By Neil Abbey
Jan Roeder Polhemus was an American programmer who worked in engineering and finance during the time when computers were as large as rooms. Throughout his career, Jan was known for his honesty, hard work, and clean-living. However, his true calling came later in life when he retired to the Philippines and began working with a local organization to provide free reconstructive facial surgeries to poor, disadvantaged children born with cleft lip and cleft palate deformities.
Jan founded and established Team Smiles Outreach Inc., and despite having limited resources, he spent most of his pension to help children with cleft lip and palate. From the time he established the NGO up until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jan managed to change the lives of many more children and their families.
Jan’s generosity and unwavering spirit to help others went beyond what some would do for their own. He showed how big his heart truly was, and put countless smiles on the faces of children whose lives he had touched.
His legacy lives on in the testimonies of the many lives he touched, and he was remembered by all who knew him as a God-send, a truly remarkable person. Jan’s sudden demise has left a hole in the hearts of many who knew him, but his legacy will undoubtedly continue. His selflessness, compassion, and dedication to helping others are values that will live on through the lives he touched and the work he did.
Jan’s life is a testament to the fact that one person can make a difference in the world. His story inspires us to strive for greatness in everything we do and to always look for ways to make a positive impact in our communities. Jan’s efforts with Team Smiles Outreach Inc. prove that limited resources do not hinder our ability to make a significant difference in the lives of those around us.
Jan’s granddaughter, Paisley Elliott, shares her grandfather’s passion for making a difference in the world, and has launched the PeaceMaker Preschool, a refugee-owned and refugee-led preschool that will help bridge the gap in the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement. The preschool will allow up to 500 children to receive a free preschool education and one nutritious meal each day, helping to provide them with the foundation they need to build a better future for themselves and their communities.
While Jan and Paisley never had the chance to meet each other, their shared dedication to humanitarian work and making a difference in the world shows that Jan’s legacy lives on through his family. His work has left an indelible mark on the world, and we can honor his memory by continuing to work towards creating a more compassionate, just, and equitable society. Though Jan may be gone, his spirit and his work will continue to inspire us all to be the change we wish to see in the world.