Boomcast username: Unspoken_Smiles
"I never expected I would be living in the United States," Jean Paul shared. He grew up in Haiti, but his journey to the United States started back in 2004 when political turmoil erupted in his country. "It was the only way I was going to make something of myself, the only way to get a good education," he said of his choice to move. He arrived at the airport with his dad and brother to hear shots going off. They had to fight their way through the crowds, but once inside, they knew they were halfway there.
"All I had was a suitcase and a dream,"
he said of his arrival to the states. They landed in New York and stayed with his uncle while they attended school to learn English, improving quickly through immersion and working various jobs. Eventually, he began school for dentistry at NYU and is now continuing his studies at Columbia University.
After the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, JP traveled home to help care for children. It was a shock to return, after his world view had grown so much in the previous years. He saw many infections as results of poor dental hygiene, and wanted to find a way to help and educate on a greater scale. When he returned back to New York he began fundraising and networking, soon creating his organization, Unspoken Smiles. The idea came from creating something bigger than just healthcare, he said, "I wanted a meaningful name. It is about give and take. I give smiles and I get smiles."
He started Unspoken Smiles alone, but has watched his dream grow through determination. He entered a competition at Harvard where entrepreneurs could present their ideas. He made it to the finals. He was still fairly new to learning english at the time, and it was his first time speaking to a crowd, but he just "spoke from the heart." He said that he realized,
"it is not about me, my color, my background, it is about my idea. Ideas have the power to take you places."
Unspoken smiles is now operating in 6 countries so far, with representatives addressing dental health care in small communities. With headquarters in Italy, Romania, India, Saudi Arabia, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, it is slowly making waves in the forefront of dental healthcare worldwide.
"Bad habits at a young age tend to carry on. There is a fear of the dentist and also a distrust, the people in the communities think we're trying to take their money. I am constantly facing this problem. There is room to make a big difference around the world and build a great relationship with patients in their communities. It is not sustainable when people go once, we want to get them engaged continuously. Unspoken Smiles focuses mainly on children because they are the future. A lot of their problems can be reversed before they have their permanent teeth and we can help them create good habits."
Throughout his journey, he has shared his progress on social media. It continues to remain an imperative tool for him, connecting a support network of family and friends as well as measuring the impact his organization creates. JP's goal is to see more people get involved. It is not just about providing dental care, but about finding people that share his passion and enthusiasm. An Unspoken Smiles app is currently in the works, but in the meantime, you can take their pledge. If you're interested, you can also learn more information about becoming a rep or a country sponsor on their site.
Look out for JP's inspirational stories and join the conversation on Boomcast!