by Fanon

Not long ago, an eleven-year-old girl called her Dora, lived in a hut made of mud and branches in a village in Africa. She had no shoes, and one dress made from a potato sack.  There was no school, and like the other children, she had to work hard to help keep her family alive.

It was extremely hot, so when God made the people there, he gave them dark skin to protect them from the sun.

One night soldiers came to Dora’s village. The soldiers shot many villagers, including Dora’s parents. Dora ran off into the jungle. She lived there for many days, staying alive by eating berries and wild fruit. Each day her footsteps took her further from the fighting.

After many days she came to another river. Peeping from the safety of the forest, she saw soldiers by the water, eating. The soldiers had white skin. Dora had never seen anyone with white skin.

The smell of the food was so tempting she forgot to be careful. A soldier saw her. He watched for a while, then held out some food to her.

At first she was afraid, however, the soldier smiled and beckoned. Dora was so hungry - and the food smelled so good - she moved forwards. The soldier put the food on the ground, and chatted to the other soldiers. Dora saw they were not going to hurt her, she moved nearer and took the food.

The soldiers British, sent to help stop the fighting. They spoke in sign language to her. That night she slept near one of the soldiers who were keeping guard. When she awoke, the soldiers were already up and packing.

One got her breakfast, and explained they were leaving, and she could go with them. She heard a strange chugging noise and the largest boat she'd ever seen came into sight. It moved to the shore. The soldiers got aboard and Dora joined them.

They were taken to an Army Camp near the sea. Some White ladies looked after Dora until a seaplane arrived. It took some of the soldiers and ladies, and Dora to a seaside city.

Everything was wondrous to Dora. Everyone was friendly: one lady bought Dora some shoes and a pretty dress. Next day, Dora was taken aboard an aeroplane, and flown England.

She saw a doctor there, and was asked many questions. Luckily, the soldier that had first seen her, stayed to help. The soldier’s wife joined them. She signed some papers, and they took Dora to their home in the countryside.

Dora lived with them, and started school. She'd only learned a few words of English, and couldn't read, so had to be with the infants.

Dora was different to the other children. She was nearly black. They called her horrid names like Dumb Dora, and Ugly Duckling. It didn't upset Dora,. She had shoes, clothes, and food to eat. The soldier and his wife loved her, and the teachers were kind. No soldiers came to shoot them, so she was very happy.

The teasing continued. Dora couldn't use a computer or calculator - or a television control, or mobile phone. The other children thought Dora was very dim. She hadn't heard of Jesus, and prayed to the Sun and Tree Spirits.

That summer, the school arranged a trip on a sailing ship. It was expensive, and many parents couldn't afford to pay for their children to go. Luckily, the soldier paid for Dora to go.

The children and two teachers set sail from Southampton on a large sailing ship. It had been especially prepared for school trips.

Two weeks later, they were in the sea off Africa, when a dreadful storm came. It raged all night, when morning came, the ship was sinking.

A giant wave had damaged the wireless-room, so no signal could be sent to tell of their danger. Only one lifeboat had not been washed away. The Captain packed as many children as he could in it, with food and water – and cast them off.

As the lifeboat moved away another wave rolled the ship over, and it sank. The children were left to their fate. They drifted all day. Older children took charge of the food and water. The storm passed, the sea calmed, the sun scorched down. The children drifted - lost. Dora made a suggestion. They told her to shut up. After all, she was Dumb Dora.

By the end of the second day, all the children except Dora were thirsty, hungry, frightened, and suffering from sunburn. After three days, things were much worse. Dora took the tiller to steer the boat; nobody had strength to complain. She looked at the sinking sun, prayed, set the sail, tied the tiller fast, then went to sleep.

Next morning, the last of the water and food was dished out. Everyone ate hungrily except Dora. She hid her two biscuits in her dress. She watched the sun, and re-set the tiller, then worked her way among the children, trying to protect them from the sun with what clothing they had.

On the fifth day, Dora was very weak, but the rest were much worse. Some seagulls flew overhead. Dora got a fishing line from the survival pack. She threaded a piece of a biscuit she had saved, onto the hook, then laid it on the back of the boat and waited.

A seagull swooped down and took the biscuit. Dora pulled - and the seagull was hooked. She swiftly killed it.

That may sound cruel, but Dora was trying to keep all the children alive. She fastened the head of the bird on the hook. Holding one end of the line, Dor threw the hook and rest of the line overboard. It trailed behind, and suddenly went tight. Dora pulled, and landed a fine fish.

Using the survival knife, she cut off the head and tail. Getting an empty container, she cut the fish into small pieces, and squashed it into a paste. The other children watched her every move. When they were offered a bit of paste, they ate it greedily.

