Ayesha Lari is the founder of ‘Spreading Smiles’- a community building platform whose main purpose is to bring comfort to the underprivileged and spread smiles all across Spreading Smiles was founded a decade ago with some volunteers with a shared passion for helping others and making a difference in our community. Over the years, they have grown into a larger organization with a dedicated team of volunteers and supporters. They also have been able to reach out to more people and help them in various ways.
Before we get into conversation with Ayesha Lari, and debunked about her life story and the motivation behind her organization, let her give us a overview of how far ‘Spreading Smiles’ have come and what the future holds.
In the words of Ayesha Lari.
It’s a great feeling to be able to look back and see how far we have come in the past 10 years.
Spreading Smiles is a volunteer-run organization that has been working to build strong, vibrant communities for the past 10 years. Our volunteers have been involved in a variety of activities to help build strong relationships between individuals and groups in the community.
We have organized events such as community clean-ups, block parties, and holiday celebrations to bring people together and foster a sense of belonging. We have also provided resources and support to local organizations and initiatives that are working to improve the quality of life in the community.
In addition, we have worked to create opportunities for people to get involved in their community. We have organized volunteer projects, mentorship programs, and educational workshops to help people learn new skills and gain a better understanding of their community.
Finally, we have worked to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone in the community. We have held events to celebrate diversity and promote understanding and respect for all members of the community.
Through our work, we have been able to create a strong sense of community and foster a spirit of collaboration and support. We are proud of the work we have done and look forward to continuing to build strong, vibrant communities in the years to come.
Lets get the conversation started with Ayesha Lari.
S.D: Share some glimpse of your childhood, what was your family and childhood like?
I am Ayesha Majid Lari, born and brought up in Lahore; from a family of 3 daughters and my father was a business man. Like any other educated Pakistani middle class family, ours was also a happy go lucky one.
But, unfortunately in Dec 1990, I was almost 10 years old when my mother had her first attack of brain hemorrhage and paralysis right in front of my eyes resulting in coma and leaving us in despair. That moment changed my entire life leading to many upheavals from deterioration of my parents’ health to collapse of family business ultimately putting me into an emotional, financial and social struggle.
With a drive to do something in life I remained positive and paved my way relentlessly with completing my education with the help of some extended family member and doing some odd chores while completing my Masters in HRM (best fitted for me as I had a flair of connecting with humans) putting behind my other passion to play National level cricket and now have spent 19 years plus in the corporate as HR professional.
S.D: What motivated you to start ‘spreading smiles’ foundation?
After spending 21 years of illness and a constant deterioration in health my mother (whose service was the purpose of my life), left for her final abode to meet her creator in 2011. I continued to take care of my father who also had a crucial time with his illness for almost 15+ years along with my full time jobs to take care of the family completely. Somehow, after my mother’s passing away there was some void inside me which was not at rest and was seeking a bigger purpose in life. And fate took me to an old home during Ramzan in 2013 which was definitely an eye opener and life altering point as well. In my heart I was determined to bring small comforting experiences for people around me and got motivated to work in an organized manner to support the people specially in my homeland and overall too.
S.D: How do you feel about your initiative now? Are you having the impact you hoped for at the outset?
Being a humanist by nature and founder of a community building platform by the name of Spreading Smiles supporting the less privileged pan Pakistan striving to bring smiles on every face I take immense pride and feel humble in the truest of meaning.
I am truly joyful at the steadfast growth of our initiative which is somewhat more than my expectation but have hoped to accelerate and spread smiles in the society.
S.D: What is the hardest decision the organization has had to make recently?
A little turbulence here and there has been faced in general but recently there was a big challenge of saving one very deserving person’s both eyes due to a cornea issue and he had to go through a cornea transplant which was costing a fortune for him. The team got together and researched for the best possible places to get the treatment done and to ensure best possible results. Fortunately, the doctor was kind enough who waived 50% charges but still the expense was quite steep and time was short. And with every passing incident our faith gets stronger since we were able to get the treatment done with most appreciable results.
S.D: What can you say is your best reward for choosing to found this organization?
The major believe in the power of manifestation and results definitely depends on one’s intention.
As it being said in Hadith:
Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.
Book: Sahih Bukhari, Chapter: Revelation, Hadees No. 1
In my personal’s case I cannot be grateful for all the happiness, respect and physically being awarded with all major comforts of life by the grace of almighty. A unique sense of appreciation through his creation has been bestowed upon me which leaves me in an awe. The passion to go and grow beyond the stars yet experiencing the sense of contentment without much of worldly desires is the biggest reward my Allah has conferred on me.
S.D: Which person has had the most influence on you and your life?
I wear different hats all the time but for my passion around community building definitely comes with inspiration of Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi, my spirit of volunteering without any judgement comes from my mentor, my Guru Shahnaz MinAllah. The softness of the heart, being forgiving and being meticulous to a level where sometimes being perceived as an assertive one comes from my parents.
S.D: What are the challenges that your foundation is facing?
We want to grow spreading smiles in productive streams where empowering the community specially the youth is the biggest challenge. The stringent processes to make the organizations transparent, authentic and legalized in this part of the world has become really tough.
S.D: Is there anything that you wish more people knew about your organization or the issues you are trying to solve?
Yes for sure general awareness about the cause where we want to support the community in our own unique ways and provide solutions for bigger concerns e.g. employability, education, hygiene, general life skills and bringing smiles on every face of this planet earth via supporting financially, socially, economically and taking care of the marginalized societies of our community.
S.D: How can one involve with ‘Spreading smiles’ foundation other than funding them?
By physically volunteering in projects, planning and executing new ideas for community building.
Verification of cases is also a strong stream which is absolutely critical and important to maintain transparency and utilization and allocation to the right and might.