The Carmi Rotary club took a trip to Africa on Thursday, thanks to guest speaker Mike Pfister.
Mike came to the day’s meeting with an impressive Power Point presentation, which he said Mike Bell had helped him create.
Mike told the Rotarians that he has made four trips to Africa in the past two years, and is in the planning stages for his next visit. He told the club that the flight to Kenya involves four airplanes and twenty hours of flying time. He said he never worries about the dangers of the trip because if it is his time, then it is his time, and he will be doing something that he loves.
When in Kenya, he stays with a host family. On the last visit, he stayed with a pastor and his wife, who also take care of 21 children! Mike said he would hear the kids laughing as he went to bed at night and heard them still giggling when he got up.
Mike told the club that the average wages in Kenya amounts to about a dollar a day. Because of this poverty, no one really has anything to their name, especially the children, who literally have no personal belongings other than the clothes they are wearing.
Around 65% of kids go to elementary school, but once they graduate that level, most are done with education. The reason, high school is a paid venture, costing somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 dollars per year per student. This means, without question, that only the richest families can afford to send their children to high school.
Despite the poverty, Mike told the club that he saw several people who were alcoholics on this trip. He asked his host family how anyone could afford to buy alcohol, and was told that there is a type of drink that can be purchased for around a dollar a bottle, and that it is so strong, one bottle can get three adults drunk. He said when drunks show up at church, they are not shunned, but rather “fenced in” to a pew and kept in check.
One of his slides featured the foods that are typically eaten in Kenya. These foods primarily consist of rice and, on special occasions, might include beans with the rice. He said he ate many meals of chicken, that was prepared in a way that left it tough as shoe leather.
Mike told the Rotarians that he attended several funerals while he was in the country, and that funerals there are far different than what we have here in Southern Illinois. He said the typical funeral in Kenya lasts all day, starting around nine in the morning and finishing up around four in the afternoon. At these long events, almost everyone is given time to speak, and almost everyone does!
Mike had several slides showing the roadways, which are nothing but dirt roads. On these roads, the Kenyans utilize motorcycles the way we use pick-up trucks. They carry everything on the back of the cycles, and because of this practice and the general condition of the roads, traffic fatalities are one of the leading causes of death in the country.
Lastly, Mike talked about the weather, stating that he would rather spend time in Kenya than in Carmi in July and August. While it is hot, he said the temperature remained around 80 degrees all the time. Just a little different than White County in the Summer.