28 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Author Lauren Neder
is pictured with
Kerson, a student in
the painting class at
Imagine Missions
Professional School.
I applied to one university, and in my application essay
I wrote that I wanted to use a Purdue University engi-
neering degree to help others. As a high school student
semi-familiar with industrial engineering, I thought that
meant creating efcient processes that helped people
work better. I had no idea that, for me, it would mean
moving to Haiti to create a sustainable supply chain and utilize
an objective-based curriculum process to ensure bright futures
for 120 Haitian students as the director of Imagine Missions
Professional School.
My dad worked as a chemical engineer, so I always con-
sidered engineering to be a great career choice. During my
time at Purdue, I enjoyed learning about workflow analysis
and supplementing my IE coursework with psychology classes.
I became involved with a church on campus, and when some
members planned a spring break trip during my junior year
to Imagine Missions, a Haitian orphanage, my interest was
piqued. To be honest, the idea of going to another country and
getting to interact with some cute kids was enough to sell me,
so I signed up and went.
Mission imaginable:
Putting ISE principles to work in Haiti
Purdue grad navigates cultural, logistical challenges at Imagine Missions school in Caribbean nation
By Lauren Neder
August 2019 | ISE Magazine 29
It was that spring break in 2013 that
Haiti captured my heart. Looking back, I
know it wasnt the potential to help rein-
vent a curriculum or create a supply chain
that drew me back to Haiti – it was the
children and people themselves. I knew
I had to return to see them and help in
the ways I can. It was during that first trip
that my friendships at Imagine Missions
Orphanage started with children that are
now young adults enrolled in the Imagine
Missions Professional School.
I returned to see my friends at this
orphanage in March of 2014, and two
months later graduated with my degree
in industrial engineering, ready to change
the world. I got a job working in more of a management po-
sition than engineering but returned to Imagine Missions
whenever I could. I made six trips in those three years, and
each time I learned something new that broke my heart for
A few friends and I developed a summer camp for Imagine
Missions called Camp Imagine, and my IE skills often came
in handy in such decision-making processes as “How do we
most efficiently transport 100 children to and from a local pool
with one-and-a-half working pickup trucks so everyone gets
a turn to swim?
My first job wasnt easy. I never felt I was truly impact-
ing anyones life in a positive way. I contemplated looking for
something else and repeatedly considered moving to Haiti.
But in those four years of work, I matured and learned pa-
tience. I served on Imagine Missions’ board of directors and
learned that monthly donations are vital to the youth I love
being able to help survive and thrive. With a working salary, I
could help in that crucial way. Yet with each trip to Haiti, the
idea of living there felt increasingly plausible.
Why Imagine Missions?
Imagine Missions has been a beacon of hope for the town of
Despinos since it began eight years ago out of a need to support
an existing orphanage. The orphanage, originally built in the
1970s, houses 84 kids, 58 living inside the orphanage and 26 in
transitional housing. The transitional housing is for youth ages
18 years or older; per Haitian law, a child must move out of
an orphanage once they turn 18. Most 18-year-olds who have
lived in an orphanage arent finished with school, dont have a
trade and havent been exposed to life outside the orphanage
walls. As we’d say in America, they havent learned “how to
adult.” This causes a huge shock when in most orphanages
18-year-olds are put out and told “Good luck.
Imagine Missions does things differently. We secure hous-
ing for these young adults and continue to support them as
they continue their education. They must honor a signed con-
tract to perform weekly chores and community service. Youth
are matched with sponsors who support school, room and
board. Once they finish with school, they can continue living
in the housing and pay rent, following a grace period to allow
them time to obtain employment.
Of the 84 youth Imagine Missions supports, 47 are ages 15
or older. As the proportion of children nearing adulthood has
increased since Imagine’s inception, the need to equip youth
with skills to provide for themselves has become crucial. The
Professional School was started as a way for them to support
themselves. The school offers 15 different trades including
electricity technology, mechanic, plumbing, advertisement
painting, jewelry-making, masonry, Haitian metal art, cro-
cheting, paper flower-making, tiling, pedicurist, beautician,
barbering, computer technology and sewing.
