Brief History of The Smiles Foundation
Established to make a Smile – Developed to make an Impact!
In 1990, just months after the fall of Ceausescu in Romania, the Smiles Foundation’s founders, Kevin Hoy and Nia Jones visited State orphanages in several major Romanian cities. Of the thousands of children seen, one common observation was noted with them all – a total lack of Smiles.
Kevin and Nia vowed to return to Romania to make a Smile appear on the faces of children and parents struggling for life in this impoverished nation.
After several years of regular visits to Romania, supported by many from the UK and America who were providing significant aid for distribution and funding for several ongoing projects, Kevin and Nia decided to establish an official Charity – The Smiles Foundation. They and an army of like-minded people began the work to help bring Smiles to the Romanian people.
Established in 1997, first as a ‘charitable club’, the Smiles Club subsequently became a fully approved Charity in the United Kingdom, America and Romania itself.
The Charity seeks to relieve poverty, promote education and provide hope & opportunity for many through a variety of projects which include Evangelistic Outreach, Food Distribution, Medical Support, Social Assistance, Education, Elderly care, Child Care and Housing provision.
2006 was a significant year with several major project facilities completed. The Cihei offices were completed and the Cihei Children’s Centre was opened and operated for three years, followed by an Elderly Care Centre until 2013. The Emergency Housing Unit in Mierlou was finished (providing shelter for families suffering domestic abuse). We also finished building a new Community Centre in Gepiu which includes a Day Centre providing education, training in life-skills and outreach to the entire community.
In Tileagd, phase 1 of building the community complex incorporating a new School for up to 250 children was completed. In 2007, phase 2 began incorporating a Medical Clinic and a Community Centre/Gymnasium for sports, social and cultural activities. Along with the Foundation’s first Church Build – the entire Complex opened in June 2008.
In 2010 Smiles purchased land in Salonta to build the Joint Facility of Love and in 2013 opened a Care Home for the Elderly. We immediately began building work on Phase 2 – a Centre for those with Disabilities, including a specialist wing for residents with Dementia. In 2014, Smiles opened ECO(Elderly Care Oradea) in partnership with the State and by 2016, JFL Phase 2 was complete and opened. Also, within the Boga Mountains, land had been purchased with a view to providing a Mountain Retreat/Camp Centre. The first Camp was in summer 2015. In 2017, the newest project was launched with converting part of the Tileagd Complex to an Adult Assisted Living facility, opened the second half of 2017.
There is no shortage of ideas for the ever expanding Smiles. The Smiles Foundation – its Board of Trustees and thousands of supporters around the world are motivated by a strong Christian faith and its teachings to help the poor and look after widows and orphans.
Today the Foundation has a Family Care project that delivers Food each and every month to 200 families. This is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s work. The Foundation has built, equipped and operates several facilities and projects including the Tileagd Community School, which includes many Gypsy children, often experiencing education for the first time in their lives.
The Social programme provides assistance for families to be properly registered with the authorities and to know the options of support available to them. The Foundation also seeks to help with employment opportunities for those physically and mentally capable of working.
The Housing project has met a desperate need for many families who have seen the economic pressures of life in Romania get on top of them. Many, having been evicted, find refuge and security in one of the 25 residential houses owned by the Foundation, provided free for families otherwise facing life on the streets. For those still facing Homelessness – Smiles has a significant project to the Homeless including a Container Village serving nearly 50 Homeless residents.
The Foundation uses the significant funds donated to its work as an investment in the people of Romania for whom the government cannot assist until it builds a strong infrastructure that can then, from a position of strength and wealth, better support the weak and poor.
With over £1 million pounds (sterling), $1.5 million US dollars invested each year, the Smiles Foundation is proving to be a Charity of significance. Operating professionally under strong leadership with oversight from Europe and America and yet promoting the growth and responsibility within the Romanian people. Currently 103 Romanian nationals are employed through the Smiles Foundation’s work.
The Smiles Foundation may be a comparatively lesser known Charity on the International stage, but for the 1500+ people among the poorest of North West Romania already benefiting from its daily work, Smiles is a ‘life-saver’.
Success is seen daily in its work through a variety of standards and assessments, both externally and within the Foundation. However, in addition to those discovering God, many people eating regularly, having a roof over their head, medical provision when sick, social assistance when in need – poor people through the Smiles Team in Romania have a friend they can rely on and that makes them Smile – that’s our Success.
Updated: February 2017
By: Kevin D. Hoy
The Smiles Foundation