Kenyan refugee runner finds home in Victoria


There’s nothing like the feeling of a new pair of shoes, and for Joshua Koromei, the New Balance runners he’s wearing are the first pair of new running shoes he’s ever owned.

“When I run, it’s like I’m flying,” he says.

Josh was introduced to CHEK viewers earlier this month when he was living at the Salvation Army emergency shelter at the foot of Johnson Street in Downtown Victoria.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria community steps up for Kenyan refugee runner staying at emergency shelter

Koromei was granted refugee status and arrived in Victoria in January.  He fled Kenya’s rural Baringo County, an area rife with organized crime, theft and murder – much of it centering around cattle rustling, which in recent years has spiraled from theft of livestock into violence and murder.

Koromei says gun-toting bandits and the constant threat of death made life unbearable.

“Life is terrible,” he said in early March. “If you wake up well, you say thank you to God.”

Koromei was connected with Chris Kinnear of Popeye’s Supplements in Victoria, and generosity followed. Kinnear offered free supplements, he was given free training sessions at The Fitness Academy, and Frontrunners stepped up with gear to get him started.

What was missing was a home. Despite living in the shelter, Koromei appreciated having a place to sleep.

Jay Nefsky saw Josh’s story and was inspired by his gratitude.

“Living in such difficult circumstances and still being able to appreciate that they opened the doors to him and took him in,” she says. “I thought I can learn from this man.”

Nefsky offered a room in her Rockland townhouse, and two weeks ago Josh moved in. The energetic runner has re-invigorated Nefsky’s home life.

“That’s an understatement,” she laughs.

Nefsky’s husband passed away last year, and getting to know Joshua in the last two weeks has been an a joy.

“It’s a match made in heaven,” she says.

For Josh, it’s a feeling of family. “She’s my mom in Canada.”

But it’s no free ride for Josh. He’s an accomplished cook, and makes meals as well as doing his share of the cleaning. As for his new home, it’s still sinking in.

“I’ve never lived in a nice house like this in my life,” he says.

A heel injury has kept him from a full training regimen, but with a clean bill of health he’s now working his way to his first big race, the TC 10K.

“I’ve never been interested in sports before,” says Nefsky. “But I’m really looking forward to his first race. I can’t wait to see it.”

More generosity has followed. The Royal Commonwealth Society gave Josh a credit to Frontrunners in Victoria, and where he purchased to new pairs of shoes. He has a work permit and started a new job as an overnight cleaner at Victoria’s Bay Centre, and got his first pay cheque a few days ago.

“I was surprised when I saw money in my account. There was no having to ask when I’ll get paid. It just showed up in my account,” he smiles.

He’s miles from where he wants to be, and the TC 10K is a step in the right direction. In the meantime you can catch him training on roads in and around Victoria.

“When I run by people wave,” he says. “And they don’t even know me.”

With his feet under him there’s no telling how far he’ll go.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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