I realized Just How Important Volunteers were when I needed them

I realized Just How Important Volunteers were when I needed them

It was my first time on the receiving end.


This summer, I worked at a summer camp called Idyllwild Arts in Idyllwild, California. It was my first time in California and at a summer camp where the kids stay overnight. I learned a lot during our orientation and training process, including how to evacuate campus should we ever need to leave the mountain due to a forest fire.

The camp sits in the San Jacinto mountain range. Being in Southern California, it was imperative that the staff knew how to evacuate the camp and campers in case of fire. Even though it was a huge part of my training and I felt confident in my abilities if ever a fire was to happen, it certainly wasn't something I thought would happen to me.

Sometimes, though, things don't always go to plan. July 25th, 2018, Brandon McGlover set 9 fires near the Idyllwild community. Within 2 hours, the camp was in full on evacuation mode. No one had time to grab anything, including the campers. For most people, we went down the mountain with what we had in our hands on our backs.

Idyllwild Arts staff members filled person vehicles and camp cans with campers and began to caravan down the mountain. Thanks to the excellent leadership and impeccable staff training, a 500 person campus was evacuated in under 2 hours.

Our evacuation hub was at a high school at the base of the mountain. As a counselor, my job was to hang out with children and make sure they felt safe and supported at such a tumultuous time. There were nearly 400 campers in that high school gym, all who needed to be cared for and fed until camp reopened.

Though most went home with family, some campers from out of state remained in the schools care. The task was now to clothe, feed, house, and entertain the remaining campers and staff members. Idyllwild Arts, of course, has contingency budgets and planning for these situations, but from the moment we evacuated to the gym at the base of the mountain, the community reached out in mass.

Volunteers from the high school opened the snack bar to us and helped serve snacks until dinner arrived, which they also helped serve until 11 pm. A woman from the town brought some clothes she planned to donate to be distributed to the kids since they had near to no belongings with them.

The Lions Club of Beaumont, California provided us a pancake breakfast. The Motel 6 of Palm Springs assisted with housing. Palm Valley School and Rancho Mirage provided us with dinner and donated toiletries and snacks. Find Food Bank in Indio, CA donated water, fruit, snacks, and breakfast. Palm Springs Art museum gave the children and staff free admission.

Regal theatre gave the kids a movie treat last night. This is not to mention the outpouring of those from the Idyllwild community and past campers that have reached out to the staff to ask if there is anything they can do to help.

I have volunteered at my local food bank my entire collegiate career. Not often do I get to see the food be delivered, let alone the impact it makes on the community. As I unloaded cases of water from the food bank truck on day 1, I realized my life had finally come full circle.

The food I was usually packing for redistribution was now in my possession. Though this fire was an enormous event that impacted thousands of lives, the silver lining is the volunteers that have stepped up to provide for children who have been displaced. It is an incredible mountain community that I am thankful for.

If anything, this experience has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for those who volunteer. I am most thankful for the parents at Palm Valley high, who gave us anything and everything they could. I can sum the experience up in one instance. I was looking through the toiletries that had been donated, searching for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner I could take with me.

A dad walked up to me, who was replenishing the stock of donated things, with a box of candy bars. He told me to take as many as I wanted. Knowing that even a major wildfire couldn't stop my sweet tooth, I took three. Once you're on the reciting end for a change, you realize how much of an impact small things can make. This may be my first fire and this midwestern girl may have been a little shaken, but it was a couple of candy bars that turned it all around.

So, if you're volunteering and you catch yourself wondering just what kind of impact one person can make, know that there are people on the receiving end who don't have the words to thank you for all you do. As I sit cuddled on my co-counselors couch in a nearby town, I am thankful for those who open their homes, hearts, and hands in times of need.

If you feel called to support Idyllwild after the fire, there are plenty of ways to do it! Volunteer, visit or donate your local forest. It isn't without the extensive forest preservation organizations that our forests would be as well cared for as they are. The FIND food bank is currently providing food both to campers and to other families displaced in the fire and is accepting donations. Last but not least, volunteer. Help your local community. It can, and does, changes lives.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?


When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

Cover Image Credit:

Vinicius Amano


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Deep Ocean Exploration Technology Capabilities

Autonomous underwater vehicles lead the path of hope to discovery, but we need your help.


The United States' federal government should substantially increase its non-military exploration and/or development of the Earth's oceans. There are many benefits to doing so: reducing overfishing, limiting ocean acidification, conducting disease research, restricting invasive species and decreasing ocean dumping. Other affirmatives could deal with changes in Arctic shipping routes or opportunities for oil and natural gas exploration, according to ihsa.org. Oceans holding 99% of all living life on Earth and 97% of our water hints at, we have to take care of our home.

Nonetheless, conservation efforts will not be enough at this point. It helps to have common sense in our fishery management. It helps to clean our beaches. That being said, we have to take advantage of our incredible opportunity advances in technology has given us. Improvements in underwater navigation sensor technology and underwater navigation algorithms are enabling novel underwater vehicles and novel underwater vehicle missions. These missions remind us of Obama's implementation plan drafted in 2012 for the stewardship of the ocean. We have to hold ourselves accountable for taking care of our planet, and there is nothing wrong with taking the extra step with our curiosity. Let's dive into S. Harris abstract regarding ARGO, an example of our ocean-exploration technology and what we can do with this power. From the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA, ieeexplore.ieee.org.

"Developed by the Deep Submergence Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, ARGO is an unmanned instrument platform designed for deep ocean search and survey. Integrating both visual and acoustic imaging techniques for real-time viewing, ARGO is a system which provides continuous, around-the-clock operation for seafloor exploration. With a design depth of 6,000 meters, it is towed on a steel-armored coaxial cable which supports several channels of frequency-multiplexed signals. In addition, surface support is highly integrated, bringing together ship control, navigation, and vehicle operation into a transportable control center. In our expedition that found the TITANIC, this system was tested for the first time and proved itself by delivering the exciting pictures of the famous shipwreck lying on the bottom of the ocean. This paper will briefly describe ARGO and the reasons for its development. Examples of ARGO imaging from our first year of operation will demonstrate how modern oceanographers remotely sense the ocean floor."

Deep ocean exploration is such an important focus on our kid's livelihood. We have plans, technology, but we need more. We need more awareness and funding regarding this research-based, non-military exploration of marine life. Donate to oceanexploration.org.

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