MISSION: TO EMPOWER CHILDREN WITH CULTURAL AND POLITICAL AWARENESS, EDUCATION, AND WELLNESS.
Site for Smiles and Smarts was founded by Fez Zafar in January 2014. Inspired by the groundbreaking initiatives led by students within the Davidson Institute's Ambassador Program, Fez felt motivated to make a difference, and Site for Smiles and Smarts was born, with the initial mission of providing children with an education.
Site for Smiles and Smarts initially partnered with the Mashal School, a non-profit school based in Islamabad, Pakistan, to fund the monthly tuition of children growing up in slums. Donations were raised throughout the year in a variety of ways: from door-knocking in frigid temperatures to recycling thousands of neighbors' cans (at five cents each), Site for Smiles and Smarts gradually gained the support of Fez's local Des Moines community. By the end of its first year, the fledgling organization had raised $4000 for Pakistani children.
In March 2016, Site for Smiles and Smarts expanded its efforts to Uganda as well as Central Iowa. In Uganda, the foundation previously partnered with Alice Achan's Pader Girls Academy, a school for young female victims of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). In doing so, the foundation began funding health check-ups for HIV-positive patients, while also raising donations to provide young mothers with vocational training. In Central Iowa, Site for Smiles and Smarts occasionally partners with the Boys and Girls Club through 'Feeding the Future', a program that serves to provide backpacks filled with food for disadvantaged students in Iowa.
As a 501(c)3 public foundation, Site for Smiles and Smarts has previously expanded its healthcare initiatives by funding corneal transplants and cleft-palate surgeries in Pakistan, monthly check-ups for rural Guatemalans, and snacks for youth on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
In 2017, Site for Smiles and Smarts branched into its third mission: to spread cultural and political awareness across America in the hope of restoring unity. The foundation currently serves as the parent organization to the American Iftar Dinner, an initiative that encourages Americans to come together in the form of a multicultural and inter-political gathering. In order to engage students in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential Election, Site for Smiles and Smarts recently organized the Youth Voice Forum, a presidential town hall that allowed students from across Iowa to engage with six presidential candidates about issues affecting young Americans.
Through its efforts, Site for Smiles and Smarts serves as a youth organization by kids, for kids, and continues to make our world a better place.