Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 50
 
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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Finishing the Job: “The Philosopher Kings” Highlights Good Works of Princeton Janitor

Dilshanie Perera

Poignant and wise, The Philosopher Kings, a documentary directed by Patrick Shen and produced by Greg Bennick, features the lives of eight janitors on university campuses across the nation.

Highlighted in the movie is one of Princeton University’s 220 Building Services janitors, Josue Lajeunesse, who supports his family in Haiti and is engaged in a project to bring clean water to his hometown of Lasource.

University Building Services director Jon Baer introduced the film during last week’s screening, saying that it “puts a face on those who work hard on our behalf, often invisibly.”

In order to support his five children and extended family, Mr. Lajeunesse works as a custodian at the university from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every weekday, and continues work in the evenings as a taxi driver off campus.

Even before moving to the United States in 1989, Mr. Lajeunesse tried to secure clean water for Lasource, saying that while he was in the military in Haiti, he petitioned the government, which promised to bring water to the village but ultimately could not deliver because of political unrest.

In 2003, Mr. Lajeunesse began sending monies to his brother, who lives in Haiti, so that they could embark on the water project. Previously, residents of Lasource had to walk to a nearby mountain in order to obtain clean water.

With a water source now a bit closer to the town, Mr. Lajeunesse is raising money to build cisterns for each home in Lasource to have water at all times.

The filmmakers follow Mr. Lajeunesse to Haiti, where he is reunited with his family. What is at stake regarding the water project also hits home.

“Where they have water, the town is green, and there is life…but the job is not finished,” Mr. Lajeunesse noted gravely.

Referring to the film’s role in bringing greater awareness to the water project, Mr. Lajeunesse said, “I cannot do this alone,” in the question and answer session that followed the screening.

When members of the non-profit organization Generosity Water saw The Philosopher Kings, they immediately partnered with Mr. Lajeunesse to assist him with his efforts. Individuals may make donations via the appropriate link at generositywater.com, with 100 percent of monies going toward bringing clean water to Lasource.

Mr. Lajeunesse is also working with doctors in Haiti and New Jersey to create a health clinic in Lasource, in addition to raising funds for computers for the local school, and solar panels to bring electricity to the village.

After the screening, Mr. Shen explained that the idea for The Philosopher Kings came from a conversation with a friend. “He suggested interviewing custodians because they might have a unique insight into the human condition.”

“Our intent was to tell good stories,” Mr. Shen said, adding that the goal was to “bring out the wisdom and humanity of people.”

Also featured in the movie and in attendance at the screening was Jim Evener, a janitor from Cornell, who acknowledged that the documentary “made us quite a bit more noticed on campus,” emphasizing that “we all have stories to tell.”

The Philosopher Kings will be screened on television in the coming year, according to Mr. Shen. For more information, visit philosopherkingsmovie.com.

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