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Schwertfeger shares experiences in Africa

October 17, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

WEIRTON - Norm Schwertfeger has had many experiences during his lifetime, but a recent trip to visit family in Africa is sure to be one of the major highlights.

Schwertfeger shared some of the adventures during the month-long journey to Africa with the Rotary Club of Weirton Heights during its meeting Tuesday at Eat 'n Park.

Schwertfeger's son, Jacob, and daughter-in-law, Jessi, have been living in Zambia for the last several years, he explained. Jacob works as a Christian missionary, and Jessi helps to educate people who want to become teachers.

Article Photos

VISIT — Norm Schwertfeger, the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension agent, spoke to the members of the Rotary Club of Weirton Heights Tuesday morning about his recent trip to Zambia, where his son is serving as a missionary.
-- Craig Howell

"It is probably the most beautiful country I've ever seen," Schwertfeger said of the regions he visited, explaining there is no rain for seven months each year and then five months of constant precipitation.

Schwertfeger shared several photographs from his trip.

Among the photographs were scenes from a church in the bush, which was made of wood and included stone pews.

"These are extremely active worship services," he said. "They don't worry about, it's noon, it's time for the Steelers game. They're there for the day."

Schwertfeger explained while his son works to spread Christianity, there also are those who practice Hinduism, as well as various tribal religions.

Other work done by Jacob is to help acquire supplies, food and water resources for the people in the local villages. He said simply to bore a hole to try and find water can cost between $5,000 and $6,000.

"Water is a significant issue," Schwertfeger said, noting the lack of clean water is among the reasons for the high rate of diseases, including AIDS, in Africa.

Schwertfeger said while some education is available, most people stop at around 10 to 12 years of age as they are needed for jobs and other duties. They are required to pay for any education beyond that point, and most cannot afford it, he said.

Also part of his presentation were pictures of Victoria Falls and a variety of animals such as sables, elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo and lions.

He shared a few experiences with baboons, which he said often are found stealing vegetables.

"They are very interesting animals, but they can be violent," he said.

Schwertfeger also explained he had more than a few run-ins with spitting cobras.

(Howell can be contacted at and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT.)

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