Spreading hope of a future for impoverished children is catalyst for UAB grad student’s success

Spreading hope of a future for impoverished children is catalyst for UAB grad student’s success
A drive to help others has driven Caroline Richey's life work, for which she received a scholarship from Phi Alpha Honor Society in November. Richey was recognized for her work in helping poverty-stricken children in the Dominican Republic. (Yvonne Taunton/UAB)
Richey was thrilled with her honors through Phi Alpha Honor Society. (UAB)

A huge heart for kids who seemingly have been forgotten is what drives Caroline Richey to her passion for service.

Richey, a graduate student, was the first-place winner of the Phi Alpha Honor Society Master of Social Work Scholarship Program this past fall. It is a highly competitive program where eligible students submit a four-part essay describing their involvement in community service, academics, leadership roles and future career goals. Richey’s application was chosen as the best by judges from across the United States.

On Nov. 9, Richey accepted the scholarship along with a plaque and an all-expenses-paid trip to present at the Phi Alpha International Meeting of the International Council in conjunction with the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Richey attributes her win to heavy involvement within her self-started nonprofit, #Missionaryatheart, which seeks to assist homeless Dominican children who suffer from living in poverty and are unable to gain access to basic living necessities such as food, water and clothing.

“My nonprofit has greatly impacted my life, especially regarding my service to others and leadership roles,” Richey said. “I am very grateful that I was able to receive this award and have the opportunity to share with others at the CSWE conference about my nonprofit and other achievements.”

“Caroline has always been humble about her nonprofit, #Missionaryatheart,” said Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Social Work. “I didn’t even learn about it until she was a senior in our BSW program; but looking back now, her experiences with Dominican kids showed through in the classroom and her passion for social justice.”

As for her future social work endeavors, Richey would love to work for an agency that works closely with children living in poverty who have been abused, abandoned and neglected.

“I have always had a servant’s heart and a desire to help others,” Richey said. “I enjoy being able to live out my calling through social work, and I plan to continue growing and developing my nonprofit. I’m always excited to see what the future holds for #Missionaryatheart.”

Richey also credits UAB for playing a large role in her ability to receive the award.

“One of my professors mentioned the possible scholarship opportunity to me,” Richey said. “I really feel that I found my place by obtaining my undergraduate and now graduate degrees from UAB. Many of my achievements have been due to the support received from the Department of Social Work at UAB. They helped push me to be the best that I can be, and I’m very thankful for that.”

“Social work is a profession about helping vulnerable populations meet their basic needs and improve their life circumstances,” Hitchcock said. “The profession is a perfect fit for Caroline, who, at a young age, saw the needs of children in the Dominican Republic and decided to make a difference in their lives.”

Throughout the process, Richey says, she learned many new things about herself.

“What stands out to me the most is that, even though I am young, I have in fact achieved many accomplishments in life,” she said. “All of my hard work was recognized as a result of this award, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Richey received her bachelor’s degree in social work in 2018 from UAB, where she was also the treasurer for the Student Social Work Organization. She is an advanced standing Master of Social Work student at UAB.

For more information on her nonprofit, #Missionaryatheart, visit http://www.dominicankids.com/.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News site.

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