Four years ago, when Nicolina Kelly’s teenage son returned home to Rhode Island from a humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic organized by his math teacher, she noticed an extraordinary change in him. An athlete who was focused solely on sports came home with a newfound sense of community and a contagious enthusiasm to help others. Kelly couldn’t help but be moved by her son’s experience and she soon partnered with that math teacher to make humanitarian trips for teenagers a formal program.
With Nicolina’s spirit, drive, and outstanding organizational abilities, the first humanitarian trip with only four students was prototyped to form a private, nonprofit organization called Infinity Volunteers which involves high school students in humanitarian projects locally, in the United States, and in underdeveloped countries. Although she works full-time as a computer scientist in the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Nicolina still finds the time to help the students with their fund-raising efforts to pay for their trips and supplies all year long.
Their 2012 trip is to Guatemala where they will assemble a rainwater reserve system for an extremely impoverished community with no clean water source. The 2011 trip was to the small town of Abeka, Ghana where they assisted the Profesa School, a secretarial school for women. In the first year of the formalized program, the Infinity Volunteers traveled to New Orleans, where in some neighborhoods, post-Katrina conditions remained deplorable. Their mission was to help a woman who was living in a dilapidated home that needed many repairs. In addition to the annual trips to aide people in need, the Infinity Volunteers are organizing regular fundraising activities to support those trips and are contributing on a local level.
“Teenagers get a bad reputation but I’ve experienced the opposite. The kids in this program will continue to do this for the rest of their lives. Infinity Volunteers has some former volunteers who want to set up a chapter of Infinity Volunteers in their college. The volunteers benefit as much as the recipients. They come back much more rich in experience both emotionally and culturally.”
This is what makes Nicolina a Daily Point of Light.