Service Corps Stories: Adventures in Volunteering, by Irene Chang

Irene Chang, a Service Corps member since September 2015 and a Service Leader since April 2016, has logged just over 100 volunteer hours. Her experiences in both joining and leading projects has given her a great perspective on the workings of this program. Her story needs little introduction, so read on!

 

“I was exhausted, cold and hungry. It was a little before 6:00pm as I walked from the Quincy Animal Center to the bus stop. It was already dark with temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The bus was not due to arrive at the stop for another 30 minutes. But despite the inconveniences, I was giddy. After all, I had just spent that entire Saturday afternoon getting to hold young sea turtles.

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Volunteers assisting with turtle checkups (source: rescue.neaq.org)

I started volunteering with the live blue Service Corps in September 2015, and originally I signed up because I thought it would be a fun way to spend the weekends. I liked aquariums since I was a kid, so why not? I thought I would participate in this program only once in a while, but the Service Corps ended up defining the course of my freshman year of college.

It wasn’t always easy. Waking up early, trudging through mud, and cleaning up parks in the middle of winter- but looking back at these times now, even though they were exhausting, I don’t regret any of them. Yes I had to wake up very early in the morning to take a boat to clean the Boston Harbor Islands or to claim a canoe to clear up invasive plants on the Charles River. But what can beat the views you’d see while standing atop a cliff on one of the Harbor Islands? Or the chance to row on the Charles on a beautiful June morning? And even trudging through the cold at night can’t beat the chance to hand-feed young sea turtles. These were all opportunities I would never have gotten to do if I hadn’t volunteered.

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Service Corps volunteers removing Water Chestnut from the Charles River

I can no longer volunteer as frequently as I used to since I transferred to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, but the impacts the New England Aquarium has left on me are still present. After becoming a live blue Service leader in the spring of 2016, I have become more interested in relationships between aquariums and the community, so I have decided to minor in Museums & Society at Hopkins. Next semester I will be taking a class titled Zoos/Aquariums and the Community. I have also decided to continue to spread the live blue Service Initiative’s message to “live blue” and give back to the blue planet here in Baltimore, so I applied for an internship in Baltimore’s National Aquarium to work again with rescued sea turtles.

I should emphasize that I joined the Service Corps not because I intended to have a career in the Marine Sciences. I am a pre-med student with aims to become a reconstructive surgeon- but the Service Corps is for anyone with even just a drop of interest in protecting the blue planet. If you want to join while having dreams of being the most famous marine biologist or just want to join because you like the beach, do it. You don’t just gain an appreciation for how beautiful, fragile and amazing this planet Earth is, but you learn how far you can push your own limits. I’m not physically strong, am usually nervous around strangers and afraid to speak up to my seniors. These traits of mine didn’t magically disappear once I joined the Service Corps, but these insecurities of mine slowly started to dissipate the more time I spent at the Aquarium and at projects. It’s hard not to, when you’re surrounded by people who are so eager to listen to your opinions and want your help in the effort to Protect the Blue Planet.”

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