I partnered with Imagine Missions because this organiza-
tion values and empowers the youth I love. It goes the extra
mile to ensure these incredible young people will have bright
futures and enter adulthood equipped for community life in
The challenges of life in Haiti
When I celebrated my 27th birthday in Haiti, my sister asked
if she could send a gift. But there is no mail in Haiti, nor post
offices. Though new companies are working toward provid-
ing shipping, we are a long way from Amazon. If you havent
been to Haiti, it’s hard to understand the lack of infrastructure;
it took me one month to see a traffic light and we just drove
right through it like it wasnt even there. The roads snake in
and out onto side streets with no pattern and no signage. But
everyone knows where to go and life is lived at a pace that is
frustrating and beautiful at the same time.
Because there are no post offices, postal workers arent need-
ed. Because there are few streetlights, electricians to fix them
arent needed. Thus, one can easily see why there is a lack of
Members of an electricians’ class at the Imagine Missions Professional School
are pictured with their professor, Bob, at top right.
Credit: Photos courtesy of Lauren Neder
30 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Mission imaginable: Putting ISE principles to work in Haiti
employment. Haitis unemployment rate is the highest in
the Western hemisphere, around 14%. The national pov-
erty rate is estimated at 58.6%, and having a job doesnt
always mean basic needs are met. Goods arent cheaper
because of the large number of imports; gas is $3 to $5 a
gallon and a 2-pound bag of beans is $9.
Yet imagine buying things for the same cost while mak-
ing only $2 a day. In Haiti, many live in survival mode.
Without the chance to save or plan for the future, death or
sickness can shock a family and drag them down.
Life in Haiti is hard, and even when things should work,
they find a way not to. Tasks such as getting a passport
can become a long and expensive process. It’s not uncom-
mon for birth certificates to be filed (yes, paper files) in the
wrong place or for names to be spelled incorrectly. With
all these obstacles, you are often left to trust the people
around you to help navigate and survive.
But I chose to work in Haiti not despite but because of
these struggles. Haitians are a humble, resourceful people
who deserve more. The youth at Imagine Missions de-
serve bright futures. With my background in industrial
engineering, I knew I could help make the “more” a real-
I moved to Haiti in June 2018 to restructure the Pro-
fessional School. Because I’m an IE, I could identify the
low-hanging fruit” quite easily, so I immediately began
to tackle it. Based on feedback from Haitian professors, I
increased ease and access to supplies, number of days for
class and effective ways to keep supplies flowing properly
to the many children who call Imagine Missions home.
These changes were for the better, but in hindsight I
didnt ask an important initial question: What is the goal
of professional school? To place students in jobs? To pro-
vide the opportunity to learn? Once the “low-hanging
fruit” was all “picked,” I wasnt sure where to go next. I
backtracked to that crucial question: What is the goal? It’s
amazing how much direction came from answering that.
Upon reflection, the goal of the Professional School be-
came clear: To provide education outside of an academic
classroom to give career options to our students. Ideally,
students will experience one of two desired outcomes:
nd a job in the field they are studying, or learn a means
through which they can build savings to pursue higher
As Professional School director, my first role is to help
a student identify which path to pursue. Secondly, it is to
empower professors to best teach students to become pro-
ficient in their field. The third is to create avenues of profit
for our students, for artistry-based classes like metalwork.
Because of my IE training, I felt I could do all three.
When I answered “What is the goal” followed by “What
is my role,” it led me to my next steps: create life plans
A student works laying tile as hands-on practice during a tiling
class at the Professional School.
A student in sewing class draws out a pattern for a shirt she
will make.
August 2019 | ISE Magazine 31
with our students; implement objective-based curriculums for
our teachers; and set up a supply chain to help our students sell
goods in America.
Creating life plans
This may be my favorite role. A student creating a life plan
puts concentrated effort into visualizing his or her future. So
much of Haiti is lived day-to-day, with so much time and en-
ergy spent securing basic needs that little time is set aside look-
ing to the future. Life plans determine students’ strengths and
opportunities, give them short-, mid- and long-term goals,
and assign specific actions to help achieve them.
We use the goals to determine if our professional school will
better serve them as a way to make money to save for a future
university education or to acquire skills for full-time employ-
ment. I hear all the dreams and hopes of students, which mo-
tivates me to make our school the best it can be.
One of my favorite life plans is that of a bright 18-year-
old named Oscar, who is in 11th grade and is amazing at ev-
erything he tries. He learned to dance hip-hop by watching
YouTube videos, plays piano at church every Sunday and is
always either first or second in his class. His future brims with
potential. When we set his long-term goal, he told me his goal
depended on whether he could come to America. He said if he
went to a university in the U.S., he wanted to become a civil
engineer. But if he stayed in Haiti, where he didnt think there
were good universities to study engineering, he’d become a
teacher instead.
