This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.
Sixcia Devine, Founder, Caritas Smile
What inspired you to start giving?
In 2010, three generations of Dominican-Americans living in Rhode Island and one suitcase packed with 200 stuffed animals landed in the Dominican Republic. My mother and four year old son wanted to add holiday cheer to a local community in Dominican Republic on Christmas. Our time in Monción was spent spreading laughter and joy, alongside my four-year-old son, to all those children living in poverty in the community. It was there when I wanted to take action and start a service learning program called Caritas Smile. The program is called Take A Trip, Change A Life.
We want to bring happiness wherever we go. We randomly surprise communities in need with school supplies, clothes, toys, and gifts! When we travel, we always incorporate the element of surprise into everything we do. Each Take A Trip Change A Life program is unique, but surprising communities and children are embedded into who we are as an organization.
Since 2010, we’ve impacted countless communities across the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and most recently, Honduras.
What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
Seeing the happiness in the eyes of the children that are touched by our work is heartening, impactful, and connects us to humanity in a way that is life changing. Giving means offering tools through education that inspire others to do the same. Giving aid, education, and inspiration to strangers emphasizes the importance of the meaning of life - which is to love humanity. Giving also reminds us that by taking small steps towards change, major effects can take place both for the giver and the receiver.
What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back?
1. Start giving where you are. The perfect place to start giving back is right where you are. Robert Pirsig said the place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands. That can be joining a community program at your place of work, volunteer at school, or starting a program on your own.
2. Give with your heart. When you offer material gifts, the impact is not as sustainable. It's when you truly give yourself that you truly give. Find a topic or issue that you are passionate about. It will help you get a clear path on to giving.
3. Take action. One person can not do everything but still something can be done if action is taken. Talk to others, do research, go on informational interviews to help you move forward.
4. Inspire. Follow your passion and share words of encouragement to help others get involved in service programs.
5. Decide. Make a decision to make a difference and set a date to help you reach your goal.
6. Plan. Create a roadmap of how you want to give back and include a list of organizations, people to contact, marketing tools to help reach out.
Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
On one of our volunteer trips, we visited Gregorio Luperon, a village located in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. This village had been flooded with nine feet of water a few weeks before we got there. The area was filled with mud, dilapidated homes, half-built buildings that looked like they were once occupied by businesses, colorful graffiti on cement walls, and garbage adorned the streets. It was literally a hot mess.
We parked our little red two-door car, which was filled with supplies and gifts in front of an auto repair shop. We got out our bags and began passing out school supplies, toys, clothes, school pads to a few kids playing near us. Suddenly, a few kids turned into 10, then 20. Suddenly we were surrounded by what felt to be like 50 kids. Surprisingly, they were calm and curious. Many of them were jumping up and down in excitement, others laughing out loud, and others just glared.
Mostly what made my heartstrings tug were the many expressions of the children. Their eyes were big and bright. They were gleaming! That moment of giving and experiencing the joy and harmony with the children was magical. I felt like a real Santa Claus!
I recall a small boy, maybe seven or eight years old who was standing by his mother's side as she held an infant on one arm and the boy's hand in the other. He stood close to me without saying a word and just smiled and looked up. His big brown eyes and wide happy grin are etched in my memory. It was as if he was saying thank you. I could feel his happiness without saying a word.
There are countless moments like these that remind me that simple acts of human kindness and love can easily be given because what we receive is so impactful and everlasting. This is important to realize because sometimes we get caught up in irrelevant issues that may question our life's purpose. But when you step outside of yourself and serve others, finding happiness, clarity, and self-worth is easy.