Photograph taken by Lucy Logan/CC by 4.0
Carolina Echeverri Valle is a senior pursuing a double degree in International Relations and PRAAC, with a minor in Political Science and a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transition at Florida International University. Being a passionate advocate for human rights, she aspires to work in a non-profit aimed at helping children and/or women. After graduating from her two majors, she plans on attending graduate school. She has had the privilege of working the Spanish Ministry of Education, the German American Business Chamber of Commerce, UNICEF, Hillel at FIU, CARTA in DC at FIU, Broward County and is currently working in the Live Like Bella Foundation. She’s been a peer advisor at FIU, served in many leadership positions within her sorority of Alpha Omicron PI and created a project for the Millennium Fellowship. As a student who grew up in Colombia, she desires to learn more about the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in Florida: Miami.
W H O
On October 6, 2021, I had the opportunity to go to The Deering Estate and volunteer in a beach clean-up at Chicken Key. The Deering Estate is located on the East Coast of Florida in the Palmetto Bay area. This museum and historic site dates back to the 1920s estate of Charles Deering. We were able to go to Chicken Key, which is located one mile offshore, being characterized by its low dunes and sand beaches. This island was formed by the deposition of quartz and limestone sands by ocean currents. You can read more about it on: Deering Estate.
Photograph taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0
W H Y
As a student of Miami in Miami, me as well as the rest of my class was able to participate in this beach clean up. Miami in Miami is a course of the Honors College at Florida International University (FIU). The course allows us to see different parts of Miami that have shaped it to what it is right now. I’ve always been passionate about giving back to my community. No matter what I’m doing, it’s always been rewarding and it makes me happy to be a part of a positive change. Even though this didn’t relate to my major, I really enjoyed doing it, as I was able to help our environment. We all live in this world, and our flora and fauna are what allow us to live a healthy life. This was not my first beach clean-up, as I had been able to do one at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC), and I really enjoy doing them because I connect with the environment and I can visibly see the difference between before and after. I’m an international relations and PRAAC (public relations, advertisement and applied communications major), and I currently work in nonprofits, so helping and making a difference in the world is definitely something I’m always more than happy to do. Canoeing is something I loved doing and hope to do again soon.
Photograph taken by Afifa Fiaz/CC by 4.0
H O W
This volunteering opportunity was one of my favorites. It was an adventure that made me smile the whole time. I was a little nervous when I arrived, because I’m not the most athletic person and I knew we had to canoe and walk around Chicken Key the whole time. I got into the canoe with one of my best friends, and he’s a pretty strong man (he does weightlifting) so I went in the front and tried my best but had a good partner to accomplish it. When I looked up from my canoe, I saw the beautiful light blue sky and the sun hitting the water and just lighting it up. We put music in the canoe, like “Tokyo Drift” as well as songs from our home country, Colombia. It was a great way to bond with my friend and be motivated to paddle. I was able to speak to Professor Bailly and my classmates, really reflect on all the trash on this island and we also had time to joke around.
I felt like enjoying my time with my classmates, cleaning the island and learning from my professor at the same time was an unforgettable experience. It made me realize how much we damage our environment, and how careful we have to be with our debris, as it can really bring negative consequences to our waterways and the life that inhabits within them. It was eye-opening and informative and I would love to do it again.
Photograph taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0
W H E R E and W H A T
When we arrived at the Deering Estate, we got our life vest and our paddle according to our size. As we walked towards the boat basin, the sky was clear with no clouds in the sky. Once we arrived there, Professor Bailly gave us a debrief. Right after, we got on the canoes that had been lined up by the shoreline. Me and my partner carried the water jug in the middle of our canoe. Even though our bodies, plus the jug was heavy, it was still a great time.
It took us a little bit to accommodate, but once we got the hang of it, it ran smoothly. We passed through the mangroves which was definitely an adventure. We were all helping each other out as we passed through the branches that were poking us, and when we had to turn our canoe around to go back. Throughout this, we learned about how important mangroves are for our ecosystem, because they help many marine organisms, as well as reducing hurricane impacts. I started my TikTok here as well.
After about an hour, we made it to Chicken Key. We docked the canoes by tying them to the mangroves and then to each other. Once we arrived, I looked around to find a large amount of trash lying around the water and inside the island. We left our belongings in some chairs and ran into the water. A couple of us snorkeled and really enjoyed this time, because we connected with our classmates. Following this, we went to eat our lunch.
After enjoying a pub sub, me and a couple students accompanied the professor to walk to the other end of the island. We arrived there and there was even more debris. We walked and arrived at the end of the island. The beauty was immense. As we went in the water, I noticed how mind blowing nature is, and how much we should strive to protect it. We picked up around 10 bags from the three people that went with the professor. It was very shocking and sad to see the amount of styrofoam, plastic, bottles and even shoes that were everywhere. We were trying to focus mostly on the little things as they are highly dangerous to the life that inhabits the area, as they think its food and proceed to swallow it.
Before heading back, we found a couple of baby and larger crabs roaming around the area. We had the opportunity to hold them, and this is something I hadn’t done before.
Photograph by Alex Fiedler/CC by 4.0
W H E N
S U M M A R Y
When we give back to our community, it’s very rewarding. Even though compared to the amount of trash that is present on the island, it seems like we don’t do much, we actually make a huge difference. We are being part of this big change that is not only helping our habitat and world, but also the fauna and flora in the area. Professor Bailly showed us pictures of before and after him and his classes started coming to volunteer, and the difference was expansive. It’s very disappointing to see how much damage we have on our environment, because this is our world which provides us with everything. We should take care of it.
Helping has always been a passion of mine. We tend to get caught up with school, work and extracurricular activities, forgetting that there’s so many ways to volunteer. We were able to volunteer, whilst also learning. This not only helps us grow intellectually, but personally, because we can teach others in the future. I hope we can continue to give back to our community and gain knowledge while doing so.