Linabel Armas: Miami Service Project 2021

S T U D E N T B I O

Photo by Roger Masson (CC by 4.0)

Hi! My name is Linabel Armas and I am a junior at Florida International University. I was born and raised in Cienfuegos, Cuba and moved to Miami about six and a half years ago. Since my arrival I have come to love and cherish this city, especially now that I have learned so much about it.

W H O

For this project, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Chicken Key with my class on April 17, 2021. In total, I accumulated six community hours. Chicken Key is a canoe ride away from Deering Estate. Our service project consisted of picking up trash from the inhabited island that the current had brought to its shore.

The Deering Estate is a cultural and historical asset to Florida. It is an “environmental, archeological, historical, and architectural preserve owned by the state of Florida and managed by the Miami Dade County Park and Recreation department” (Deering Estate history: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens)

W H Y

Before this virus, I felt I was pretty involved in my community. I used to reach out to different organizations and help out. However, during this global pandemic, there hasn’t been a variety of volunteering opportunities that I feel comfortable participating in due to the risk of getting infected by COVID 19. This class, “Finding Miami,” has allowed me to volunteer again safely and has given me hopes that I can keep doing so. Although volunteering at Chicken Key by cleaning its shores is not related to my professional future goals, it has, however, has made me step out of my comfort zone.

Photo by Linabel Armas (CC by 4.0)

H O W

Since the beginning of this course professor, Bailly explained to us that our class would have its service project at Chicken Key. Although our first proposed date was canceled due to bad weather, on April 17, 2021, we were able to accomplish our service project.

W H E R E & W H A T

On April 17, 2021, I arrived early at Deering Estate. I was very excited about canoeing to Chicken Key since I had never done such a thing before. We embarked at around 10:30 am and began our journey to the island. At first, it was tricky getting the “momentum” between my canoe partner and me, but later on, we got the hang of it.

The views after getting just a little bit away from Deering Estate are precious. From a distance, I was able to see large buildings and yachts. The silence and peace were mesmerizing. The water was so crystal clear that the bottom of the ocean was visible. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and kissing my skin, and the breathing was styling my hair. Aside from our class, there wasn’t a single other soul near us. It was then when I realized how little we humans appreciate nature. Maybe that is why we have damaged it so much.

Volunteering opportunities like this one open people’s eyes to see what we need to improve and help mother nature. We don’t appreciate it, which is why we don’t care for it.

Upon our arrival at around 11:00 am, we swam in the crystal clear waters of Chicken Key. After canoeing to the key, getting into the water was like entering heaven: meant to be. We then began our cleanup.

We divided into different groups. My group went to the south of the island. At first, we only found debris: small pieces of plastic, glass, and other materials. Although these were not large, it was essential to pick them up since animals can eat them, and it can cause wounds to their bowels or other parts of their bodies. As we were getting closer to the end of the island, we found bigger things, such as shoes, shoe hills, plastic containers, big pieces of cords, and more. It was amazing and yet sad to see how many things are dragged by the current to Chicken Key: from a mattress to a toilet to shoes. This was such an eye-opening experience; it reminded me how much we, as young individuals, still need to advocate for our environment.

Although in recent years, Millennials and Generation Z individuals have become more active in their communities about keeping our planet clean and plastic-free, there is a long way to go still. We not only need to continue helping the environment by not using plastic straws, cups, and more but by trying to advocate for legislation that helps us keep our planet green and safe.

Photo by Linabel Armas (CC by 4.0)

My group and I decided to go back to the meeting point around 12:30 pm to have some lunch. Before getting there, we dropped the collected trash bags in the canoes.

During lunch, we all gathered together and had lunch. I thought it was a great bonding experience, especially since our last meeting before the semester ended. Most of us when back to the water afterward to digest our lunch before getting back to work. We played, talked, and had lots of fun.

At 1:30pm I decided to go by myself on a walk and keep picking up debris. The peace and silence during my walk around the island was so relaxing. I paused a couple of times to appreciate the beautiful views of the inhabited island and collect the little pieces of plastic and glass that were on my way. I sat down, took some pictures, and daydreamed.

Photo by Linabel Armas (CC by 4.0)

By 2:30 pm, we started heading back to Deering Estate. We organized the trash on each canoe and began our way-back journey. This time we left through the opposite side of the island instead of where we came from.

My canoe partner and I were rowing in sync up until the current and wind changed. The tide was high, the wind started blowing hard, and we were canoeing against the current. It felt like if we were not moving, my arms became tired after 45 min of rowing nonstop. Thankfully two of our classmates arrived at Deering first and went back into the water to help us.

After getting to the chore, I said goodbye to such a great group of people, class, and semester for one last time.

Photo by Linabel Armas (Cc by 4.0)

According to professor Bailly, we picked one of the most outstanding amounts of trash from Chicken Key he had ever seen before. We filled 11 canoes with trash bags. Our class proved that by working together, we can accomplish great things.

W H E N

The cleanup took place on April 17th, 2021

Honors hours pending approval

S U M M A R Y

With every community service project that I do I feel more involved in my community, it makes me want to week doing them. With this project specifically i learned how necessary beach cleanups are and how much we as young adults need to advocate for our environment.

I am very grateful to professor Bailly for making this community service opportunity happen and to the Deering Estate for making it possible. I had never canoed or done a beach cleanup before, and although my canoeing skills proved to not be the best, I enjoyed every minute of this project. I was able to relax, bond with my classmates, have fun, and learn. Not only did we had the opportunity to help Chicken Key be cleaner, but we realized how much we need to take care of our environment.

WORK CITED

“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/#:~:text=The%20Deering%20Estate%20preserves%20the%201920s%20era%20Miami,listed%20on%20the%20National%20Register%20of%20Historic%20Places.

organizations advocating for environmental changes in Miami. Get involved today!

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