A Few Days in the Shoes of a Social Entrepreneur in Haiti

05/25/2016 12:46 pm ET Updated May 26, 2017

Touching down in Port-au-Prince last month, I was excited to experience a country that is unlike anywhere I've ever been. I was even more excited to see first-hand the work of Resolution Fellow Jess Laporte. Jess and I have been working together for well over a year now, ever since I was assigned as her mentor ("Guide") through The Resolution Project, a nonprofit that supports and empowers socially-responsible young leaders through seed funding, mentorship, and resources.

As a Guide to Jess, I help her navigate the plentiful resources that The Resolution Project offers to Fellows, such as legal support, supply chain advice, and help in strengthening investor and partnership cultivation. I've found the experience of being a Resolution Guide incredibly fulfilling, but getting to see the work on the ground and devoting a few days to working closely with Jess was truly an unparalleled experience.

Jess is an amazing social entrepreneur; as an undergrad at Tufts, she worked with The Archimedes Project to develop the idea for her social venture, Kouzin Dlo. Thanks to seed funding from The Resolution Project, Jess was then able to implement the business on the ground, moving to Haiti just 20 days after graduating. Kouzin Dlo trains women as micro-entrepreneurs to sell clean water products in their own communities. This model not only brings Kouzin Dlo's effective products to communities at a price that's 90 times cheaper than other clean drinking water options, but it also creates economic opportunities in marginalized communities.

While working with Jess remotely is effective--between monthly phone calls and reviewing various documents--I knew this experience would allow Jess to leverage my skills even more, and would give us uninterrupted time to work through some big picture planning. Plus, I've been bitten hard by the travel bug and am always eager to travel to exciting new places. Haiti has always been of interest to me, and I knew that this would be a unique and amazing way to get to see it.

In advance of my trip, Jess and I agreed on an action plan for my visit, which included three major areas of focus: communications strategy, content creation, and goal setting. Once I arrived in Haiti, we got to work on each of these priorities, in addition to having some interesting conversations about Haiti, politics and policy, marketing and communications, global poverty, and much more. Jess and I talked constantly as she also showed me around the country, introducing me to its natural beauty, its vibrant culture, and its hospitable and resilient citizens.

Since Jess is so connected to other social entrepreneurs in Haiti, I had the chance to visit some like-minded organizations and businesses doing great work. To start, I stayed at Haiti Communitere, an NGO that supports community growth and renewal. It's a co-living, co-working space that acts as a hub of connection and innovation. Through this collaborative space, I connected with international and local leaders, like the Soley Leve Peace Prize, which celebrates positive changemakers in Cite Soleil, one of the poorest and most notorious slums in Port-au-Prince.

We also met leaders at Share Hope, a business that places contracts for apparel production in Haitian factories, with profits funding initiatives that benefit the lives of the Haitian workers, such as a high school completion program that we saw in action. I also got to see Jasper House in Jacmel, and three Port-au-Prince based social enterprises: Papillion, Rebuild Globally, and Haiti Design Co-op. Jess also works with the wonderful people at Singing Rooster Coffee Company so I got an inside taste of their operations. It made my trip so special to get such a deep look into this network of thoughtful and impactful social businesses that truly care about expanding economic empowerment and skills-building for local Haitians.

My trip to Haiti was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and a wonderful extension of my work as a Resolution Guide. I got to see a country through the eyes of a young social entrepreneur who is working tirelessly to promote the health and economic well-being of a disenfranchised country. I saw and learned so much, and I felt empowered to see how my expertise and skills were able to contribute to the impact Jess is creating. If you are interested in getting involved as a mentor to Resolution Fellows like Jess, you can learn more on Resolution's website.

Angela Duffy is a volunteer mentor (Guide) for The Resolution Project, a unique pathway to action for aspiring young social entrepreneurs, growing a global community of socially responsible leaders. Founded in 2007, Resolution identifies young leaders through Social Venture Challenges and empowers them to make a positive impact today through Resolution Fellowships. Resolution Fellows receive dynamic, hands-on support to implement their ventures and to develop as socially-responsible leaders.