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Richmond resident hopes to continue nonprofit work after trip to Africa

RICHMOND – Driving down Route 12 through Richmond at the end of summer, Jon Maravelias could almost smell the salty sea air across the pond.

The trip was to be his last pizza delivery of the summer of 2007. This was his second job, and he planned to use the money he earned delivering pizzas and also working at the Lake Geneva, Wis., Caribou Coffee to pay for a study abroad program in England the coming year.

That was before an oncoming male driver rammed Maravelias’ car at almost 70 mph.

Maravelias said this incident changed the entire course of his life.

After graduating from Eastern Michigan University in 2010, Maravelias took a year off to deal with lingering injuries from the accident. Now, seven surgeries and four years later, Maravelias has made the most of life post-op, most recently returning from Namibia, where he worked with NaDEET, a nonprofit that provides environmental education and eco-friendly skills to Namibians.

Maravelias said he served as a program evaluator for a pilot program for adults, teaching solar cooking and energy education. He also traveled to slums to educate residents on how to use this technology.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “I learned so much because in Africa, you have to be on your toes. You’re kind of just operating like fight or flight sometimes because anything can happen there, and you stand out like a sore thumb. Not only was I learning how to run a nonprofit organization and how to write grants, I was learning a lot about myself.

“I really enjoy traveling because it challenges you to think and act differently that aren’t according to your cultural norms.”

Since returning home in June after 10 months abroad, Maravelias had his seventh surgery because of the 2007 accident, this time to remove a rod from his femur.

He said his next move would be to relocate to San Francisco to be near the University of California at Berkeley, where he hopes to pursue a doctorate degree. Until then, he will be in Richmond recovering from surgery at home with his family.

His father, Stan Maravelias, retired after working for American Airlines at O’Hare Airport for almost 40 years and now is an active figure in Richmond, where he works for the police department and is part of the Community Response Team, among other roles. His mother, Donna, also is part of the Community Response Team and works for Allstate Insurance.

Down the road, Jon Maravelias said he hoped to put the skills he learned with NaDEET to use.

“I want to start my own nonprofit in Argentina,” he said. “My plans now are focusing on community development and providing facilities for the community to learn how to provide for themselves and create a local center in less-fortunate communities.”

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