Film celebrates Haitian independence


BRATTLEBORO — On Sunday, Dec. 9, 5 p.m., at 118 Elliot, there will be a screening and dinner to benefit a group of orphans being supported by a small, grassroots non-profit based in Brattleboro known as Haiti Orphanage Sponsorship Trust, or HOST. Windham World Affairs Council and 118 Elliot are joining with HOST to sponsor this event.

The evening will begin with a screening of "Liberty in a Soup," a documentary by Haitian filmmaker Dudley Alexis. This film tells the story of the Haitian Revolution in 1804 and the origins of the Haitian Independence Day tradition in which Haitian families gather together around the dinner table to celebrate freedom and enjoy a meal of Soup Joumou each year on Jan. 1.

After the film, a meal of homemade Soup Joumou prepared by HOST volunteers will be served. It's traditionally a mix of squash, potatoes and meat, but HOST will also offer a vegetarian version, as well as bread, cheese and beverages. Suggested contribution is $10 per person, and all proceeds will be utilized to support HOST's mission to meet basic needs for food, education, medical care, and other essentials for the children living at Foyer Evangelique Orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti.

How did an organization formed in Brattleboro end up supporting Haitian orphans?

It all began when Mariam Diallo, a native of Mali in West Africa who now lives in Brattleboro and works at Hilltop Montessori School, traveled to Haiti in June of 2010, less than six months after the earthquake, with the intention of volunteering at an orphanage for earthquake orphans. Mariam spent six weeks at Foyer Evangelique Orphanage that summer, and got to know everyone there quite well. The children were being cared for by Haitian educator Pastor Duckens Janvier and his wife Delourdes, who opened their home and hearts to 57 children after the earthquake and surrounded them with the affection and emotional support of true parents, raising them alongside their three biological children.

When Mariam returned, she brought back photos and stories, and a small group of Brattleboro residents were inspired by her experience and wanted to provide ongoing support to these sweet children. Mariam teamed up with local teacher Sheila Humphreys to found Haiti Orphanage Sponsorship Trust (HOST), and for the past eight years HOST has been helping meet the basic needs of food, shelter, education, clothing, and medical care for the children currently residing there, who now number 35.

After HOST created a sponsorship program in 2012 to help meet the needs of the children, more than 60 sponsors have been contributing over $3,000 per month. The sponsorship program covers approximately two-thirds of the total cost of caring for these children and HOST is actively seeking more sponsors to join the sponsorship team. Eighteen percent of the sponsors live in southern Vermont, and the rest come from 11 different U.S. states and Ecuador. For more information about HOST's work in Haiti and how you can get involved, visit



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