By Maura Secrest
To me, philanthropy is an active effort to show love and goodwill to others. Philanthropy is so important because when we partake in it, it begins to shape who we are and the world around us. Not only does philanthropy affect the world, but it also strengthens communities and encourages involvement. My name is Maura Secrest, and in the fall of 2022, I will be a senior at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. I am a pre-professional studies major and a math minor. I am a full-time student and work as a patient care technician at Terre Haute Regional Hospital. I work in the admissions department as an admissions ambassador. I function as the secretary of the Student Activities Committee and vice president of the senior class. I also have the honor of carrying the title of a Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Scholar. I am beyond grateful for all the opportunities SMWC has provided me to get involved and serve my community and peers.
When I was thirteen, I felt a calling to make a difference in the world through my tight-knit community of Sullivan County, Indiana. I began working with local churches and organizations to sew simple dresses. Since 2014, my mission project, Dresses for Daughters of Christ (D.D.O.C.), has worked with countless missionaries to send over 6000 dresses to 13 countries across the globe. The growth of D.D.O.C. has provided opportunities that I would not believe to be possible at the conception of my mission.
When I was 15, I traveled to a small orphanage where I would spend the next three weeks farming, cooking and teaching English to 80 beautiful girls. Even though there was a significant language barrier, I built relationships with many of the girls and young women involved at the orphanage and was able to hand deliver 200 dresses. The opportunity to serve these girls who could not dream of the blessings that we have in the U.S. brought much humility into my life from that point on.
A few years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Belize in the name of D.D.O.C. While in Belize, we met the families of three different impoverished communities and worked with local contractors to help build a community center for people to gather safely and provided childcare through vacation bible study. During this trip, we were able to deliver dresses to 150 girls and outfits to 50 boys. These trips have sparked my passion for service not only through witnessing the blessings I have in my own life but also by understanding that happiness and fulfillment come not from being served but from serving others.
The best advice I can offer to those dreaming of making a difference is to start where you are. Do not be afraid of starting too small. The most important thing is to start, to take the first step. Not to say that it won’t be difficult because change is difficult. But the biggest mistake you can make is to let fear talk you out of doing something incredible. If you are passionate about making a positive impact and refuse to give up, it will only be a matter of time before things fall into place and change begins to occur. So, start where you are, be persistent and be the change.
About the author, Maura Secrest is a senior at The Woods pursuing a degree in pre-professional studies with a minor in math. She grew up in Sullivan, Indiana. At SMWC, Maura is involved in the Student Activities Committee, is senior class vice president and serves as an admissions ambassador on campus. She is also a Saint Mother Theodore Guerin scholar.