|I have just read another to add to my all-time favorite list. I love stories about personal courage against all odds, sacrifices for a noble cause, and bucking the powers-that-be for the betterment of their corner of the world. In my opinion, this memoir by Jean-Pierre Hallet fills the bill.
Jean-Pierre Hallet served for 10 years in the Belgian Congo in government administration. From 1948 until 1960, when the rebellion for independence began, he was faithful in his post. The 17 native tribes under his jurisdiction adored him, many calling him "Father" because his love for them and the Congo itself was so evident. He quickly saw that the standard practice of jailing and fining for minor infractions would never produce results. Instead he taught them. Even the Pygmy natives, who were commonly looked at as unable to be educated and as little more than monkeys, he taught to farm, educated them in schools, how to govern their little villages, and to see themselves as humans worthy of respect and dignity. He battled a full-grown lion with only a spear, a full-grown leopard with only his hands after one of his staff had been attacked, endured "blackwater fever" malaria (the most serious type, usually fatal), the loss of a hand, most of his hearing, was seriously disfigured, but in spite of all, persevered in the field every day to better the natives' lives. It broke his heart, when the independence rebellion began, that the various tribes started killing each other, destroying everything in their path, and did not know why they were even doing it.
Here, I quote him:
"Most of us had come to the Congo very young and full of altruism. Our goal had been to heal, feed, and educate some thirteen million natives; somehow to build a self-supporting nation where disease, sorcery, tribal warfare, cannibalism, and the slave trade had decimated nearly a million square miles of tropical wilderness. Ironically, tragically, the natives were about to lose, in the name of freedom, almost everything we had tried to help them build."
The book has many photographs to document all of these things that he endured, that he accomplished, and those he had witnessed. I will be rereading this definitely.
This was read for the ABC Challenge, for the letter C, onhttps://twogalsandabook.com/.