|
|
|
Fairport-E.Rochester Post
  • Running for Jemo: Penfield students run for Jim Nowak

  • When Jim Nowak saw a need to help Kenyan school children, he ran to answer that call.



    Now, students at Indian Landing in Penfield are running, literally, to remember Nowak, affectionately dubbed “Jemo” (Jay-mo) by Kenyan friends. Nowak was killed in an accident in his second home, Kenya, in January.

    • email print
  • When Jim Nowak saw a need to help Kenyan school children, he ran to answer that call.
    Now, students at Indian Landing in Penfield are running, literally, to remember Nowak, affectionately dubbed “Jemo” (Jay-mo) by Kenyan friends. Nowak was killed in an accident in his second home, Kenya, in January.
    Indian Landing students have participated in “Running for Kenya” for three years: the first to build a classroom in Maseno, Africa, which has Indian Landing’s name painted on the side. The previous classrooms were made of mud and cow dung, and melted under the sweltering sun. The second year’s efforts were to be put toward a health clinic. Families would walk miles for any kind of medical treatment. The clinic now houses a pharmacy, first aid center and a maternity wing; and will teach residents of Mbaka Oromo about first aid, pre and post-natal health, nutrition and lessons for healthy living.
    But this year, the students ran for Jemo.
    “Think about Jemo and how happy he would be for all our friends in Kenya,” physical education teacher Barb Shields told one of her second grade classes. “Remember his spirit is with us when we run.”
    The school’s students are using gym class to run laps around the gym, adorned with the traditional black, red, green and white Kenyan colors on the floor. Posters along the wall are African-themed. “Running for Jemo,”  “Jemo you are the best,” and other messages line the posters. Flags hang from the ceiling. And pictures of beloved Jemo — smiling and holding hands with a group of Kenyan children  — hung on the walls.
    With each lap, students have asked family and friends to pledge an amount toward the laps they complete. Family and community members would fill the make-shift track in the morning.
    Initially, the run was started in honor of the Kenyans who had won five gold medals in the Olympics. The goal was to have the school’s students run as many laps in one week as it would take to go from Penfield to Kenya — 12,000 kilometers — with each lap considered 1 km.
    Shields started out a recent class asking the students if they felt strong that day.
    “Do you feel strong enough to change the world?” she asked the second-graders. The students responded with great enthusiasm, ready to run to help, like their friend Jemo had.
    Last year, Nowak had brought a strong sense of empowerment to the students with that same message.
    “You say to them, ‘Do you think you can change the world?’” Nowak said in an April 2010 interview with Messenger Post.  “And then we go over and change the world. They understand they helped, and they’ll want to keep helping to change the world.”
    Page 2 of 2 - This year’s proceeds will go to help furnish and fill the health clinic with medications and medical supplies necessary for the doctors and nurses to properly assist the Kenyan residents.
    Nowak was on a six-year journey to help after seeing a presentation on pain and poverty that exists in the world due to HIV and AIDS. The former Fairport teacher joined the Peace Corps soon after.
    “I found my way to Kenya,” he said last year. “I didn’t want to work for someone else; I wanted to work for myself.”
    He and Adam Jablonski, of Fairport, started and operated Building Futures, Inc.
    All in all, Nowak helped fund and build more than 40 structures, including 30 classrooms, six restrooms, a library, a teacher’s room and a meeting hall — all a part of an effort to help where he could.
    Donations  for Building Futures will be collected until April 8, when students should have their donor’s pledge money turned in.
    “They’re doing such a wonderful thing,” physical education teacher Beth O’May said. “From the start, it was to help Kenyan children. But they’re also doing it for Jemo. He will always be within our hearts.”

      calendar