The Kiwanis International Foundation recently sat down with foundation trustee Mary Langdon to talk about why she supports the foundation, what motivates her to give and some of her memories of being a Kiwanis member.
I know that through the Kiwanis International Foundation and its programs, I can touch a lot more lives than I can just writing a check here or there. Through the foundation, we reach so many more people and have a broader impact. Through my travels, I’ve seen so much. When I am able to be hands-on or experience things firsthand, it’s so much easier to give. I feel so much better because I really know where my money is going and that it’s going toward what I intended. I always encourage people to give. If they cannot give financially, I ask them to give time.
I was talking to a friend of mine, and we were discussing ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. It’s the people who have received the benefit of the Salvation Army who, more often than not, will donate. I was ringing the bells one day in Des Moines, Iowa, and this woman just emptied her entire purse. She must have given US$20. And she said “The Salvation Army helped me and this is why I give.” And one day you may be on the receiving end. So, if you can give, give. And if you can’t, then give your time. Try and make a difference.
I am most passionate about service to children. They are our future. You can read their faces and they’re just so honest. A lot of the children I work with don’t have a father figure or a role model in their lives and by being that kind of person for them, that they know that they can count on me when I mentor, that really sends it all home.
THE NEED TO GIVE
My first “Aha!” moment in Kiwanis was when I was the liaison for two Key Clubs. We were having a Key Club convention in conjunction with our district convention. I picked up three Key Club students to take to Omaha, Nebraska. The first little girl I picked up lived in a rundown doublewide mobile home. I knocked on her door and she invited me in. There, in the living room, was a king-sized bed with four little babies in it and no other furniture there. And I thought, “Wow! She’s giving 50 hours a year in community service to be a member of Key Club. What am I doing? I don’t give that much.” The next student I picked up didn’t want me to meet him at his house. He was embarrassed, so I picked him up on a corner. The third Key Clubber I picked up was in a shingled home that had aluminum foil stuffed in the siding of the house. The child that I picked up on the street and the child in that shingled house both went on to be Key Club lieutenant governors. It opened my eyes to being so fortunate and that I need to do more and give more.
BE THE CHANGE
I was in a card shop once and I came across this card that read, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It was by Mahatma Gandhi. I thought that was such a powerful statement. I have that sitting right next to my computer. When I was in Sierra Leone, I took a picture of this little boy. He’s looking up to his father, who has his hand on the boy’s head. I thought to myself, “That is the face of hope.” I look at that picture and that little face of hope reminds me every day that I need to be the change I wish to see in the world. And it’s a good thing.
ELIMINATING MATERNAL AND NEONATAL TETANUS, GIVING HOPE
We went to a village on an MNT trip in Sierra Leone. They brought three women in to get their tetanus shot. One woman had to be eighteen years old. She had just moved from Liberia. She hadn’t had any of her immunizations for tetanus and she’s shaking and tears are welling in her eyes. I asked the interpreter, “Does she know why she’s getting a tetanus shot?” The interpreter asked her and she didn’t. I said “Would you let her know that her baby will not die of tetanus.” The interpreter told her that, the tears just went away and a smile came on her face. The second lady asked the interpreter something and the interpreter answered in the affirmative. And the woman comes over to me and says “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” And I got this huge hug from her. Then, the third lady was there getting her last shot. This was another Kiwanis moment. All three of these women had seen tetanus deaths in their lives. And to think that our gift was saving their children was just amazing to me. I can’t describe it, how my heart just welled with such gratefulness for what we are doing in these countries and saving these women and their children. What a phenomenal thing we’re doing with The Eliminate Project.
My husband and I are so blessed and so fortunate to be financially capable to do what we do. We travel the world and we see Kiwanis fingerprints all over. We’ve seen them in daycares in Ocho Rios; at a bus stop in Africa. And we have realized, because of where we are in society and how financially fulfilled we are, that we need to step up and be more responsible. We feel by doing that we are working for the betterment of the world and it just gives you a feel good feeling.