The story of American development worker Molly Melching's founding and expansion of Tostan, an NGO focused on bringing awareness of human rights and a sense of empowerment to people living in remote African villages.
Melching’s transformation from Midwestern college graduate to thrill-seeking international crusader makes for compelling reading. After arriving in Senegal in 1974 for what was supposed to be a six-month student-exchange program at the University of Dakar, Melching decided to live and work there permanently. She spent years working as a Peace Corps volunteer, translator and children's book author. In 1991, she founded Tostan, which has become a highly respected organization with an astonishing record of success. Most famous among Tostan's myriad accomplishments is the work that has led nearly 5,000 Senegalese village councils to declare that they are abandoning the centuries-old practice of female genital mutilation, a painful ritual that can lead to severe health problems and even death. Molloy (co-author: Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace, 2009, etc.) has a reporter's knack for selecting and arranging the most salient details of Melching's experiences, and the resulting story is moving and memorable. In keeping with Tostan's focus on empowering Africans to drive change within their own communities, Molloy writes almost as much about Melching's courageous African mentors and colleagues as she does about Melching. The book's only serious flaw is Molloy's zeal for her subject. Although it’s obvious that Melching is brilliant, hardworking, compassionate, humble and brave, some readers may long for at least a glimpse of a flaw. Molloy mentions that Melching has erred in both her professional and personal lives, but her mistakes are never as vividly drawn as her triumphs, and readers are left with the impression that she is more saint than human.
Uplifting and inspirational, particularly for those interested in international development.