This past summer I spent about six and a half weeks working at an organization called CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation) down in Key Largo, Florida. Two huge parts of the Keys’ economy are diving as well as the tourism opportunities that come with it and fishing. However, over the course of the past thirty or so years, the reefs surrounding this area have been decimated due to the multitude of hurricanes the area has experienced, overfishing, and water pollution among a variety of other factors. Thus, with this depletion of coral, the whole reef ecosystem has been jeopardized as well as the Keys’ economy. To combat this, the Coral Restoration Foundation works to grow coral and plant it back on the reef as well as spread awareness about this issue.
Before I even arrived at the Coral Restoration Foundation, I thought I would be on the front lines of the effort, scuba diving daily and planting coral by the ton. So, when my first task was to build a PVC pipe tree, I was a little surprised. These trees are used to hang the growing coral underwater until they are ready to be planted in a reef. I spent hours on end building trees and putting them together. I thought this was merely a warmup task and that soon I would be getting in the water. Once again, I was mistaken. I spent much of my days working in the education center, answering phone calls and helping to teach visitors about CRF’s cause and effort. These conversations were rewarding as I felt as if this dialogue was helping spread awareness of this issue and shining a bigger light on it.
On my last day of work, I finally received an opportunity to get in the water. Myself, along with fifteen or so other staff members and individuals, went out to a reef, collected the fully grown coral from the PVC trees and then planted them underwater. This experience was a great finale to all my work, as I now got to see all my hard work come to fruition in the form of real, tangible results. However, this day also led to me to another realization. Plenty of people want to go underwater and scuba dive, and CRF will never find a shortage of individuals who want to do that. Thus, its the other aspects of the organization, some of the things that I took part in, that is where Coral Restoration foundation needs the most help. I realized that service can take many different forms, and even if it feels like what you’re doing is not as flashy or “cool” as some of the other methods of service, it is often times that those types often result in the biggest impact, which is truly what service is about.
Coral Restoration Foundation’s website: coralrestoration.org