I have known Oscar since
he was 13 and always thought
he was capable of doing what-
ever he wanted. It was heart-
breaking to hear he thought
he couldnt reach his full
potential in Haiti. I Googled
engineering universities and
found several accredited
schools in Haiti. Oscar sat
next to me poring over the
information and soon found
one he loved. Oscars long-
term goal is to attend that
university; his short-term
goal is to enter our computer
class in professional school to
give him the experience he
will need.
Another student, Carlson,
is also 18 but in eighth grade.
Before he came to Imagine
Missions 10 years ago, his
mother was unable to pay for
him to attend school every year. Carlson is a very driven and
charismatic. Visitors who come to Imagine Missions know
him because of his amazing English skills and ability to form
connections quickly.
When I sat down with Carlson, he said he wanted to be a
pilot. I never want to diminish anyone’s dream but I believe
it’s my responsibility to be realistic, so I explained the time
commitment it would take. As I spoke, I could see him getting
discouraged. I asked him why he wanted to be a pilot to iden-
tify the reason behind this dream. After many more “whys,
we got to the real reason: He wants to travel and see the world.
I explained a few different jobs that would enable him to do
that in a shorter time frame, and he decided becoming a flight
attendant was an attainable long-term goal. He speaks Hai-
tian Creole and English fluently and is studying both French
and Spanish. With his sparkling personality, he will have no
problem practicing the many people skills involved. Carlson
decided to enter barber class because he enjoys cutting hair
and as a way to make money while finishing his school and
pursuing training to become a flight attendant.
Opportunities in Haiti arent easy to come by, but the stu-
dents at Imagine Missions Professional School are learning to
create and execute realistic action plans through goal-setting
to pursue and seize opportunities when they come.
Objective-based curriculums
Setting objective-based curriculums required a precision of
communication with our professors that was a huge struggle.
Imagine Missions Professional School director Lauren Neder stands with several of the
school’s female students.
32 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Mission imaginable: Putting ISE principles to work in Haiti
I can ask common questions and have simple conversations
in Haitian Creole but cannot yet effectively explain complex
concepts like the importance of hands-on practice and con-
necting it to theory to our professional school professors.
Luckily, I was blessed with an amazing friend named Bru-
nel, who has worked at Imagine Missions for 19 years, speaks
English fluently and has a deep understanding of Haitian cul-
ture to help me navigate when I find myself lost in cultural and
language snafus. When we held our first few meetings, I found
myself frustrated when professors would come 30 minutes late.
I expressed these frustrations to Brunel who gently reminded
me some of them live up to 40 minutes away and rely on pub-
lic transportation that does not run on a set schedule. He told
me the teacher will respect the start time once Id proven I
deserve their respect.
We Americans feel entitled to automatic respect even as we
ask those from a different culture to meet our expectations,
sometimes before we have proven ourselves and our good
intentions. In the process of demonstrating patience in these
initial meetings, mutual respect blossomed between the staff,
Brunel and myself as we worked together to dream of what we
want the school to be. Brunel helped the flow of communica-
tion, by stepping into the role of co-director, and will make
an excellent long-term director of our Professional School. Its
a team effort.
To date, all of our professors have intentionally identi-
fied and written objectives for their classes, including top-
ics, practices and theories students are required to understand
and master before receiving a certificate of completion in
their course.
Setting up a supply chain
Before moving to Haiti in June 2018, my goal was to have
products ready by November and open our shop by the end
of the year. Within a month, I realized that was unrealistic.
In Haiti, mastering raw material sourcing, quality and con-
sistency of products, and the exact timing of production and
shipping, requires ample time and research. Once I created a
new launch timeline with my specific goals outlined, it be-
came clear that June 2019, a year into my time living in Haiti,
would be a feasible “launch month.
The lack of consistent infrastructure became the greatest
struggle in tackling the supply chain. I wanted most of the raw
materials to be purchased locally to infuse the local economy.
Yet it was a challenge in sourcing consistent materials. Most
of what we purchased was imported, and each “supply run
involved a long car ride to the market.
As an American female, I was never comfortable making
trips by myself, so it also involved finding an available driv-
er working for our organization who could take time from
their busy day to take me and negotiate the price of goods.
I collected supply lists from teachers (who wrote in Creole)
Students in the cosmetology class practice on each other
at the Professional School.
Haiti’s stormy status
leads to poverty
The economic challenges faced by Haiti are both natural and
manmade, with storms both tropical and political driving its
status as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti’s gross domestic product per capita was $870 in 2018
with a Human Development Index ranking of 163 out of 188
countries in 2016, according to the World Bank.
