Marlies Lange recently retired after helping thousands of children over three decades, but what amazes her most is that she did it while speaking, writing and proofreading in English.
In 1981, Lange, a Bellingham resident, co-founded the predecessor organizations of Childcare Worldwide with her husband, Max Lange, who remains president. She grew up in Germany and didn't begin to really learn English until she was a newlywed living in Liberia.
Marlies Lange, who has two children and two grandchildren, has made dozens of trips to Africa and Asia on behalf of Childcare Worldwide and its predecessors while working with Max.
Question: Marlies, what's your fondest memory about serving with Childcare Worldwide?
Answer: We wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, to break the cycle of poverty and create a better life for future generations, and I think we're doing that while helping so many children. I think of a boy in Uganda who responded to us when he was 8 years old. Two years ago, he graduated from a university and is now an art teacher, married with two children who have a chance with a real future.
Q: You've seen so much overseas, right?
A: So many touching memories, such as the sight of seeing four utterly impoverished orphaned children who had lost their parents to AIDS. They were living in a little mud hut in Uganda, surviving on whatever food they could find. We were able to place them in one of our children's homes and now they and their children will have a future.
Q: What's your next project?
A: I'm planning to visit many shut-ins. I'm going to write a book about a remarkable man named John Mwangi from Kenya. He grew up in a slum and became who he is today through sponsorship (by Childcare Worldwide) and education. He's now our East African director and he has a fascinating story to tell.
Q: Has faith played a major role in your life and work?
A: My faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ has given me the strength I've needed. I'm a member of Northwest Baptist Church.
Q: As a teenager growing up in Germany, could you have imagined such a life?
A: Oh, no, all that travel and working with so many people. But what really still amazes me is that I learned English well enough not only to speak it and write it, but to proofread it! I served as an editor and photographer, among other duties, and I was in charge of child sponsorships while helping Max with Childcare Worldwide.
Q: In Germany, did you grow up in freedom?
A: In 1949 we were living in the eastern sector of Berlin, behind what later became the wall separating East and West Germany. But my parents would pick the right times to move things - I remember it was when the police were having a party! - and we were able to relocate to a suburban area of the free West Berlin.
Q: How did you meet Max?
A: Max and I started corresponding and after a year of writing to him in Liberia, he came to visit me in Germany. We were married not too long after that in 1963, and about three months later I was able to join him in Liberia. We were there four years and then I followed Max to his work in Texas. I thought we would eventually go back to Germany, but we have spent our life in America; Texas, Florida, California, and in Bellingham since 1988.
Q: Where is Childcare Worldwide active?
A: We are currently sponsoring well over 4,000 children. Our four core countries are Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and India. We also work with responsible, trustworthy organizations in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Peru, the Philippines and Mexico.
Childcare Worldwide can be contacted at 360-647-2283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.