NAUGATUCK — One borough resident hopes smiles are contagious.
Saba Shahid, 21, has started a campaign called Project Contagious, which is aimed at helping people smile and promoting dental hygiene.
Shahid has been developing this project for over two years, while she was a student at Quinnipiac University.
“It simply started with the idea of smiling. Project Contagious is based off of ‘a smile is contagious.’” Shahid said.
Project Contagious’ main elements are SMILE, which stands for Seize the day, Memories, Inspire, Love, and Environment.
“Those five things make up ‘a SMILE is contagious’ and are what Project Contagious revolves around,” Shahid said.
Shahid said the elements of SMILE are something a person can do every day.
“Seize the day, for example, doesn’t just mean jumping out of an airplane,” Shahid said.
Shahid spoke of her brother, who was in an accident and told by his doctors that it would take a year before he was able to recover.
“He took that in his own hands and he took every opportunity for therapy every single day to make the most of it. So he seized his day because he wanted to get better. He didn’t want it to take that year,” Shahid said.
Environment encompasses healthy choices and healthy living such as exercising and saying no to drugs and underage drinking, Shahid said.
“Inspiration is be someone’s hero. To me being a hero doesn’t mean you have to do something extravagant, like what firefighters and police officers do every day. You could do something small, like teaching a child to tie their shoes,” Shahid said.
Shahid said she began Project Contagious to help bring joy to people.
“One thing that really motivated me to start this is everything that’s going on nowadays. In the news you don’t see many happy, inspiring things. It’s mostly just sad, unfortunate events that are going around. So, I thought this would be a good time to implement happiness into people’s lives,” Shahid said.
Shahid also feels a smile is an act that crosses cultural boundaries.
“Smiling is a universal language almost,” Shahid said. “It’s the closest distance between two people. So to be able to spread that is important, especially in the type of world we live in nowadays.”
As Project Contagious develops, Shahid is hoping to spread her message of SMILE to children through presentations in schools. However, making people smile is not the only goal of Project Contagious.
“There’s two components to Project Contagious. One is the educational [component] and the second is spreading smiles through dental hygiene. You can’t have dental hygiene without clean water,” Shahid said.
Project Contagious is raising money to help build biosand filters in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Shahid said she became interested in helping build the filters after a classmate at Quinnipiac, who was from Kathmandu, told her about how difficult it was to find clean water in the city.
Biosand filters are concrete wells that are filled with layers of rock, pebbles and sand. When water is dumped on them the rocks and sand remove many of the contaminates in the water. The clean water is then removed from the well.
Shahid said these filters would help reduce the chances of disease and death from contaminated water.
Shahid said Project Contagious is raising money to build the filters through the website www.rally.org/projectcontagious.
Shahid is also working to garner non-profit status for Project Contagious. However, she does not expect it to be a short endeavor.
“Stuff like this takes time,” Shahid said.
While she works on building the funds for the filters, Shahid has not stopped trying to make people smile.
Shahid leaves small business cards around reminding people to smile and directing them to Project Contagious’ website, www.projectcontagious.com.
“I’m always smiling. It’s just a personal attribute of mine, I guess, and I wanted to share it with others since it brings me so much joy,” Shahid said.