HOPE SMILES IS A DENTAL NONPROFIT WITH A TWIST: IT FOCUSES ON LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT, NOT JUST IN-AND-OUT RELIEF PROJECTS.
“MY SON WAS diagnosed with cancer,” says Dr. Don Taylor, a dentist at Buda Dental Professionals in Buda, Texas, and executive director of the nonprofit Hope Smiles. “I’d been away from the church for 30 years. I promised God that if He helped my son, I’d get back to my faith.”
Despite that poor theology, his son was soon cancer-free. Later, Dr. Taylor was at church when he learned of an upcoming relief trip to Haiti. There he met Philip Kemp, the founder of Hope Smiles (hopesmiles.org).
The Nashville-based group focuses on long-term development, employment and sustainability. “The nonprofit world is full of well-intentioned people,” Dr. Taylor says. “They go into the world with the best motivations. In reality, after the trip is over, you leave a hole in that fabric of society because no one is there to step in.” Hope Smiles has a different idea.
Despite its challenges, Haiti does have a substantial upper class. Hope Smiles is a social enterprise: Income is generated from wealthier citizens who pay for dental services provided at Hope Smiles’s clinic in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. The group then puts that money back into other, smaller mobile clinics to help broaden access to care. (Benco territory rep Cary Barrs is headed to Haiti with Hope Smiles this autumn; for more information about the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The model creates employment for Haitian dental professionals and promotes access to care over a greater area. Hope Smiles is also developing a patient-education module, taught in French or local dialects.
“We seek partnerships with North American doctors and dental corporations to address these issues,” Dr. Taylor says. “It’s not just about doing dentistry. It’s about showing people a way to help that makes more sense.”