June 8, 2003 - Florida State University: RPCV Nikki Finch works with disabled children in New York and Carib Indians in Dominica

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominica: Peace Corps Dominica: The Peace Corps in Dominica: June 8, 2003 - Florida State University: RPCV Nikki Finch works with disabled children in New York and Carib Indians in Dominica

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RPCV Nikki Finch works with disabled children in New York and Carib Indians in Dominica

RPCV Nikki Finch works with disabled children in New York and Carib Indians in Dominica

Service Corps Director Practices What She Preaches
by Marvin Harris
October 2000

Uniting the campus through service opportunities is the job of Nikki Finch, director of the FSU Service Corps, who regularly practices what she preaches. At-risk youths in Tallahasse have benefited from Finch's volunteerism, as have disabled children in New York and Carib Indians in Dominica.

Nikki Finch

The SGA bureau organizes community service opportunities for the campus and provides monthly service calendars. Finch expected one project, Make A Difference Day, scheduled for Oct. 28, to result in 300-400 students in groups of 5-20 performing four-hour service projects in the Tallahassee community.

"It is a great opportunity, especially for people who don't ordinarily get out of their comfort zone, to volunteer with people from backgrounds different than their own," said Finch, a 22-year-old senior in interdisciplinary social sciences.

Volunteers were scheduled to perform such projects as engaging in activities with youngsters at the Tallahassee Boys and Girls Club, building a flower garden with the Head Start program, and working with the Salvation Army to put together a playground. A 12-member student-volunteer board donated countless hours with Finch to put the projects together.

Working with at-risk youth is Finch's passion, and since she was a sophomore she has kept her hand in that area by once a week driving a van carrying FSU students to a Boys and Girls Club. "I feel like they're my kids after having seen them grow up over the last couple of years," she said.

In Tallahassee she has helped clean up yards and plant trees, given the elderly manicures at a retirement communtiy, and cataloged graves at an African-American cemetery that fell into disrepair after desegregation. "There are a lot of one-day projects available that allow you not only to meet other students but to get involved in an issue," she said.

To get involved, call the FSU Service Corps at 644-0086 or the Center for Civic Education and Service at 644-3342. Working with a datatabase of more than 200 agencies, the staff can match students' talents and interests with a wide variety of needs. Among the many opportunities available are ones to teach Spanish-speaking migrant workers English and to work with animal rights groups.

Volunteering with the Alternative Break Corps, Finch has worked during Spring Breaks in New York and Dominica, an island in the Eastern Caribbean. As a sophomore and one of two ABC site leaders for a group of 12 students, she worked in New York with disabled children in the foster care system. As a junior she was one of two site leaders for a group that took donated computers from Tallahassee to the Carib tribe, set up a computer lab, and taught students on the reservation to use the software programs Word and Excel.

On the island the volunteers lived in the Carib tribe's two-story guesthouse. The building's windows were movable wood panels. Restrooms were not up to American standards. "It was an outhouse," Finch said. "You bathed outside and showers were with cold water. If you wanted hot water, you boiled it. It was like living in a treehouse for a week. There was no air conditioning. You and the bugs were neighbors."

Rewards from the island trip were both psychic and physical. "I walked away from that experience amazed," she said. "We came that week to try and help meet some of the needs of the tribe, yet we left feeling like we benefited more from the experience than the tribe could ever have. Although they lacked a lot of material comforts, they were the riches people I have ever met."

She also walked away with a couple of machetes after using one of the large, heavy knives to help cut paths for the tribe. "It was a running joke all week about how excited I was about the machete," Finch said. "Our last night there the tribe came out and taught us how to play the drums, danced for us, and the chief gave me a machete."

Since returning to FSU, her group has sent the tribe more materials.

Upon graduating, Finch wants to earn a master's degree in public administration and to work with the Peace Corps for two years. "After that, we'll see," she said. "My faith is important to me. I think that God will send me wherever He needs me. I definitely want to work in the public service sector."

"Volunteering enriches the one who provides the service," Finch said. "As I look at my time at FSU, some of my best memories are of my service experiences. I would encourage any student to give Service Corps a call if they are interested. Just be careful, because once you have a taste of service, I guarantee you will get hooked!"

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Story Source: Florida State University

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Dominica; Disabled Children



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