VACAVILLE — Karen Zimmer wasn’t surprised to hear that Steve Peifer was at their 30-year high school reunion.
After all, he was popular and served as student council president. The last she heard he was enjoying success at Oracle. She would soon learn that he had left the corporate world to serve as a missionary in Kenya.
It was that missionary work that inspired Peifer’s new book, “A Dream So Big.”
On Saturday, Peifer dropped by Engage Meeting Places for an author meet and greet.
In addition to a handful of high school friends, Peifer was joined by Brian and Erin Richerson. Both taught at Vacaville Christian Schools and worked with Peifer in Kenya.
“He has a heart for the people,” said Brian Richerson, who graduated from Will C. Wood High School. “He saw a problem we all saw. He came up with a practical and reasonable solution.”
The problem: malnutrition. The solution: Provide the students lunch.
Peifer established a rural food program in 2002 that now feeds 20,000 Kenyan school children a day. Then he started building solar-powered computer training centers. Today, there are 20 centers.
“Our dream is to generate, through high school, proper nutrition and the opportunity to learn technology,” said Peifer, who served as the director of consulting for Oracle.
He and his wife left Texas following the death of their third son, who died eight days after his birth. They went to Kenya as Nancy Peifer had always wanted to go to Africa.
“I felt like God said ‘make your wife’s dream come true,’ ” he told the group of about 25 in Vacaville.
For the book, Peifer teamed up with Gregg Lewis, who wrote autobiographies of legendary football coach Tom Landry, and Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon. It is published by Zondervan.
Before stopping in Vacaville, Peifer, who is the director of college guidance at Ritt Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya, learned his sixth student had just been accepted by Harvard. Ritt Valley Academy serves children of missionaries.
He shared the story of one student who went to work in Nairobi and invited Peifer to meet him for lunch. The student was making about $13 a day. The next day, he called to thank Peifer. The student’s employer was worried Peifer was going to hire him and upped the young man’s pay to $50 a day.
Hope gets him through the tough times, Peifer said. He feels Kenya is on a roll economically. He was glad to hear the Kenyan Supreme Court upheld the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s next president on Saturday.
When he first arrived in Kenya, Peifer said there were two economic classes: the rich and the poor. Now, there’a middle class.
Peifer was awarded the CNN Heroes Award for Championing Children in 2007. The same year Yale honored him with a counseling award.
In 2010, he was given the Excellence in Education Award from the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Carson, and Senators Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin also have won the award.
Zimmer lost touch with Peifer until that reunion, about 10 years ago. She had picked up bits and pieces of his story since the reunion. The book, she said, put the whole story together.
“I’m really proud of him,” she said. “He’s such a great example of turning a negative into something positive.”
For information on Peifer and his work in Kenya, visit www.kenyakidscan.org.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.