College Student's Life a "Slumdog" Story

DECORAH, Iowa (February 18, 2009) –Junette Maxis hasn’t seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” but she shares a similar life story with the Oscar-nominated movie’s main character.

Where the movie’s protagonist, Jamal, was born into the slums of India and a life of destitution and struggle, Junette was born into the stifling poverty that envelops Haiti. And as Jamal’s life experiences gave him the answers he needed to win a fortune and escape the slums, Junette’s hard work and resolve gave her the opportunity to escape poverty through education.

Born in Les Cayes, Haiti, 19-year-old Junette is a sophomore at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She is thousands of miles away from the little Haitian village where she was born and light years away from the fate of those still stuck there.

“I believe we all have a responsibility to give of ourselves,” says Junette. ”My goal is to establish a non-profit that will provide for local food production and distribution.”

Junette grew up with 6 brothers and 2 sisters in a small house. There was no electricity and no running water. Every day Junette would walk for nearly an hour to a stream, fill jugs with water and haul them back home for the family. Her parents worked a small plot of land to raise vegetables, but there was never enough to eat. Unable to provide for the family, Junette’s parents made the difficult decision to send the children to live with relatives or to orphanages.

At 6, Junette went to live at the House of Love, a girl’s home run by Food For The Poor, a nonprofit agency serving the poor in Haiti and throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. It was the beginning of a new life for Junette.

“My friends and my tutors had become my new, big family,” Junette remembers. “Going to The House of Love was the greatest gift.”

Junette studied hard and thrived at The House of Love. She made friends and impressed her tutors. By the time she was 16, her academic efforts won her a 2-year scholarship to the United World College in Norway. Once more, the orphan from a poor village in Haiti studied hard and flourished.

Today, Junette is focusing on Economics and Accounting. She says her studies have taught her much, but the strongest lesson she has learned is that anything is possible when a child is given love, support and opportunity.

After she graduates, Junette hopes to go back to Haiti and give other children the opportunity to break the grip of poverty and change the course of their lives.

Food For The Poor is the largest international relief and development organization in the nation. With more than 96% of all donations going directly to programs that help those in need, Food For The Poor provides nourishing food, safe shelter, necessary medical care, educational materials, support for orphans and the aged, and much more to the poorest of the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

To learn more about Food For The Poor, log on to See her story here.

Hugh Graf
954-427-2222 x 6610