Our story


First of all, I would like to express gratitude to God (the Universe, whatever name you give the divine ) for allowing me to live my purpose. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams given that I am living my dream of volunteering around the world. So I guess I should share a little bit about myself. My name is Nelson Santos and I am the founder of Smiling Times.

I started Smiling Times back in 2013 as positive news media outlet that would engage people to smile more often. I guess you could say that is when the journey began and my quest to travel the world to help those in need. My life changing process began in 2009 when I was 25 years old. At the time, I was extremely overweight as I weighed about 220 pounds (I loved pizza and still do). I now weigh 150 pounds and I’m in good shape, you can see the results below.

I had my yearly checkup with my doctor and she mentioned that something like a staggering 90% of people will keep whatever weight they are at this age. Sometimes we hear something that resonates with us and that statement certainly resonated with me. However, I did not know where to begin. Right around that time, my girlfriend and I went to a book store, which I thought was a pointless endeavor, and she asked me why don’t I pick up a book and read for a change. So I figured why not? I then walked to the self-help section and one book in-particular caught my attention. The title was “Awaken the Giant Within.” The first few lines stated that your life is about choices and you could say that I never looked back after that.

I bought the book and started my new journey along with the beginning of my weight loss. A few weeks later, I was listening to the radio and an advertisement came on in regards to making a difference in the world from The United Way in conjunction with Hands on Miami, which is part of the largest volunteer organization in the United States, The Hands on Network. The Hands on Network was founded by Michelle Nun and George W. Bush.

I never volunteered before that day and volunteering never even crossed my mind. That day I was working with a farm share program which serves as a vital link between farmers with surplus produce and social service agencies that provide food to people in need. Volunteers help sort, bag and distribute produce and food to the homeless community and the agencies that serve them. I remember that day like it was yesterday as I never felt such a rewarding experience. The immense amount of love that I felt with my fellow volunteers was amazing, and the fact that everyone was simply there to help out those in need who they’ve never met and nobody was paid anything other than gratitude. It was a surreal moment for me. Needless to say, I fell in love with volunteering and shortly after I received an email from Hands On Miami about taking on more responsibility by leading volunteer projects and being a point of contact for the NGO. I felt a calling and signed up for the next volunteer leader orientation which was lead by Darrell Glascher, who is one of the most amazing men that I have ever met.

His passion for humanity and helping others was so inspiring that I knew I wanted to be more like him. Shortly after, I started leading projects at least once a month if not more. In the following years, I became deeply involved with other NGO's in Miami-Dade and Broward county and I even was recognized as volunteer of the year by Hands on Broward. Every time I step into the role of volunteer/project leader I felt like I was living my purpose. However, I knew I wanted to take this to an even higher level and there was a bigger calling for me in life. That calling was helping those around the world.

So that leads me to where I am today. In May 2016 I decided to embark on a journey of a lifetime which started off in Alaska and at the time of this writing, I am currently in Thailand on a mission to volunteer around the world. By purchasing a Smiling Times t’shirt, not only will you be supporting a brand intended to spread a message of love, but I also donate 10% of the proceeds to any NGO I work with. Furthermore, you would be allowing me to volunteer full-time and spread love.

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