Daniela is a Junior at Florida International University Honor College. Daniela was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and came to Miami when she was 15 years old. Having spent most of her life as a flamenco dancer, Daniela is really passionate about the influence Spain has in the American culture in general. She is currently majoring in Psychology and once she finishes her bachelors degree, she would like to further her studies and pursue a Masters in Science in Professional Counseling.
On April 20, 2022, I volunteered at The Deering Estate, a cultural asset in Palmetto Bay, Florida, and a historic place listed on the National Register of Historic Places. dating back to the 1920s when Charles Deering decided to invest in a property down in the South Florida area. This place’s mission is to conserve the natural area on its property and restore it, as it is a top museum for touristic destinations nowadays.
The opportunity of volunteering at Deering Estate is given every year to FIU Honors Students by professor John Bailly as part of his classes. Yearlong, some pure theoric classes take place at Deering Estate, yet others are full-service classes as was the case for this opportunity.
This activity itself does not relate to my major. However, ever since COVID started, being able to give back to the community is something that catches my attention, as I used to overlook it before. It opened my eyes, and make me especially interested in this type of activity. With it, I get to clean a part of Miami that almost nobody knew about and had been forgotten by those who knew about it but did not have the time to go clean it up.
The different bridges and paths at Deering Estate never stop to amaze me. Seeing the remains of this bridge makes me think of how beautiful it could have been before hurricane Irma passed through Miami, and to see how much trash ends here is devastating. Animals are living in this ecosystem, and mistakenly they might eat some of this human debris. Even a bottle from Havana was found during this clean-up. Completely disappointing in humans.
It is always fun having both Miami in Miami classes together and being able to connect with other people while cleaning up. But most definitely the highlight of my day is going further than the rest of the class trying to reach the end of the bridge.
where & what
To start the last day of the Spring 2022 semester, professor John Bailly got both of his Miami in Miami classes together once again at the Deering Estate. There we first sat down and said our last goodbyes and favorite experiences. After this, the fun began.
We went to a bridge, -according to professor Bailly- a beautiful bridge during its good old times. After hurricane Irma took Miami land, it got destroyed and has not been restored ever since. Because humans are the most dangerous species, their trash ends up here. The bridge might have collapsed, yet there are still animals there, and they eat the trash or get stuck on them, and unfortunately end up dying. This is the reason why this clean-up was so important.
We had to be extremely careful while walking between the bridge remains, as there were nails still coming out of the woods, or the surface was not the most reliable one. I am not a big fan of getting wet or dirty, so at first, I was a little skeptical as to where we were going. After getting scared by at least 20 spiders, and putting my feet on surfaces I would not know how to describe, but most certainly not satisfying, I found myself in a group of four girls without even noticing. Four girls with the same objective: trying to get to the end of the bridge. It was like a survival game in my eyes. Trying not to get wet and holding onto the remains of the bridge, all while trying not to disturb the spiders.
When we stopped hearing people is when the decision of going back took place, we decided to keep going, with the hopes we would reach the end. We got worried a little after and we decided to reach out to see if we were anywhere close to the end, but to our disappointment, the bridge did not have an end. The way back was easier, as we already know where to step.
On our adventure, we were able to fill up to five bags. That is a lot of debris in such a small path! To our surprise when we got back to the Deering Estate yard, everyone in the class was already packing up to leave for their houses. It was a rewarding experience being able to connect with people outside the class and taking with us the champion feeling of accomplishment of getting far out the bridge (and terrible pain on my left foot because one of the nails passed through my shoe).
This adventure as the last one for the semester felt like a rewarding one for me. Some things worked out perfectly, while others, did not.
What worked for me was teamwork. Even though we were not from the same class, we worked as if we had known each other for the longest time. I think this activity I would not have been able to complete it without the girls I found along the way. For example, trying not to step on water and holding onto the bridge was easier because we had each others telling us where to step and which way was the easier one. Also, having five bags with us, was easier to have help from one another to cross to the front.
What did not work was the spiders and spider webs. They were everywhere, and they were big and intimidating. Another thing that did not work was the nails on the ground. They were everywhere too and we had to be aware of nails and spiders and not leave the trash behind.
Overall, it was a great way to say goodbye to the semester and goodbye to professor Bailly.