March 27, 2013
A Dream So Big - A Story about my pal Steve Peifer
So often, we wonder if our lives have meaning, if what we are doing really matters. We are always waiting for the right moment to change the world and make a difference if we haven't already given up and decided that the best we can hope for is putting our kids through college, collecting the proverbial watch at the end of a long career, and riding off in an RV with our spouse to tour the Southwest and hang out with likeminded travelers playing Canasta.
My pal Steve had an interesting enough story where he rose through the ranks at Oracle until he was running Oracle Consulting. At what many would have considered the pinnacle of his career and life he lost a son. I remember Steve describing that time like driving your car in neutral. No matter how hard you pushed on the gas you just did not go anywhere. Steve's wife Nancy convinced him to take a year off and go to Africa with her and their two sons to be dorm parents in a little school outside Nairobi Kenya in the Rift Valley, called Rift Valley Academy. There is not a sharper contrast than going from running Oracle Consulting to overseeing the 5th grade boys’ dorm and managing all of the sights, smells, and sounds that 5th grade boys can produce. What was supposed to be a yearlong break to serve in Kenya has now turned into over a decade of serving not only Rift Valley Academy but also the local schools in and around RVA.Steve noticed one day while visiting one of the local tribal schools that all of the children were lying on the floor. After asking the headmaster why he was allowing the children to lie on the dirt floor he explained that since it was Thursday and most of the children hadn't eaten since Monday he had to allow them to lie down to prevent them from passing out. Steve having lost his own son and serving as a dorm parent for 5th grade boys wondered what could be done if only children in the tribal schools could get some food at school. If India has transformed itself in a generation through education what might happen in Kenya if kids had the same opportunity to first eat and then learn. He started a school lunch program with private donations and now is feeding over 20,000 kids each day and the dropout rate in the affected schools has gone from over 30 - 35 percent to zero. Steve realized though that feeding was not enough since these kids needed some kind of marketable skill once they got out of school. Again, through private donations he began working on an idea of self-contained, solar powered computer centers that could be secured and deployed in remote African villages without any access to electricity. He know has over ten computer centers in remote villages and kids start lining up long before the centers open to learn computer skills. One day, when a classroom of children was asked what they thought of getting to learn computers, a little girl responded with the comment that she never had a dream so big. That is where the title of Steve's new book comes from A Dream So Big. I hope that anyone reading this is inspired to go read Steve's book and discover how each one of us can make a difference in the middle of adversity and obscurity. There is no need to wait for tomorrow since we can begin making a difference today.
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