Alumni Profile

Alumni profile: Deika Morrison, S.M. '98

Helping organizations do good in Jamaica

Head shot of Harvard SEAS alum Deika Morrison, S.M. '98

Deika Morrison, S.M. '98

When Hurricane Gilbert struck her native Jamaica in 1988, Deika Morrison and her family were left without running water in their home for three months. Every day, they traveled to her grandfather’s home near the business district where water had already been restored to collect what they needed for the day and return home.

Watching her community recover from the hurricane taught Morrison, S.M. '98, a number of lessons she’d hang onto for the rest of her life: water is a critical resource and utility; people and organizations want to help after a disaster; and, because organization is difficult after such events, it’s not always easy to determine what actions will help most.

Morrison, who received a master’s in engineering science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has served as both a senator in Jamaica’s  House of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Finance. She’s spent the last 14 years trying to create a bridge between organizations looking to make a difference. In 2010, she co-founded Do Good Jamaica, a non-profit organization that’s undertaken a number of projects around early childhood development, climate and emotional resilience in Jamaica, and has provided a digital database that connects civic organizations looking to collaborate on other kinds of projects. A year later, she founded Do Good International in Miami as a way to connect people of Caribbean descent living overseas with organizations looking to make an impact.

“We want to help organizations help each other,” Morrison said. “We have our own projects that we do, but we also help a lot of groups that have their own projects. The idea was that if people knew about each other, and the public knew that these resources are available, there would be more opportunities. I’ve had endless requests from people living overseas, for example Jamaicans living abroad but wanting to stay involved.”

Do Good Jamaica started with the pursuit of a world record.

Morrison had just joined the Rotary Clubs of Kingston when she read about a Rotary Club in California that had recently set a Guinness World Record for the most books donated to charity in seven days. Knowing that there was a shortage of children’s books at Jamaican libraries, Morrison went to her own club to break the record.

“If I went to people and said I wanted to do a book drive, they’d give me a hundred books,” Morrison. “But if I went to people and told them we were going to set a world record, they’re going to set it. After a massive mobilization, we broke the record in seven hours.”

By the end of the week, the Rotary Clubs of Jamaica had set a record with 657,061 books – the previous record was 243,624 books – and still owns the record. Morrison contacted charitable organizations, set up corporate sponsorships from booksellers like Scholastic, and even sought private donations through her alumni network at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, where she’d studied environmental systems and finance as an undergrad and later returned for an M.B.A. at the Wharton School. She was also able to get endorsements from people like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt – who knows a few things about breaking world records.

“That showed me the power of people working together on a single goal,” she said. “I had no budget. It was just a lot of people donating their time and resources. We really mobilized quite a bit, and that’s how Do Good Jamaica started.”

Many of Do Good Jamaica’s projects over the ensuing years have related to children, especially early childhood development. “Crayons Count” is an award-winning multi-year project that began with a drive to collect school supplies such as crayons, but then evolved to include teacher training, downloadable learning materials for use during the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually the Happy House, a learning-through-play development center on the island.

“Every project can open the door to the next one,” Morrison said. “We focused on early childhood development because it was the best return on investment.”

Before studying at SEAS, Morrison worked as a research scientist for the South Florida Water Management District. She’d studied wastewater and the environment at UPenn, and that interest carried over to SEAS, where she focused her studies on water management and infrastructure.

“Harvard had a good degree of flexibility,” she said. “I was able to take courses in science and engineering, but also public health, which turned out to be very useful. If you’re interested in water and wastewater, the public sector almost automatically has the role you’re likely to play. In Jamaica, we only have public water utilities.”

Once out of Harvard, Morrison joined Jamaica’s National Water Commission as a coordinator for special projects and private sector development. In 2001, she returned to Wharton for her M.B.A. and took a leave of absence from her studies to serve again in the government for a few years before she returned to Wharton to finish her degree. Morrison returned home to work for the JN Group  - a multinational financial conglomerate. She left to form her own business consulting firm and then Do Good Jamaica and International. But even a quarter-century removed from Cambridge, elements of Morrison’s experience here continue to be relevant.

“I had to write a paper to end my program, and that paper was about Kingston Harbour, the seventh deepest natural habour in the world,” she said. “It was about the pollution flowing from the land into the sea, and how we address it. Now I’m working on a project to stop that exact kind of pollution, so it’s a full circle moment for me.”

Press Contact

Matt Goisman |