Tammy Gomez: Miami Service 2021

Student Bio

Tammy is a Junior at Florida International University majoring in International Business and is part of the Honors College. Tammy was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and just moved to Miami for Fall 2021. Tammy’s favorite hobby is playing tennis and she also loves to hang out with friends.

Miami in Miami Chicken Key Cleanup October 2021. Photo by John Bailly/ CC by 4.0

WHO

I volunteered at the Deering Estate, which was the house of Charles Deering until he passed away in 1927. Nowadays, The Deering Estate is a house museum and environmental preserve located in Southwest Miami, Florida. One mile off the shore from The Deering Estate is located a small island called Chicken Key in Biscayne Bay which is exactly the place that we went to do the cleanup. This is an uninhabited island where huge amounts of trash come off the shore every day from the ocean and the trash stays on the island.

Even though there are many cleanups organized throughout the year, it is not enough. The island is constantly contaminated because of the excess trash that exists in the ocean. Therefore, I consider Chicken Key to be a very important place to go and do cleanups.

WHY

This specific volunteer opportunity was provided to my class of Miami in Miami of the Honors College. This volunteer was conducted by our Professor John Bailly and our Teacher Assistant Claudia Carolina. Unlike our usual classes, we combined both groups of the Miami In Miami class which I think was a great opportunity for all of us to work together and be able to do a better job.

While this volunteer work does not relate to my major, International Business, it is similar to volunteer activities I have done in the past. When I was in high school, I lived in Ecuador, and in 2016 there was a severe earthquake that destroyed one of the main cities of the country named Manta. Houses and buildings were destroyed, hundreds of people died, and many people moved to neighbor cities to avoid the aftershocks of the earthquake; they were traumatized. That’s why at first, the whole country was predisposed to help, but after time passed by, the help was reduced, and Manta was still in very poor conditions. So, in 2018 my high school organized a service project for a weekend in which students went to Manta to build houses for the people who lost theirs in the earthquake. It was optional, but a great opportunity to help, so I went to Manta for a weekend to build houses. Just like going to Chicken Key, these two experiences make me feel fulfilled as I am helping others in the first case and the environment in the second. Going out and seeing the reality of other parts of the world which we are not used to, make you conscious of what is really happening beyond of what you are used to.

HOW

I think that our professor choosing this volunteer work as our service project was the best option because it made us connect with a different environment of Miami than the one that we are used to. The flora and fauna of The Deering Estate are wonderful. We got to see different types of animals like fishes, manatees, sharks, and turtles while we were canoeing on our way to Chicken Key, and when we got to the island, we were able to see several hermit crabs and spiders of different sizes and colors. That is in relation to the fauna, and in relationship to the flora of The Deering Estate, we were able to go across the mangroves and see them from the inside. One unforgettable moment of this day is when we had to get out of the mangroves back to the ocean and I got a feeling as if I were going out of a cave, and as we kept rowing the sun was reappearing and everything was beautiful; this is definitely something I will never forget.

Being on the island with both groups of Miami in Miami helped us get to know each other and connect while doing something that all of us were very excited to do. While picking up the trash we discovered some animals in their natural estate. We also discovered that most of us had the same reasons in why we chose this class as our Honors course for this year, and one of the main reasons was definitely experiences like this.

WHERE & WHAT

On October 6th we canoed from The Deering Estate to Chicken key, it was very hard to canoe because we were canoeing against the stream of the ocean. It was the first time that I canoed, so at first, it was really difficult and tired. However, after a guy from the class explained to me how I had to row, it became easier. Then, when we got to the island we took a break to recover from the last hour that we spent rowing, and after 15 minutes we started to work. To be an uninhabited island, there was so much trash that I couldn’t believe it even though I was seeing it. However, after our professor explained us how trash ended up in the island it made sense.

WHEN

SUMMARY

The only way to get to Chicken Key was through the ocean, so we had to canoe. It was very difficult for some of us that didn’t had a previous experience canoeing. In fact, at the beginning me and Daniela were the last ones; we couldn’t move forward as we were rowing against the stream of the ocean and didn’t have previous experience. Then, a guy from the other class came to help us, and we did a much better job. Despite the fact that we got help, we still canoed for an hour. That’s why, when we got to Chicken Key, we were very tired and, in my opinion, we could have done a better job if we wouldn’t have been tired from rowing. However, this is the only way to get to chicken key, so it is not an option to do it otherwise.

On the other hand, our Professor John Baily, really emphasized to collect every piece of trash that we saw in the island, and so we did. Most of the trash in the island were microplastic that people don’t usually pay attention to, and they rather pick up bigger pieces of trash. However, our class focused on picking up what most people don’t pay attention to, so we made a great change in the island and collected a great number of bags full of trash with all types of trash, but especially microplastics. This is volunteer is something that I definitely look forward on doing again, and something I would recommend to my friends.

Author: tammygomezro

Tammy is a Junior at Florida International University and is part of the Honors College. Tammy was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and just moved to Miami for Fall 2021. Tammy's favorite hobby is to play tennis and she also loves to hang out with friends. She is majoring in International Business and once Tammy finishes her Bachelor's degree she is planning to start her Masters.

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