By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Chicken Key, 14th October 2020.
My name is Ahdriana Amandi and I am a Psychology Major at Florida International University and its Honor’s College. Although I have many hobbies, learning and working with a team is the center of everything I love. During my time at Chicken Key, I was able to be a part of a team and serve a bigger cause.
Because of the Pandemic, finding a place that fit my schedule was a challenge. Many organizations were shut down or remote and were not seeking any new volunteers. Thankfully however, Professor Bailly and his Teaching Assistant Nicole Patrick were able to set up a cleanup day at chicken key, an uninhabited island off 1 mile away from the Deering Estate. Our class of 15 was finally able to meet up all together at the same time, and many of us brought our own gloves, bags, and masks in order to leave no trace behind.
This volunteer opportunity was an amazing one to experience, especially because of the current of the world. Because of COVID, having to stay home all day has been extremely isolating and has caused many to experience anxiety and sadness. Throughout this time, however, there has been no one around to help clean up trash that piles up in the oceans, bays, and shorelines. Being able to both come together and help the environment is relevant to both my major and my personal interests. As a psychology major, the long-term effects of lockdown both interests me and worries me greatly and finding solutions and ways for people to cope is of the essence. At the same time, the duty I feel as a citizen of Miami who loves the environment and its nature, it is important to be a part of action that helps properly dispose of waste so that is doesn’t accumulate, harm the wildlife, or pollute the ocean any further.
Where & What
The class began at 10 am, and as we waited for everyone to get ready, we were all placed in pairs. People who had canoeing experience with people who had no canoeing experience. I was paired up with Claudia Martinez, an inexperienced but eager-to-learn individual. Soon after meeting each other, we were able to team up well and were one of the firsts to make it to the island. After arriving to the island, we soon saw that there was trash and a ridiculous amount of plastic everywhere. Once everyone arrived and tied up their boats, we began to scavenge and look for things we could take with us back to the Deering Estate to then throw away. Water bottles, sandals, and wrappers were the most common things we found while looking, and it was disheartening to see how much waste accumulates in places like these. When looking back at history, we often laugh and wonder how past generations used to do such ridiculous/ evil things. I wonder how they will look back on us and see how awful we were for using so much single-use plastic when there are other alternatives available.
After a few hours of work, we all stopped to have lunch and then we all jumped in the water. It was nice to be able to enjoy the day while also working towards a positive cause. It felt good to enjoy the day and the sun after making a small but meaningful impact. When we arrived back to the estate, we were able to fill over 7 canoes with garbage to then toss out.
Experiencing this day and having the chance to make an impact with a team was incredible and is something I recommend everyone does at least once in their life. When we were all finishing up, Professor Bailly told us about the importance of experiences and how they can affect our view on everything, and it made me remember John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 camping trip. During this trip, Muir, a mountaineer and environmental philosopher, convinced President Roosevelt to add Yosemite Valley to the Yosemite National Park (U.S. Department of the Interior). It took two people who experienced and loved the outdoors to protect and maintain it and is something everyone should be able to experience.
Within that same conversation, Professor Bailly also made us aware that many people have never experienced the ocean/bay because transportation isn’t the best and the price of parking can often be very pricey. This inaccessibility turns this gift of nature that should be shared with everyone into something that others own and control. It has made me think about the future of my city and how important it is to find solutions and ways to make nature accessible to all.
U.S. Department of the Interior. The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. 14 Februrary 2020. 12 December 2020.