Balazs Kornis: Miami Service Project 2021

STUDENT BIO

Hey readers, I am Balazs Kornis a sophomore finance major at Florida International University. I am planning on becoming an Investment Banker after graduating. I was born and raised in Hungary, in 2018 I moved to Maine to finish my high-school studies in the United States. I came to Miami 1,5 years ago to study at FIU and I immediately became fascinated with the cities diverse culture, a big difference from Maine. Once I saw the class on instagram stories of people it immediately caught my interest. Additionally I love traveling and trying the different types of foods, which in Miami there is no shortage of. I am also really interested in aviation and I would like to get my private pilot license and take a look at Miami form above.

Photo by Thwin Thet Su San / CC by 4.0

WHO

As a class we have volunteered at Deering Estate to clean up a small island called Chicken Key. The Deering Estate used to be the home of Charles Deering who built it in 1927. Today the Area is used as a natural preserve on the shore of Biscayne Bay. It has multiple unique ecosystems some of which have become quite rare in Florida today, highlighting the importance of preserving this area. As a class a couple weeks before we had the chance to explore its unique nature mostly undisturbed by us humans except for the Marine trash in the mangroves which likely came from the ocean. It is very important to prevent this rare piece of nature from getting polluted with the trash resulting in the eradication of the native wildlife. The actual place we did the clean up was however Chicken Key a couple miles off shore, home to mangroves just like the coastline at the Estate. Its conservation is managed by the estate as-well.

WHY

I have never really did volunteering before. Until coming to Miami in 2019 I have not done a single hour of volunteering work outside of helping out with school events. I am part of a student organization named ALPFA where we do at-least one volunteering event a semester. Of these I have attended a charity store event and a Key Biscayne clean up. At the Key Biscayne clean up I realized how badly we treat our beaches here. While other less fortunate people from landlocked places can only dream of seeing a beach. I personally enjoy beaches and especially being in the water, I have always enjoyed swimming and feeling weightless while floating. Additionally I am a big fan of water-sports like windsurfing, sailing and wakeboarding. This makes it important to me to keep our beaches clean. Chicken Key was a beautiful secret jam with shallow waters where you could just float around all day. I would be very sad to see it fill up with trash. It is very lucky we are able to organize these regular clean up to remove all the marine debris.

Picture of Chicken Key and Biscayne Bay By Balazs Kornis / CC by 4.0

HOW

The event was organized by everyones favorite professor John William Bailly, with the help of Deering Estate. Who provided us with the Canoes we used and disposed of the trash we brought back. The clean up was organized for our Finding Miami class, additionally we had a couple people in need of service hours join us from other FIU Honors classes.

WHERE and WHAT

We were supposed to do the clean on the 2nd of April, however we had to reschedule to the 17th due to high winds. On the 17th a Friday while others were enjoying their rest we met at the Deering Estate at 9:45 changed into water-shoes had a quick briefing while I finished my sandwich and then after pairing up we were on the water in our canoes. After a couple minutes of figuring things out near the jetty, we headed to mouth of the Cutler creek, which we entered to see its shores lined by mangroves. This maneuver resulted in plenty of crashes, since most of us were still trying to get in sync with our partners. After this we headed to Chicken Key.

Picture of the Mouth of Cutler Creek By Balazs Kornis / CC by 4.0

It took us around twenty minutes to get to chicken keys souther shore, the we spent around five minutes getting to the Northeast side to tie up our canoes near a little campground which we used a base. Once everyone got their bags to the campground we started off by a run into the water to cool off and have some fun after the canoeing. The water there was beautiful and really shallowing allowing us to relax for 1o minutes. After that we were given trash bags and it was time to work. We started head out to find some trash. Unfortunately there was plenty, almost immediately i found a fishing net, which I placed in my trash bag. After finding a couple bottles and other smaller pieces of debris I found another net tangled up into a branch. It took some cutting with a knife to get it free. By the time I filled up my bag the professor had brought some canoes over to another part of the item allowing me to place the bag in there. Afterwards I headed back through the water to the camp ground during which I have seen some debris only accessible from the water. Once I got back to the camp ground I had my lunch and rested for a bit once everyone got back. After lunch we spent a little more time in the water relaxing.

Picture of the groups water run by Annette Cruz / CC by 4.0

Afterwards I made another run with a bag mainly through the water collecting things caught up in the mangroves. Among which was a buoy which likely got loose somewhere, later I reached the professor and the canoes, some of which already full with bags and bigger pieces like a mattress which was the home of some rats and invasive species. I took one of these canoes back to the campground to make it easier to load our personal bags back in. Just before that Professor Bailly showed us a mating pair of horseshoe crab a prehistoric species from the time of the dinosaurs. They actually have blue blood used in medicine to check for sterilization of vaccines. After moving back all the filled up canoes we spent a bit of time in the water before heading back. After the swim-break we got back into our canoes and started to head back to Deering Estate. Due to the strengthened wind we decided to head back on the shore side of the island. We had to spend the whole trip back in a head wind making rowing quite difficult. The trip back was at least 3o minutes longer and much more difficult. It was a big relief getting back to the docks and being on dry land. We unloaded quite a lot of trash first to the shore piling it up for a picture.

Picture of the group and the trash we collected by a Deering Estate employee / CC by 4.0

After the group picture we loaded it onto a truck which took it to a dumpster. After placing everything into the dumpster, we said goodbye to each other as this was our last class of the semester. Afterwards we headed back home where I took a desalting shower and had a goodnight sleep, and spent days tending to my sunburns.

WHEN

Screenshot of Community Service Hours by Balazs Kornis / CC by 4.0

SUMMARY

In the end this experience was quite rewarding. Chicken Key is a beautiful hidden gem, and I am glad we got to remove all the trash and debris. It also gave me the chance to see the problem of trash in our oceans and how it can destroy our beaches and natural wonders. The experience was exhausting and the sunburns are still there, but I would gladly do it again with more sunscreen next time. I would recommend the experience to everyone it can teach us a lot about how we treat our environment and put us onto the right path.

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