Interview with Elif Kaya, 15 year old founder of One Smile Effect!

Elif Kaya is a 15-year-old high school student from Istanbul, Turkey. She loves solving problems whether it is by leading an organization that helps people in the global scope, building robots or by cramming math textbooks. She aspires to use her creativity to tackle more challenging issues in the future!

Interview by Daania Sharifi

Could you start off by introducing yourself to the readers? Name, age, interests, and what of stuff you spend time doing. Passions etc?

My name is Elif Kaya. I am 15. I am a high school freshman from Istanbul, Turkey. I love mathematics, philosophy, solving puzzles, creative writing, and anything that involves a mystery. I usually spend time doing research or reading to fulfill the desire I have for learning.

Talk to us about founding onesmileeffect, How did you come up with the idea? How did you create it? What is One Smile Effects mission?

Actually, again, I was researching. I came across this article about the psychological effects of COVID-19. As I read the article, I was quite surprised with what I saw. Even though I suspected people must be feeling stressed out, I didn't imagine the levels of depression, suicidal behaviors, substance use would elevate this much due to the pandemic. After seeing how badly people were affected, I decided to take initiative. One Smile Effect's mission is to create a global connection where people can provide each other the emotional support they need during the pandemic. We have successfully connected with +400 people from +5 countries, and are working to reach out to a bigger scope.

How have you learned more about yourself and gained new skills from starting One Smile Effect?

Before starting One Smile Effect, I was an individualistic person, I'd want to do everything by myself within a project. Even when I recruited team members; at first it was hard for me to switch to a team mindset, where I'd depend on other people. However, later on, I have learned the value of team work, collaboration, and open communication.

Love that! What do you hope to study in the future? Has One Smile opened career ideas that you never thought you would be interested?

I want to study mathematics. One Smile Effect didn't change my mind on what I'll do future career wise. However, it made me realize that I have the core skills needed for my future career. Problem solving, creativity, and strategic thinking.

Who is your biggest inspiration? What is so inspiring about them?

I get inspired within. Knowing my values and what I am looking for in life definitely empowers me.

How have you been coping with quarantine and the current state of everything? What do you do to past time?

Indecisiveness and unpredictability overwhelms me from time to time but my team helped me a lot to get out of that mindset. I am taking advanced math courses. I am a part of a FIRST Robotics Competition team, and currently learning mechanics from my mentors. In short, I am devoting this free time on learning and personal development. For the organization; we are working on Creativity Days (live videos of our members teaching a creative skill they have to spread positivity), other activities (movie nights, trivia games, etc.) , and also our support group for stress management and anxiety which will be launched in June.

Any advice you have to teens?

Do not let opportunities go away. Whenever you see a new one , hold on to it tightly. If there isn't any available; go create it yourself, mess it up, rebuild it again, it's a world of your imagination. Don't be afraid to use it! Also, never stop questioning things!

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