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Making necklaces and a difference in Haiti

By Sarah M. Luyengi   |   School of Public Service

There is no straight path to the perfect career — only a collage of experiences leading to the perfect opportunity.

“In retrospect, I realize that one may have a vision of what they think they want to do,” Coralie Noisette said as she reflected upon her life choices. “Nevertheless, as one goes through life … they may discover that what they once thought was their path is not where they are meant to be.”

She added: “It takes a wise person to really get to know himself or herself and understand their own truth before committing their life to a professional path.”

Noisette, a School of Public Service graduate, found that her path led to Haiti and U R Source, a new social enterprise that she created with her sister, Valerie.

U R Source creates job opportunities and promotes spirituality in collaboration with local organizations and artisans. The company employs three young Haitian women who are working on their first product: Mala necklaces. These necklaces are used for mantra meditation, prayer or simply fashion.

The U R Source website says: “The Noisettes recognized that sustainable initiatives, which empower vulnerable populations, reduce inequalities and address the root causes of poverty make a powerful impact within communities. However, they observed that spirituality and personal transformation rarely is factored in as an important element in development.”

Raised by Haitian parents, Noisette grew up in the Chicago suburbs. Her family roots in the Caribbean country inspired a career in a field that could make a difference in the developing nation. She got on that path with a B.A. in international public service in 2010.

But after spending 10 months teaching English in Lille, France, Noisette knew that she needed to pursue a master’s degree to be more effective in the international field. After enrolling in the SPS, Noisette began to grasp the interrelation between sustainability and development in the program’s “Sustainable Development & NGOs” course, the decision-making process in the “Ethical Leadership” course and the concept of cultural competency in an interdisciplinary course called “Intercultural Communication.”

She said other classes helped her throughout her program, and once she completed her master’s in international public service in 2013, she said she bought a one-way ticket to Haiti so she could implement her knowledge and “hoped for the best.”

Her first job was with a small international NGO and then with the Haitian government and the World Bank. She said she continued in the development field as a short-term consultant for a midterm evaluation of a USAID project.

In each experience, she said, she called upon her SPS background, from research evaluations to business development.

Asked about the next steps on her path, Noisette said she will devote her time to building U R Source. She said she thinks the company can develop contacts, business skills and resources through networking and collaborating. She said she and her sister aim to create a cultural center in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, where they’d like to build a workshop, art gallery and coffee shop for U R Source.

Noisette believes that students with the right mindset can achieve their goals.

“You’ll start to see how your hard work in class pays off because you’re now equipped with rich knowledge … from SPS to help you succeed,” she said. 

Sarah M. Luyengi plans to graduate from SPS in June with a degree in International Public Service. A Chicago native, she earned a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.