About Be Happy Haiti
Be Happy Haiti is a non-profit 501c(3) organization devoted to Haitian dental care (predominantly but not exclusively pediatric dental care) via employment of Haitian dentists and dental assistants — our goal is to support the community of LaVallee, Haiti in providing consistent, year-round preventive dental care, as well as restorative care, to tens-of-thousands of Haitians whose dental needs would otherwise go unmet. What we do is different because our “mission” is not about a “mission trip.” Rather than short term, volunteer centered trips, BHH is focused on providing opportunities to Haitian professionals. These dentists know the community and its needs better than we ever could, and our aim is to support and sustain their work through providing salaries, supplies, organization, data tracking, and general managerial work—with a readiness to respond to problems as they arise.
We first came to La Vallee — an area in the mountains overlooking the art district Jacmel — in 2011. The trip was a part of relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake, and we were there as a part of the Nashville Cathedral of the Incarnation’s Twinning Program efforts. We were administering vaccines and emergency medications to our “twin” or “sister” parish in Haiti as part of a long-standing partnership stemming from the work of a woman named Theresa Patterson, who established a national organization called Parish Twinning Program of the Americas (PTPA).
Public Health: Such advanced tooth decay as seen in this child’s mouth is a way of life for too many Haitian children, impairing their ability to study, eat well, and live a healthy life. BHH operates on a public health model by preventing such damage by using fluoride and sealing the childrens’ teeth, only resorting to extraction when necessary.
Dr. Garraud taking dental care directly to the children in the schools.
As high school students, able to help with some aspects of the medical care, we were impressed by the magnitude of the public health problem posed by a virtual absence in the region of ongoing preventive pediatric dental care. This led us to address this driving unmet need of how to find the children, provide fluoride and seal their teeth in a sustainable Haitian-driven manner. This led to the birth of Be Happy Haiti. Given our lack of resources and skills as 15 year olds, we decided to capitalize on what we had learned. Over many meals and long conversations, we asked what was needed and how we could help. Trying to maintain a healthy reality of what little we truly understood about Haitian’s lives and their necessities, we took a step back and asked others how we could help. We learned that there were needs being overlooked, and Haitian professionals eager to do the work to meet those needs, but unable to find salaries for that work. We felt that with the right partners, we could work to provide salaries and acquire donations from benefactors, as well as supplies from generous dental companies. So that is precisely what we do through BHH: maintain a pediatric dental clinic and a mobile dental unit that serves dozens of schools in the LaVallee/Jacmel region of Haiti.
We will continue this work, evolving with the growth of our organization and the community we aim to support, and it is our great privilege to share in many more smiles to come alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters.