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Across Africa Alone - Susan Giffin

Across Africa Alone

By: Susan Giffin

eBook | 15 April 2024

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At first sight, crossing Central Africa alone in 1960 in a VW Beetle, 40-year-old American-born Louise D'Oliveira might have seemed to be a tourist thrill seeker. Instead, her mission was that of a literacy teacher with the goal of bringing Africans out of the darkness of illiteracy into a brighter future. She was inspired and trained by Dr. Frank C. Laubach, known as the apostle to the silent billion.

In those days, indigenous people usually did not bother a single white woman traveling alone, assuming she was a teacher, a nurse, or a missionary, but Louise did encounter considerable danger, from herds of elephants to hostile mobs in the throes of political turmoil as they fought for independence.

Louise did not let danger, three cases of malaria, or exhaustion from driving thousands of miles alone deter her from her calling. She met with local leaders, literacy organizations, and missionaries to help them expand existing programs or to launch new ones. Later, Louise helped to found Operation Upgrade of South Africa that in its day taught hundreds of thousands of South Africans to read.

Her story must not be relegated to the past, for to this day, illiteracy rates are off the charts in some African nations and in many countries around the world. Even in the United States itself, as of 2022, 21 percent of adults were illiterate and only 54 percent could read above the sixth-grade level.


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