Steve Peifer was a 2007 winner of the CNN Heroes Award for Championing Children. But the story started ten years before.
He begins his book arriving at the Nairobi international Airport with his wife and sons, seven and ten. Their family had recently gone through a painful time – an at risk pregnancy and a son who lived just over a week. Friends had suggested that a change of scenery as short-term volunteer dorm parents at the Rift Valley Academy would provide the time and opportunity to heal. They had no idea what they were getting into.
Steve shares the change in his life, from a management position at the Oracle Corporation to living in the midst of poverty. His wife served as the elementary school librarian. He was assigned the task of implementing the new accounting software in the business office as well as running the elementary school computer lab. While his computer background helped prepare him for those responsibilities, it did nothing to help him teach driver's education. (His experiences are hilarious.)
Steve relates many of the emails he sent to supporters while in Kenya. He shares their experience that first year: delivering toys to an orphanage, visiting remote Masai in the African bush, riding an ostrich, enjoying safari during spring break, and teaching computer skills to first graders.
As that year was coming to an end, Steve realized what he had been doing was unexpectedly one of the most rewarding things he had ever done. “I have won million dollar accounts before in my corporate career,” he writes, “but watching third-graders high five each other because they learned how to sort on a spreadsheet was every bit as satisfying.”
A week before their scheduled flight home, he and some RVA colleagues visited an elementary school in the Karima community down the valley, delivering food to the families of students. What he saw there - children lying on the dirt floor because they were too weak to stand because of lack of food – changed his life. He knew he could not walk away from Africa. It took a while, as he returned to the Dallas area and a good job with an Oracle consulting company. But it wasn't long before he knew where he really belonged.
He chronicles their return to Kenya, the adoption of twins, starting the food program for Kenyan elementary schools and its growth, then solar powered computer labs, being college advisor at RVA and having students accepted at every Ivy League college, and much more.
Peifer writes with wit combined with feeling. Reading his stories make you feel like you are along with him in the family adventures and their cross-cultural challenges. And you can't help but chuckle from time to time. Yet the seriousness of his heart for Africa comes through loud and clear. Steve writes, “Africa can break your heart, but it is full of people who have made something beautiful out of so little.”
You can watch the video of the award ceremony and find out much more about Peifer's work at http://kenyakidscan.org.
Steve Peifer serves as Director of College Guidance for Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. He and his wife have four children.
Gregg Lewis is the award-winning author or coauthor of more than fifty books.
Zondervan, 336 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.