Well, here we are! We are so excited that Devils Spark Change has officially completed its first service trip. And what an amazing trip it was. Every person on our team played such a crucial role in our success. It’s safe to say that we’ve all walked away with more knowledge about supporting the environment, and countless great memories too! Service trips have such a great way of people together. You may come as strangers, but you leave as a team. And that’s pretty cool if you ask us.
In this blog post you will find pictures of our trip, and an account of all the things we did and learned. We would like to thank everyone who donated to Devils Spark Change for our trip to Catalina; without you, this trip wouldn’t have been the same!
At 5:30am on Saturday, October 7th, fifteen sleepy people piled into a bus and set out for the West coast! We arrived at the Catalina ferry boat port anxious to get to the island. We even saw some dolphins on the ferry ride over! When we arrived at the island we made our way to our campsite with the most BEAUTIFUL view. After stopping in the little local grocery store, we made quesadillas for dinner as the sun set in a puff of cotton-candy colors.
That night we had our first campfire and discussed the things we were most looking forward to. In addition to the service, we were looking forward to learning things we could do at home to continue supporting the environment, no matter where we might be. Most of us slept under the stars that first night; we were so ready to get started with our service!
Throughout the weekend we were working with the Catalina Island Conservancy, whose mission is “is to be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.” The conservancy controls 88% of the land on the island, which is a lot! Because of this it was really cool to work with them because we knew that we were helping to conserve such a huge piece of the environment.
On our first day of service, our project was to hike up a mountain and bring down large chunks of roughly coiled barbed wire. In total, we hiked about five miles up and down; some of us even had to make multiple trips. As we completed the project – dragging, rolling, and begging the barbed wire to come all the way down – we learned about why it was there in the first place and why it was so important that we remove it from the environment.
Contrary to what you might expect, the wire we were removing was actually put there on purpose. Catalina island has been inundated with many invasive species over generations, so much so that those species have multiplied and seriously threaten some of the wildlife that can only be found on Catalina island. This is serious – unless the Catalina Island Conservancy takes precautionary measures such as fencing off endangered plants, those plants face total extinction. So the conservancy does take those measures to protect them! And once the plants have had an opportunity to grow back, it is important that the project is completed. That means removing the wire and restoring the environment back to its natural state. It is very important to make sure that in trying to help the environment, we don’t end up making it worse by leaving a project unfinished. And during the whole project we had an amazing view, so that definitely helped in the morale department. We also got to swim in the ocean afterwards!
Around the fire that night we discussed the things we had learned and the impact they had on us. Many mentioned that they were blown away by the complexity of ecological and environmental issues, especially on an island, where everything seems even more complicated than on the mainland. It had been so eye-opening to hear throughout the day about everything that goes into conservation from the staff at the CIC.
After our fireside reflection, DSC leadership had the honor of officially inducting all our team members into Devils Spark Change! We awarded each member their certificate, T-shirt, sticker set, and even trip superlatives (these were the best part, if you ask us). Recognition is an important value to us in DSC; it is very important to us that everyone feels valued and appreciated. Once everyone got their certificate, we all sat at the picnic table and wrote notes to each other on the backs (kinda like a yearbook signing). Then it was time for bed. It was, after all, the ungodly hour of 9:30pm. (Service is exhausting, as we found.)
On our second and final day of service we got to set up the local school’s garden. This was a super rewarding project, because we knew that our work would allow kids to learn about the environment early on in their education.
DSC is dedicated to making sure that everyone has to opportunity to experience service, and this project was helping provide that opportunity for elementary school students. So that was really special. While we were there we pulled weeds, organized supplies, filled plant beds with fresh soil, and even built a functioning irrigation system! (Some of us even used a drill for the first time *insert sunglasses emoji*).
After this project we got to explore the city of Avalon for just a while before catching the ferry home.
As the island of Catalina grew smaller and smaller in the distance, we waved goodbye (and took lots of pictures, naturally).
We are so happy with the way that our first trip went. Relationships were built, and countless environmental lessons were learned. And even though we were only there for a couple days, we know that we made a difference there, however small it may seem. No effort is too small!
If you or anyone that you know are interested in doing service work on Catalina island, we can’t recommend working with the Catalina Island Conservancy enough. We had such a great experience – everyone on staff there is so kind and truly cares about the island. We will definitely be back again! Until then…