The High Country Speaker series kicks off in Avon Friday | VailDaily.com

The High Country Speaker series kicks off in Avon Friday

Peter Suneson
Special to the Daily
Jim Nowak
Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: High Country Speaker series with mountaineer and ice climber Jim Nowak.

Where: Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon.

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Cost: Free.

More information: Visit www.walkingmountains.org/HCSS or call 970-827-9725.

AVON — Who would have thought that spending a night in an ice cave 22,000 feet above sea level and picking glass shards out of a companion’s eye could serve as inspiration for a lifelong philanthropic commitment? Certainly not Jim Nowak, and that is only part of the story behind this mountaineer, ice climber and sustainable champion’s dedication to inspiring and helping communities in rural Nepal.

Nowak’s passion for rock and ice climbing has led him all over the world and inspired his philanthropic development of the dZi Foundation in 1998. While guiding a trek in Nepal in 1997, Nowak encountered a failing safe house for women. Upon returning to the states, Nowak and longtime mountaineering partner Kim Reynolds organized the dZi Foundation’s first fundraising effort focused on an expedition to summit the 23,443-foot Himalayan peak Pumori. This is the same peak he was within 600 feet of summiting when a rock shattered his partners glasses and forced their return. This effort raised the funds to create The Friendship House, which is now home to 21 girls who would otherwise be left homeless.

Nowak’s early use of “cause climbing” set the tone for the future of the dZi Foundation’s community development initiatives in Nepal.

“For so many years I felt I’d been selfishly focused on my climbing and did not look around to see how I could help others,” Nowak said.

The Pumori expedition and interactions with the indigenous people clarified a long-simmering desire to positively affect the places he loves.

“They had shaped who I was and in the wake of the Pumori Expedition, the idea of helping people finally sunk into my thick climber skull,” he said.

HOLISTIC COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

From humble beginnings as a kitchen table non-profit in Ridgeway, the dZi Foundation now serves 29,000 individuals in remote regions of the Himalayas with the mission of empowering communities to reach their true potential through sustainable health, education and community-based programs. Over the past 17 years of working in Nepal, the dZi Foundation has built schools, thousands of toilets, dozens of water projects, community buildings, bridges and agricultural income generation projects as a way to support holistic community development.

Nowak resides in Ridgeway and has worked as a tile setter, photography expert and forest fire fighter before settling down to run the 501c3 dZi Foundation. His presentation “Developing Deep Roots for Sustainability and Community Nepal” will be an interactive slideshow with a question-and-answer session exploring how indigenous cultures embrace and use current concepts of sustainability.

The High Country Speaker Series is a collaboration of the Walking Mountains Science Center and Eagle Valley Library District. This year’s theme for the series is “Mountain Culture and the Environment: Creating Cohesion.” For more information on the series, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org/HCSS or call 970-827-9725.

Peter Suneson is the adult programs instructor for Walking Mountains Science Center. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.