Using fish heads and tails, Dora caught four more fish and five seagulls. She skinned the seagulls, and squashed them in with the fish she had pulped. She shared among the children. It gave them badly needed food and moisture.

Next day there were lots of seagulls. Dora knew it was a good sign. Sure enough, by midday she saw land in the distance. Hours later, she beached the lifeboat on the shore. Running to the nearest tree, she whispered a prayer and went to help the others ashore.

Dora pulled the anchor and rope up the beach, to keep the boat from floating away. She showed those that were able, what fruit, and berries they could safely collect from the surrounding jungle, and went to look for fresh water.

After searching in vain, she returned. On the way she collected leaves from a bush she recognised. She showed the leaves to the boys, telling them to collect more of the same type. Placing those leaves to one side, she encouraged the children to make a shelter from leafy branches.

The children were sore, and exhausted when they were finished. They huddled together, crying themselves to sleep. Dora mashed the leaves they'd collected, and mixed them with seawater. She went round the children, gently dabbing the mixture on their blisters, then joined them to sleep.

She was up first. Waking the other girls, she showed them what wild berries and roots were okay to eat, telling them to gather as much as they could.  The boys, she got collecting driftwood. Later, Dora got the children to help pull the lifeboat well up the beach. They removed the mast and sail, to use as part of a more secure shelter. One boy carried the survival box containing a signalling pistol, flares, an axe, matches, canvas water carriers, and some medical supplies, to the shelter.

The children were still in a sorry state. However, all were alive, none were suffering serious injury. All were happy to let Dora take charge. Water was the main problem. Dora found an answer to that.

Taking two boys and the axe, she searched the nearby jungle until she found the tree she wanted. She put her arms round it and whispered a prayer, then made a gash in the bark and a slit at the bottom. She instructed the boys to hold a water-carrier against the slit. Watery sap oozed down the gap into the canvas carrier.

With both carriers filled, Dora sealed the slit and gash with mud. They took the liquid back, and all the children drank some. It tasted woody, but was refreshing. By the end of the week, the children had adapted to their plight quite well.

A small fire was kept burning. A pile of driftwood was kept in reserve. Dora intended to light that and use the signalling flares if they saw any ship or airplane. She found a fallen hollow tree for a new project:

Using axe and knife, the boys cut a section of trunk and hollowed it. It was rolled to the fire. Under Dora’s supervision, it was moved back and forth, rolled in and out of the flames. It was never let burn, but was soon completely dry and hard all over. Dora said it was time to try it. Resting it across two logs, she used the axe-handle to bang on it. The hollow sound pleased her.

Dora couldn’t use a cell-phone, however, she knew how to make a jungle drum. They carried the drum to the nearest high point, and balanced it on two logs. One boy cut Dora two wooden clubs. She started beating the log-drum rhythmically.

She kept up a steady beat, the sound boomed out  through the jungle. For two days she beat out a signal every few hours. On the evening of the second day, far in the distance they heard a drum replying.

They children jumped and yelled in delight. Dora yelled to them to hush. She beat the drum again. Again came a reply.

Dora stood all through the night, beating out the language of the jungle drums, and pausing for a reply. Just before dawn, the children heard men calling in the distance. They shouted back loudly.

Friendly African soldiers appeared through the trees. Dora spoke to them in their own language. The soldiers gave the children food and drink. One soldier radioed back to base. Later, an Army Landing Craft sailed into sight. The children were soon aboard.

They sailed up the coast to Bolondo, and stayed in hospital there for two days. They gave radio and television interviews from their beds. On the third day, they were released from hospital, and boarded a plane for England.

At London airport, parents, waited with newspaper and TV crews. Dora's guardians were there: Happy and proud of their girl. Dora was very happy to be back with them.

Next day Newspapers and TV carried pictures of the castaways. All had close-up pictures of their hero Dora. Nobody called Dora silly names anymore.

When the full story of what Dora had done was made known, Dora was summoned to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen and receive a bravery award.

Many things Dora did not know. She had dark skin, and prayed to the Sun and Tree Spirits. What she DID know, and BECAUSE her skin was dark, helped her save twenty-three other children.

All the children prayed when they were cast adrift: Some to Jesus, some to Allah, Dora prayed to the Sun, and Tree Spirits. Nobody knows which of their Gods answered their prayers. I think ALL of them did.

There are no such things as 'Ugly Ducklings.' Whatever our shape, size, colour or religion, we should be friends with everybody, because we never know when we may need their help.

"I'm an 84 year old guy that took up writing a couple of years ago because I got cancer and could do little else. I left school at thirteen (71 years ago), so am not exactly educated, lol."

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