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Papa Jacques Montouroy, Aid Worker

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Jacques Montouroy braved some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots.

During his 41-year career with the Catholic Relief Services, French national Jacques Montouroy braved some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots.

Burkina Faso, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Liberia — places most of us experience only through grim newspaper headlines or clips on CNN, with the most graphic horrors edited out. He faced more than his share of life-threatening situations over the years. Montouroy once ran afoul of powerful former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Deposed Liberian president Samuel Doe at one time ordered his execution. Later, a rebel leader who’d captured and tortured Doe held Montouroy at the point of an AK-47, claiming the aid worker had stolen rice meant for his troops. In Somalia, he was caught in a firefight between International Red Cross security forces and a local militia.

Self-described as a “doer” rather than a thinker, he was a practical minded, logistics-oriented man with little interest in policy making and little patience for bureaucracy. He shunned the limelight and wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind.

But he did more than just feed the hungry. Through his love of sports, he helped generations of poverty stricken kids find something to look forward to each day. Wherever he found himself, he coached youth soccer teams. He was so successful in Sierra Leone that there was talk of making him the coach of the national team, but Montouroy preferred to work with kids. As many as 40 of his former players went on to play professionally in Europe.

Montouroy died in Freetown, Sierra Leone, at age 63 from complications related to an ulcer. Hundreds lined the streets for Papa Jacques’ funeral procession, stand-ins for the untold thousands he’d saved through his bravery and kindness.

You can find a touching remembrance of him on the CRS website.