KINGSTON, R.I. – March 12, 2021 – On Three Kings Day in 2010, Sixcia Devine, her mother and 4-year-old son delivered toys, clothes, medical supplies and food to Moncion in the Dominican Republic—kicking off a nonprofit endeavor that has blossomed over the past decade.
“The experience was so life-changing we continued to help communities every year,” says Devine, who graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and Spanish and a minor in international development. “We held fundraisers, annual events, and professional networking groups to collect donations.”
Today, the Rhode Island-based Caritas Smile reaches out to those in need on a much wider level, including service trips that send participants to several developing countries and a Spanish tutoring program.
Devine, of Cranston, will return to URI virtually on Thursday, March 18, for the annual Anthony J. Risica Lecture Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The online lecture, sponsored by the Colleges of Business and Engineering, starts at 3:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. To register for the event, go to the Risica Lecture webpage.
In her talk, Devine, who also owns a marketing firm and is a national speaker for Grow with Google, will discuss her career journey and share “ideas of how taking small, meaningful action steps can create a ripple effect on the world.”
That is the mission of Caritas Smile, a bilingual name that plays off a Spanish term of endearment, “small face.”
About six years after starting Caritas Smile, Devine hatched the idea for its Take a Trip Change a Life program, which provides transformative service trips that bring participants to developing countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Colombia and Honduras. The very first trip was made up of URI students, who helped with marketing, social media and created marketing reports during their week-long journey to Moncion. The organization now conducts three trips a year for groups of about 12 to 15 people. In the morning, they build homes, schools, and help in the communities. In the afternoon, they hike, swim, sightsee, practice mindfulness, yoga and learn the culture.
“Caritas Smile is a soulful, purpose-driven, organization dedicated to positively transforming lives and engaging with humanity through transformative service experiences,” Devine says. “Together, we empower both travelers and the communities that we visit to create a deeper understanding of nature and human connectivity while giving back to communities.”
During the pandemic, the organization was forced to cancel three trips. But it launched an online language program, Goodly Language, which offers one-on-one tutoring to help travelers and students learn conversational Spanish.
Devine’s career mission was fostered at URI, where she found a community of role models, including legendary communications professor Agnes Doody and Frank and Sharon Forleo in the Talent Development program. “Academically, URI helped me think critically, articulate ideas, speak differently and become passionate about communication skills,” she says. “The skills that I gained from URI undoubtedly helped me to help others.”
Along with Caritas Smile, Devine also runs Sixcia Devine Marketing, which she started in 2010, and is a national trainer in the Grow with Google speaker program, providing workshops to entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, universities and job seekers on topics ranging from digital skills to growing a business online.
She is one of 14 speakers on the national level, and was the first bilingual educator to join the program.
“My message to all my attendees and learners is fundamentally about the power of service—
service by educating, empowering and inspiring your clients and community,” Devine says. “I offer examples of the work that I do with Caritas Smile and the businesses that flourish because of the service philosophy. By helping and teaching others, you are learning and growing while making a difference.”
The Anthony J. Risica Lecture Series was established in 2003 with a generous gift from Anthony Risica, a URI engineering alumnus. The biannual event invites prominent leaders in engineering and business to share their knowledge with the campus community and public.