My name is Daffodyle Saget and I’m a senior majoring in English and Sociology with a minor in International communications. I’ve enjoyed all the adventures we’ve had in this class and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to give back to Miami with the Chicken Key clean-up.
The Chicken Key is a small island off the coast of the Deering estate founded by Charles Deering. The key does not have a permanent clean-up crew that does continuous scheduled maintenance on the island. The only volunteers that help keep the key clean are from Florida International University. Thanks to professor Bailey and the Honors college the key has gotten numerous visitors to help maintain its environment. I got to join this relatively young initiative as a student of “Discover Miami” one of professor Baillys’ classes this Spring of 2021. The class focuses on learning about the city of Miami through direct interaction with the city. The cleaning got students to both interact with nature and be active while also seeing for themselves the environmental damage being done to Miami and the world at large. It was a well-rounded experience that meets the class objective and the Honors college values.
I was happy to find this to be part of the semester’s curriculum. While traveling around Miami and visiting different neighborhoods for class my eyes could not help but see the problems the city had. When we visited Downtown Miami our first class I could not help but notice the countless homeless people and the legacy of segregation followed by the gentrification of Black neighborhoods. It was infuriating walking around South beach and seeing all the vacant property next to homeless people obviously in need of access to mental health support. At the everglades, I got scared of losing our natural resources to environmental damage and bad policy because of the neglect of the citizens. The Key cleanup was one way I could help and be a part of the solution to at least one of these issues.
Professor Bailly is not only a professor at the Honors College at FIU but also a resident artist at the Deering Estate. He arranges for us all as a class to dedicate a meeting to act in service of Miami. We were instructed at the beginning of this course of this trip and were told to prepare with water shoes and clothing that could get wet. On the day of the excursion, we learned how to canoe and were taken out by Bailly who was familiar with the journey. We were given bags to fill and two hours or so to work.
Where and What
After canoeing for about thirty to forty-five minutes from the Deering estate we parked off the coast, amongst the mangroves, of the small island known as the chicken key. At the time of arrival, it was around 10:40 am. We began to settle in the picnic area and wait for instructions. Bailly being the professor that he is invited us to swim to lift our spirits and motivate us to begin the hard work of the day. During the swim, we were told more about the key and how the clean-ups began. Professor Bailly detailed a little more what we would encounter including small plastic pieces that were eaten by the animals resulting in their death. We were also told that furbished wood should also be picked up because of the chemicals they bleed into the water. I would not have a guest to pick up the wood so I noted that for later.
Once on land and dry we were given large black garbage bags and told to walk either direction and fill as many bags as we can before stocking them on the canoes at the shore. We were given two hours or so to work and the time flew fast. I had not thought I would fill a bag but it became obvious that I had no reason to worry. As I walk I found the oddest object from birthday balloons, sandals, to deodorant. It felt like I was an alien picking up what was left of Human society after its end. It felt like I was an archeologist of a dystopia. It was endless the amount of trash on the key. I would pick from a spot and look there again to find something. It was overwhelming the amount of trash and I felt like I barely made a dent. I started to feel hopeless that we were doom to become remains outlived by the trash we created.
Close to the class’s end time, we were all called to pack up and gather again. We had canoes filled to the brim with the trash that we had to walk back to the original spot and I felt the itch to go back and do more. I shared my feelings with professor Bailly who then showed me a picture of the old key. He reassured me it used to be worst and that we were in fact making a difference. Looking at the picture where the trash was visible even miles with the naked eye made me confident again that my efforts were not in Vain. We canoed back with heavy loads divided amongst us and ended the day dumping trash that should have never been made in the first place. I left smiling knowing I gave back and contributed to the city I love.
I am no stranger to volunteering. I gave my time to service throughout Highschool. I worked with patience at my local hospital giving them comfort or guidance. It felt good to be able to help. I still jump at the opportunity when it comes from beach cleanups to phone banking. I guess I feel move to contribute to something bigger than myself. It’s how I want to leave a mark on the world by making it with my small efforts a better place. I got so much from this class and realized how distant I was from Miami as a community. I wanted to feel like a citizen not just in residency but in action. That was the feeling that captured me in each class meeting this semester and the trip to Chicken key allowed me to exercise that feeling.
“Deering Estate History | Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, https://deeringestate.org/history/