April 24, 2008

13-year old Chicago girl donates over $6,000 to Reef Check

Annie Schwab shares her story of how one person can make a difference

I am an eighth grader in Chicago at The Chicago City Day School.  For the past two years, I have participated in Reef Check’s scientific data collection on the reefs of Bimini (Bahamas) along with a few of my fellow schoolmates. We stayed on board The Shedd Aquarium’s research boat and conducted numerous studies including counting fish, identifying coral and plant species, and assessing the overall health of the coral itself. This data was posted to Reef Check’s website for review by scientists the world over.

I found this to be an exciting experience, but also one that was disturbing given the declining health of the coral reefs.  Reef Check has done a tremendous amount to educate citizens, governments and private industries about their actions’ impact on reefs in an effort to change behaviors and halt their decline.  I am very pleased that Reef Check has been able to enlist signatures from 135 countries around the world to commit to the “Declaration of Reef Rights” that can be found on Reef Check’s website.

I found Reef Check’s work so inspiring that for the past two years I have sold products at an art market in an effort to raise money to support this cause.  I made jewelry and collected samples from my parents’ gift company, donating the profits.  I made posters and passed out literature which gave me an opportunity to speak to my customers about the coral reefs and I was quite surprised at how many people were genuinely interested and took my literature to look up the website and contribute.  I deposited over $800.00 from my sales to Reef Check.

This past month I became a Bat Mitzvah and had over one hundred people at my service, all of whom took a card I printed up directing them to the Reef Check’s website to sign the declaration. I spoke at length about Reef Check during my speech and educated my guests about what causes reef endangerment and how it can be stopped. I also passed out a wallet-sized pamphlet detailing fish that should not be eaten due to over-fishing as well as those fish that are safe to eat since these actions have an impact on the ocean fish population at large.  My evening celebration was held at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium around the Caribbean Reef tank. In lieu of gifts, I asked that my guests contribute to Reef Check and am proud that I was able to donate over $6,000 to this cause from these proceeds alone.

I learned that one person can make a difference. I want to thank Reef Check for all of the fine work that they do and for inspiring me to take on this cause and spread the word to others.  It is amazing what can be done when one is committed.  This experience will serve as a lifelong foundation for reminding me of the power of giving and the ripple effect it has throughout a community.  I hope my story inspires others to share my passion for the coral reefs and contribute to your fine organization.

Annie Schwab