Elizabeth Blevins, Director, Office of Communications
Phyllis Noah, Communications Coordinator
Office: (740) 351-3810; FAX: (740) 351-3179; Cell: (740)
940 Second Street – Portsmouth, Ohio 45662
In Rwanda, Nathan Lorentz, right, and John Lorentz, center,
filmed the progress of a new school being built for a
documentary they are putting together showing an
extraordinary group of people coming together to improve the
future of a new generation of Rwandans.
Portsmouth Honors Assistant Provost for
International Program Development at Shawnee State
John Lorentz, professor, historian, documentarian and
assistant provost for International Program Development at
Shawnee State University, has been honored by the city of
Portsmouth as a 2010 Floodwall Star with a signing on
Saturday, Oct. 16.
He was among
four local people to be honored that day, Edna Keffer, local
historian and author, and two posthumously, Charles Varney,
arts educator and Stan Spence, professional baseball player.
Gov. Ted Strickland was also honored for his government
his son, Nathan, wrote, produced and directed “River Voices:
A Portrait of an American River Community” in 2002 and they
are working on a new documentary project filmed in Rwanda.
accident, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2009 on university
business,” John Lorentz said. “I decided to take some time
off and ended up going on a safari.”
He called his
son, Nathan, who flew to Africa and joined him and others on
the safari. When they got back to Nairobi, a friend insisted
they meet this young Rwandan man, David Mwambari, who had a
vision of helping rebuild his country after the genocide and
devastation in his country in 1994. The people of Rwanda are
still recovering from the holocaust where an estimated
800,000 people died.
At that time,
it was just a dream and Mwambari committed his life to
making that dream a reality by rebuilding communities
shattered by the violence. His grandfather and five uncles
were killed in the holocaust.
his tight schedule, John Lorentz decided the only time he
would be able to meet with Mwambari was at breakfast.
15 minutes with this young man, I just knew there was
something special about him,” John Lorentz said. “We only
had an hour and the time flew by.”
had to leave for other commitments, his son, Nathan, stayed
and spent time with Mwambari.
“We came to
the conclusion that this is the story we were looking for,”
John Lorentz said. “By sheer chance a few weeks later, David
was in Washington for Obama’s inauguration and called Nathan
who also was in Washington.”
discussed the idea for the documentary to Mwambari, they
began making plans.
Mwambari launched a non-profit organization, “Sanejo:
Building Tomorrow’s Generation,” a grassroots organization
headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda, that is rebuilding African
partnered with YGAP out of Australia, the “Y Generation
Against Poverty” organization, to sponsor rebuilding the
Ntenyo Primary School in the Muhanga District near Gitarama,
Nathan Lorentz were there filming during the progression and
watched while Mwambari’s dream became a reality.
this would take three or four years to unfold,” John Lorentz
said. “It just happened at lightning speed.”
created a foundation, partnered with YGAP, raised money and
volunteers. He had to get the village to allow the school to
be built and donate land. He had to get the Rwandan
government’s permission and he had to get the church
onboard. With all these things he had to do, he wanted to
get a school built this summer.
In July this
year, the first school was dedicated in Rwanda. As Mwambari
started putting this together, Lorentz was amazed at how
quickly he progressed in getting the new school built.
Lorentz Productions started filming in April and ended with
40 hours of film.
The goal in
making the film, Nathan Lorentz said, is to produce a
compelling documentary that tells the story of an
extraordinary group of young people, volunteers, teachers
and members of a community that came together to improve the
future of a new generation of Rwandans.
“We feel that
it will engage people both emotionally and intellectually,
and inspire others by showing the positive things being done
today in Rwanda,” Nathan Lorentz said. “Perhaps our favorite
moment was filming the kids writing out their dreams and
putting their handprints on the dream wall that was inspired
by one of the volunteers. Because David’s dream was on the
wall, we think it also serves as a reminder that realizing
ones’ dream is possible.”