“It was tragedy that led me to activism,” says Jean Paul Laurent. Originally from Haiti, Jean Paul was an undergraduate at NYU when his homeland was rocked by a devastating earthquake. After seeing the damage firsthand, the idea of simply pursuing a career in dental hygiene gave way to a powerful urge to help.
That's how the Unspoken Smiles Foundation was born. Dedicated to fighting tooth decay — originally in Haiti, and now around the world — Unspoken Smiles brings dental supplies, volunteer dentists, and dental hygiene education to some of the world's most underserved communities. But it's about more than dental hygiene. The real targets of Unspoken Smiles are systemic poverty, disease, and lack of access to health care.
The growing foundation has racked up awards and accolades, and served more than 6,000 children in seven countries. Now in a major fundraising phase, Jean Paul plans to scale larger, increase staff, and develop partnerships with major international organizations. Meanwhile, he's established a fellowship program that trains young women to provide oral care in their own urban communities. The goal: more smiles and less suffering for marginalized people everywhere. “Tragedy changed me,” Jean Paul says, “and now I'm changing the world.”