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South Bend men are working to help underdeveloped countries help themselves

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Young men from South Bend are taking their hometown values abroad.

They've been taught the joy of helping others. Now, they're breaking into the non-profit world.

WSBT 22 sat down with two of the founders of Puente and the conversation was truly inspiring.

They're St. Joe High School and Notre Dame grads.

Along with a friend, they're working to help underdeveloped countries help themselves.

They credit their inspiration from the life-long service work instilled in them growing up in our Michiana.

It’s the simple things we take for granted, everyday essentials that often go unnoticed.

This is the reality in underdeveloped countries. It's a problem Scott Coppa learned firsthand when he joined the Peace Corps.

“I joined Peace Corps right after college in 2015 and I went to the Dominican Republic as a health volunteer and I absolutely loved it," said Coppa, Puente co-founder. "I loved my experience, I loved the culture, I love the people, and I love the work. I fell in love with the work."

While the experience was priceless, the work wasn’t easy and far from complete when his stay was coming to an end.

“I just felt like I had more to give and I felt like there were still things left on the table,” said Coppa.

He teamed up with two South Bend friends and founded Puente. The nonprofit essentially makes it easier for volunteer groups to pick a target area to work in and know exactly what that community is lacking, allowing them to preplan their projects.

“That data allows them to pre-plan projects and select sites more effectively," said Paul Anthony, Puente co-founder. "We collect data that is matched to specific addresses. We can select through our data exactly where houses are that need roof repairs and allow you to circle and area that’s close together with a strong need for it, and make sense for your travel group."

Think of it as a bridge of international development matching up people that need help with people who want to help.

Their approach is unique.

Scott and Paul are on the ground in the Dominican Republic, coaching and teaching local students to take part in their community’s own development.

“We really wanted to train and empower locals to take initiative in these projects and to complete them themselves,” said Coppa.

They hope to soon be able to step away from the projects completely and leave the development in the hands of those who will reap the benefits.

“To make things sustainable, locals have to take the lead and that’s a core philosophy of what we’re doing,” said Paul.

"It’s more of a natural progression for two born and raised South Bend kids who have had good fortune of so much good education and particularly so much service-oriented education. that we had this knack to try and do something and help people," said Anthony.

"I think it’s been instilled in us, through so much Catholic school, through St. Joe, through Notre Dame. We have just always been trying to help others and on a global scale. It’s now possible," said Coppa.

Puente is still growing.

It's only been in service since the beginning of the year.

They rely heavily on donations, and now is the perfect time to make a contribution here.

They will be receiving a matching grant from an anonymous donor -- each dollar you give is doubled!

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