Tales of Africa are often filled with images of poverty, hunger, and despair. While that is, sadly, a part of the picture, there is another part as well . . . filled with amazing local ingenuity, renewed opportunity, and hope.
Grains of Golden Sand: Adventures in War-Torn Africa reads like a novel, but this is a true story. It offers a first-person glimpse into life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Zaire—in the years before and during the tumultuous civil unrest of the late 1990s.
The author is a real-life version of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas, rolled into one. This is a first-person account of a woman Peace Corps volunteer-turned-medical researcher-turned-veterinarian-turned-“missionary.” Her mission was to save a small group of endangered great apes—the “bonobo” (known also for its sexual proclivities)—from the grip of civil war in the heart of Zaire. She made this her mission, and after eight harrowing years the reader will be breathless with amazement with her struggles to get the endangered animals to safety. (This includes caring for a pregnant ape who gave birth in her crate as it was being taken to the airport . . . almost preventing her and her baby’s final escape.)
But the story doesn’t end there. Delfi works with a local artist and his family, and together they create an educational venture that benefits literally hundreds of thousands of Zairian children (and their parents). The idea? A brightly-illustrated magazine series to teach children about ecology, conservation—and, by extension, to teach their parents about the importance of protecting Africa’s endangered species.
This venture—the Bleu/Blanc children’s magazine—continues today! Still operating on a shoestring with an extended family of employees, volunteers, and supporters, it prints its educational pamphlets to enormous demand . . . a rare success story of inspiration and perseverance in an African city badly in need of one.
Few books on Zaire, the bonobo, or women Peace Corps volunteers have been written. Few have the additional effort of including dozens of illustrations of numerous local artifacts and customs in the story to enlighten as well as inform. This is a book that will thus enthrall and enchant. It will have you cheering for Delfi and her dedicated colleagues and friends who braved poverty and worse to help the powerless.
Includes maps, photographs, and illustrations throughout the text, plus a 16-page color insert of historical, eco¬logical, and sociological artifacts. No other offers a first-hand look at one of the world's most precarious, endangered species in a precarious, dangerous place. While providing adventure and exotic appeal, this book adds a new perspective to readers' understanding of the relationship between humans and what remains of the natural world.