Based on the most recent household survey in 2012, more
than 6 million Haitians live below the poverty line earning less
than $2.41 U.S. dollars per day, and more than 2.5 million fall
below the extreme poverty line ($1.23 per day).
Though the Caribbean nation’s GDP grew slightly from 1.2%
in 2017 to 1.5% in 2018, it was accompanied by a deepening
of the budget deficit, which surged from 1.9% of GDP in 2017
to 4.3% in 2018. As a result, the national currency, the gourde,
continues to depreciate, fueling double-digit inflation of around
Politically, Haiti has had to contend with several periods of
instability caused by demonstrations, strikes and civil unrest at
the national level.
From the outside, Haiti is threatened by natural disasters,
mainly hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. More than 93% of
the country and more than 96% of the population are vulnerable
to such disasters. Recovery efforts continue more than two
years after Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, causing loss and
damage valued at 32% of 2015 GDP.
Source: www.worldbank.org
August 2019 | ISE Magazine 33
and translated them in
advance, hoping to pur-
chase the right items at
the market. The whole
process was such a head-
ache it caused teachers to
go long periods without
the materials needed to
teach. It became obvi-
ous something needed
to change.
Thankfully, I’m an
IE and love changing
processes. After crafting
a flowchart of possibili-
ties, it became apparent
the most effective way
to source and obtain ma-
terials was for professors
to purchase their own
supplies. But handing
out money wasnt the way to go about it; checks and balances
are important in any organization. I created an order form for
teachers they had to fill out to request money for materials.
They had to relate their purchase to a specific objective from
their curriculum and give an estimated cost per item. I would
take those estimates and run them past a few trusted advisers to
validate the costs. Once validated, I would provide the mon-
ey requested and require professors to return a revised form
listing actual costs paid, as receipts arent provided at markets
where most items are purchased. The professors rose to the
occasion and proved responsible and consistent in restocking
their raw materials.
With the battle of raw materi-
als seemingly tackled, I moved on
to other issues. Consistency and
quality of products was the next
challenge, which warranted the
use of visual aids and my knowl-
edge of workflow design. Visual
aids were the greatest way to en-
sure that classes crafting products
were producing only those that
were marketable, and pictures are
worth a thousand words in any
Once students began to make
products, I photographed ex-
amples of the good, the bad and
the ugly (in the eyes of Ameri-
can consumers) so each professor
knew how to properly instruct
students. For example, bracelets full of beads depicting the
Haitian flag and made for a petite Haitian wrist would not be
as marketable as an adjustable, multicolored bracelet.
Our professors were the greatest help in enacting this pro-
cess of “quality control” because they were not interested in
accepting anything less than perfection from students. Once
we were on the same page about the look of our products,
visual aids served as reminders to professors, who then ran the
show. I always heard successful people talk about how empow-
ering your team is the best way to achieve results. Throughout
our supply chain setup, I’ve learned just how true that is.
Since June 2018 when I started this journey, I experienced
countless failures and miscommunications. But the end goal is
too good to give up. I add processes and eliminate those that
prove ineffectual to try and create a professional school that is
empowering for our teachers and students alike. I dont plan on
staying in Haiti forever, so every time I implement something
new, I must ask: “Will this be successful when I leave?
The answer must be “yes.” The need for effective training
and true employment is too great, and the lives of Imagine
Missions’ professors and students alike are too important.
Lauren Neder is a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, who earned her bach-
elors degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 2014.
At Purdue, she was a resident assistant and part of the Society of
Women Engineers. She previously worked for four years in manufac-
turing for Frito Lay in different managerial and process improvement
roles. After finishing her work in Haiti with Imagine Missions, she
plans to return to her home in Lynchburg, Virginia, to seek a career
path in “something that is socially conscious and makes an impact.
Those interested in partnering with Imagine Missions can visit its web-
site and learn about sponsorship options at www.imaginemissions.org/
professional-school. Donations are tax deductible.
An electrician professor installs lights in the Imagine Missions compound to provide
better security.
If you want to help …
Those interested in partnering with Imagine Missions
can visit its website and learn about sponsorship options
at www.imaginemissions.org/professional-school.
Donations are tax deductible.
Plumbing class students
McKinley and Jude (top) install
plumbing for drinking water
while tiling class students Louis
Mark, Kerson and Orlando
(bottom) practice laying tile.