Sasha Olsen went on a trip last summer with her family to Vietnam and Japan and was horrified at the ocean's pollution levels and dying sea animals.
"We went on this trip and I was so excited," said Sasha, a 10-year-old who lives in Bal Harbour, Fla. "But when I saw the way the oceans had become I got upset. I wanted to know why things were this way but couldn't find an answer."
And when she returned home to Bal Harbour, she grew even more disturbed when she learned how some of the beaches in South Florida had been closed by the health department because the water had too much bacteria in it.
Sasha, with the help of her cousin, Narmina Aliyev, 23, a recent graduate of Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor's degree in business, started a nonprofit, Iwantmyoceanback.
Originally, the group started small, with friends coming together on the weekends to clean the beaches in Bal Harbour.
Recently, however, Iwantmyoceanback has hosted events to raise funds for beach cleanups and to donate to conservation groups such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Oceana and World Wildlife Fund, Aliyev said.
Last month, Sasha organized "Kids Heal the Oceans" at Bal Harbour beach, where she spoke about the oceans' problems and guests made art out of microplastics gathered from the beach cleanup.
"At first, our guests were a little shy, but now they've felt inspired to speak up. Sasha has inspired many other kids to join Iwantmyoceanback and show people that we're able to make a change if we come together," Aliyev said.
This weekend, the group will throw a Plastic-Free Party, which involves a beach cleanup and guests creating art from the plastic trash they collect.
"It's important to bring awareness not just through doing cleanups and meetings, but to show people they can come together through their hobbies and working together to a common goal," said Sasha, who is a fourth-grader at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.
Sasha has started a YouTube channel, named Studio IWMOB. She is posting videos from events and has begun a web series, "Table Talks," where she interviews people from different professions about the oceans.
After the interview, she and her guest will create a painting, signed by the guest, that will be auctioned off to raise money to donate to conservation-based organizations.
Jencarlos Canela, a popular Cuban American singer and telenovela star, was Sasha's first guest.
Canela was one of Iwantmyoceanback's first followers. Sasha reached out to him through Instagram to thank him for following her, and that led to his spot on her series and a painting that Sasha plans to auction off. Canela, who has 3.4 million followers on Instagram, posted about the experience.
"This little warrior is at 10 years old, more conscious and aware than most adults I know," he wrote.
Sasha has also begun collaborating with Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman to bring awareness to her efforts. "As soon as Sasha came to my office, video presentation in tow, I knew we had to work with her to help her with this important initiative of keeping our beach and ocean clean," he said.
Sasha and Aliyev hope to extend their work to neighboring cities such as Hollywood and Miami Beach.