By Kiara Catanzaro, ‘15
Helping impoverished Kenyans is a family affair for St. Bonaventure graduates Adam and Andrea Jablonski of Fairport, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester.
Adam Jablonski first visited Kenya on a service trip in 2005. Two years later he would help found Building Futures, Inc., an organization dedicated to improving educational opportunities in the African nation.
“Our group accomplishes this through building or rebuilding schools,” said Adam, one of four directors of Building Futures, Inc. “We also provide scholarships for secondary students and have begun teaching baseball to the young men and women attending school.”
Adam, who received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. Bonaventure in 1987, is president and CEO of Rochester Beer & Beverage Corp. Andrea (Hatch) Jablonski, who received her master’s in counseling from the university in 1990, is a religion teacher at Church of the Assumption.
They have three children, and all are involved with Building Futures. Karen, the youngest, inspired by her experiences in Kenya, wants to be a teacher and is a freshman education major this year at St. Bonaventure.
“I have a broad perspective on education because kids in Africa do not have cupboards filled with crayons and glue, whiteboards or projectors,” Karen said. “Students in Africa have a piece of paper and a pencil. Despite the differences, each student is excited to go to school and is eager to learn. It’s those students who make me excited about teaching.”
Adam Jablonski, who travels to Kenya twice a year, said the organization’s efforts are focused on Kenya’s western province of Nyanza, where volunteers have built a primary school, are working toward building a secondary school, and are awaiting the opening of a recently constructed health clinic compound.
The idea for the clinic came from watching sick children walking with their parents to the nearest health facility, a five-mile hike over rough terrain.
A number of other projects are in the works, including one known as the Sanity Pad Project.
“My wife and children are actively involved with the ‘Pad Project,’ which provides impoverished, young teens with disposable sanitary napkins,” Adam said. “This allows girls to stay in school rather than sit until their menstrual cycle passes. This project has been well received on both continents, and there are many families in the community that help us with this endeavor.”
The family wants to help eliminate negative stereotypes associated with Africa. Adam hopes more people become interested in volunteering, so they learn about countries in Africa.
“Many individuals are interested in helping others but they hesitate because they don’t know where to begin,” he said.
The work is “physically and emotionally draining,” he said, but there are many rewarding experiences, such as the opportunity to help a young Kenyan girl named Leah, who needed to surgery to remove a cyst from her head. The Jablonskis helped raise the money needed for the surgery.
“We are rewarded with every trip when we see the smiles on the faces of the people we serve. From the very young to the very old, they continue to be grateful for the help we provide and friendship we share,” Adam said. “It’s nice to work with an entire community, but it’s just as rewarding to help individuals who need it most. I love to see people smile, and knowing that I could help a young girl was a rewarding experience.”
Others can find the same satisfaction, he said.
“Traveling to the other side of the world can be quite costly, but we encourage anyone that wants to explore service work to reach out to organizations and look to volunteer,” said Adam. “Whether here in the U.S. or outside the country, you won’t be disappointed.”
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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