Caritas Smile takes volunteers on life changing trips to help families in the Dominican Republic. Caritas Smile does grassroots fundraising to fund their projects, which can be anything from rebuilding homes to donating medical equipment. Sixcia is passionate about giving back to those in need and organizes Caritas Smile trips when she’s not working for Google. Check out a video of a recent Caritas Smile trip here!
What kind of aid are you providing communities on your trips?
It’s about giving people a better way of living, which means building homes, creating cement floors so people don’t have to walk on mud, rebuilding schools, and connecting with women and children. We’ll do random acts of kindness by showing up to medical centers or homes with food, clothing, and medical supplies. We aren’t a religious organization, but we’ll connect with local nuns to get a sense of the work the community needs. I then organize fundraisers back in the US to fund projects, with the help of our volunteers. We always hire local people to help with building tasks and utilize local materials. The families work hand-in-hand with us so that the project suits their needs. For example, in January we will be rebuilding a school alongside some of the students and their parents. We’re going to be surprising them with two toilets, because right now they are relying on outhouses. The outside will be painted with murals by local artists. Our hope is the kids will become extra excited to go to school when it looks and feels better.
How do you choose which places to work in?
We recently decided to focus on sustainability and growth, and now only work in one rural community in the Dominican Republic. On our first trip, the houses were falling apart, there was no running water, and we saw an opportunity to lend a helping hand. We want to make sure that the communities we work with want to receive the help. I talk to them about what it would mean to add cement into their homes or introduce stable walls. When the families are open to the change, we step in to help make it happen. We connect with the families to get to know them and understand what they need. There are no promises made because we never know what we can deliver. It’s dependent on fundraising and the local resources available. When we arrive at the worksite ready to start, the families are surprised and excited. It’s almost like a surprise party and it really brings people together.
What is it like to be a Caritas Smile volunteer?
“Take A Trip Change A Life” is the name of the volunteer program in the Dominican Republic. The name is significant because of the truth behind it— many former volunteers tell us about how these trips change them forever. There is so much material wealth in the US, it can be life changing to see countries where that doesn’t exist. Those countries, like the Dominican Republic, have such spiritual richness and a strong meaning for life. The people have so much generosity and happiness despite not having the opportunities we have in the US. The trip isn’t for everybody, you have to have an interview before you can apply. There is a fee associated with the trip that funds the project materials — lumber, cement, and building necessities. Many volunteers don’t speak Spanish but they still find a way to communicate and connect with the community. Everyone is in harmony with one another and it’s incredibly beautiful.
What is the best part of your job?
My favorite part is the end of the service project when we come together and say what we are grateful for. It’s really magical to see the joy on everyone’s face after working so hard. Acknowledging that we can achieve so much with such little resources is a powerful moment. The volunteers are so thankful to the community for letting them in, and the community is so grateful for the help they received. My favorite quote is, “The purpose of life is to find your gift, but the meaning of life is to give it away.” Everything we do in the Dominican Republic is giving away our gifts, and in turn we experience the meaning of life.