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ADAPT connects with Billon Oyster Project to learn about local environmental issues and advocacy in New York City

At ADAPT Community Network, advocacy and activism come in many forms, from disability rights to environmental and more. Our Advocacy Group, led by Hans Anggraito, Community Specialist, provides the opportunity for the people we support to be educated and engage in discussions about current events and topics that interest them. “It’s important that the people we support have a space where they can have an open dialogue about current events and discuss how these events may affect them personally or the wider world,” says Hans 

In the group, discussions often focus on global environmental issues such as climate change and how it affects people all over the world. “Topics like this sometimes seem very abstract and big,” says Hans. “Instead, I wanted to highlight local efforts for local issues that ultimately connect to bigger and global ones.” This goal led to the partnership with the Billion Oyster Project. The Billion Oyster Project is a nonprofit that is restoring oyster reefs to New York Harbor through public education initiatives. The oyster reefs restoration initiative has the power to transform NY Harbor by providing habitat for hundreds of marine species, filtering water, and helping to shield NYC shorelines from storm damage. 

ADAPT had the opportunity to visit the Billion Oyster site at the New York Harbor, where we got to see, smell, and touch the biodiversity of New York City waterways. Everyone also learned how to provide data to measure the health of the creatures and the water. 

“When I went on the trip, I saw the crabs. The crab was holding onto the net and didn’t want to let it go. I learned about what’s in the water,” says Sidiki Thomas, person supported by Human First. Samantha Holder another attendee from Human First was also excited about the trip and the opportunity to learn more about marine life. “I like the crabs, I like the shrimps, and I also like the oysters. I learned a lot about the fish, that they’re big and also tiny, the tiny jellyfish too,” she says. 

The Billion Oyster Project also hosted a virtual field day and a presentation on Wake Up ADAPT (WACN – ADAPT’s virtual morning show). Participants from various programs and those who could not attend the in-person field day learned more about marine life and environmental advocacy in New York City. 

“I learned that many different creatures live in the water; some of them we’re never seen. I learned that oysters and oyster reefs are also good for the environment,” says Vernita Paige, President of the Self-Advocacy Executive Council. 

Tanasia Swift, who has worked for the Billion Oyster Project for about four years, was instrumental in bringing this collaboration together. For Tanasia, this was her first time working with a group of people with disabilities. “I have minimal experience working with individuals with disabilities. It went great! All of the participants seemed really interested and engaged,” she says. “Unfortunately, field science isn’t always very accessible due to the nature of the work. That’s something that needs to be changed.” 

Thanks to the Billion Oyster Project, the people supported and staff have a better understanding of biodiversity, and they are more motivated to care and take action. Additionally, sharing experiences like these increases the likelihood that other organizations will realize the importance of accessibility in their field. 

“It’s nice to get outside and learn about what awesome organizations such as the Billion Oyster Project are doing to help our local environment and are taking steps to educate us on how to do our part,” says Mercy Weiss, Art Specialist.  Despite the city’s reputation as a ‘Concrete Jungle,’ Hans explains, it’s important for us New Yorkers to remember that we exist within a natural environment, and we must maintain a healthy relationship with it.” 

Explore our website for further information on adult learning and community connections at ADAPT or contact Project Connect at 877-827-2666 or email: projectconnect@adaptcommunitynetwork.org

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