from Chicken Key and mangroves. This moment was one of the best moments of my life. I lay in a canoe full of plastic that we collected, put my hands in the cool water, looked at the sky, and just enjoyed the moment and wanted time to just freeze. There was a feeling that I merged with nature into one. There was complete silence all around, the sun was shining brightly, and the sound of the tide seemed to whisper a lullaby and put Claudia and me to sleep.
Selfie by Komila Kholmatova at the Deering Estate / CC BY 4.0
Professor had to wake us up, and I, full of happiness and emotions, thanked him for the most beautiful and great birthday the one could ask for. Sailing back to Deering Estate, we had about 15 bags of marine debris that we loaded into the cars with the help of the staff. And suddenly, everyone began to sing and wish me a happy birthday. I was very grateful, happy, and glad.
The screenshot taken by Komila Kholmatova of Honors service hours / CC BY 4.0
It was uncommon to each and everyone of us to see how those beautiful and once untouched shores were polluted with marine debris. Despite the difficulties, most of us had to step out of our shell. The clean-up experiences made me aware of my contribution to the ecosystem and gave me a sense of bigger appreciation for our world. I have personally grown from each clean-up and it was something extraordinary that I have never done before. The clean-ups may last only about 5 to 6 hours, but the impact will carry on for much longer. I am blessed to have had such an amazing opportunity, and I believe that if we continue to educate each other and remind ourselves how we can change our environment, our flora and fauna will live forever.
“Miami Museums | Miami Historic Landmarks | The Deering Estate”. Deering Estate, 2020, https://deeringestate.org/.