It was late one night when Ellen and Emmagene heard a knock at the door. Outside was a young woman, who hastily handed over a bundle to the two American missionaries before disappearing into the darkness.
The bundle turned out to be a baby, a little girl – Aziza – who would be the first of many orphaned and abandoned children taken into their small home in Morocco, and cared for until they were old enough to find their own way in the world.
The dedication of the missionaries soon caught the attention of a young Ron Newby, who organised a sponsored walk at his church in Coventry after hearing about their work through Patricia St John, a former missionary nurse in Morocco who was later to become president of Global Care.
But Ron wasn’t the only person who would hear Patricia’s inspirational stories of Aziza and her fellow orphans. A few years later, Ailsa Mackintosh was working in the British embassy in Rabat, as a career which had taken her all over the world drew to a close.
Ailsa recalls: “After Patricia retired, she kept in touch with Ellen and Emmagene and she used to come back to Morocco regularly to visit them and other friends.
“I remember meeting her on one of her visits and she said that when I retired myself, I should come to Coventry to work for Global Care! I had never even been to Coventry, but eventually she persuaded me to visit, and that’s when I met Ron Newby.
“Over the years, Global Care continued to support the missionaries and their little home. Aziza herself grew up and moved to America, where she eventually got married and had a family of her own.
“Hers was a real success story. Many young mothers like Aziza’s, who’d had a child out of wedlock, would have been stoned or cast out for bringing shame on their families.”
In 1992, having left Morocco, Ailsa gladly accepted Ron’s offer of a job with Global Care. She says: “Right from the word go, I was amazed by Ron’s energy and enthusiasm, and how he was always thinking of new initiatives and new ways to support children and young people with no-one else to turn to.
“He used to say that as a small organisation, Global Care was perfectly placed to react quickly to emergency situations.
“In fact, whenever there was a catastrophe or emergency somewhere in the world, people would get in touch with Global Care and ask us what we were going to do to help.”
One of Ailsa’s key roles was helping to manage the charity’s growing child sponsorship programme. This took her to many different countries, helping to identify the most vulnerable children in need of sponsorship and to ensure that two-way communication between the children and their sponsors was maintained.
She recalls: “It was quite difficult at times because, of course, there was no email in those days and everything in terms of correspondence had to be managed by post. I don’t know how we coped sometimes!
“But we had many sponsors who took an interest in the children and in many cases those relationships really blossomed into something tremendous.
“That was why visiting the different projects was so important. We used to go every year to Uganda, for example, and the people on the ground would give us the names and photos of children who were particularly in need of support, and we would collect updates and reports on those children who were already receiving sponsorship.”
Ailsa says that even many years later, there are still individual children who stick in her memory.
“I remember some small boys in Uganda who so impressed me with their desire to help themselves,” she says. “One little boy took us to see where he was making bricks and leaving them out to dry in the sun before selling them. Another boy proudly showed us his goat which was a means of support for him and his family. So many children in Uganda at that time had lost their parents to AIDS and were looking after elderly grandparents, rather than the other way round.
“In those days in Uganda, we used to run camps for the children and I remember visiting one in Rukungiri in the south-west of the country and being very moved by the experience.
“These were children living in such desperate situations, often foisted off onto relatives who didn’t want them and ill-treated them, yet they were being given such hope. I remember one little boy once said to me: ‘They taught us a lot of things at the camp, like how to clean your teeth and how to love God.”
One of the most harrowing visits Ailsa recalls was to Romania, where Global Care wanted to do something to help children living in orphanages, where conditions were so squalid they had shocked the world.
Ailsa says: “I do remember visiting one orphanage and it was quite horrifying. We saw the children outside and they were just wild. They were badly neglected and had obviously not been cared properly for at all.
“The Romanian government wanted Global Care to open up a big institution for these children, but Ron was determined that they should grow up in a normal family setting.
“He then had the terrible task of choosing which children would come into the home first. We had enough money to open a small home on two floors, with about eight children in each little family. I can remember seeing the ‘mamas’ making up the beds for the children the day they arrived. They had never seen anything like it, of course.
“Our work in Romania was an example of Global Care being able to get help quickly to where it was needed. Ron had discovered how dreadful the orphanages were and he knew we had to act immediately.”
Another child whose story had a big impact on Ailsa was Mariamma, a little girl in India who had been abandoned at the side of the road by her step-mother. She was found by a pastor who brought her to a home supported by Global Care.
Ailsa says: “It was a very rural area and a primitive little home with just a few children. The children slept on the floor and Global Care paid for them to be looked after and to go to school.
“This little girl, Mariamma, grew up there. Eventually she moved to Kolkata, where Global Care was working with Emmanuel Ministries. She finished school and went on to university and a year or two ago, I met her when she came to visit Coventry. She is a beautiful young woman now, married and with a bright future ahead of her. Such a wonderful story.”
Ailsa retired from Global Care in 2005 but says she still keeps in close contact with the charity through the regular prayer letter and has become a child sponsor herself.
She adds: “It was such a great privilege to meet so many wonderful people and to see first-hand our projects thriving, and children and young people across the world being helped and supported.
“We would turn up from Coventry with pens and pencils for the schools, and mechanical bits and pieces for the Landrover, and everyone was always so welcoming. The children would be so excited to see visitors.
“I am 88 now and I look back on my time with Global Care with incredible fondness. They really were the best years of my life.”