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Federal Way woman's big heart helps tiny island nation

Lise Church stands next to a stack of boxes in her Federal Way garage containing items that will be shipped to the Republic of Seychelles this month. As the nation
Lise Church stands next to a stack of boxes in her Federal Way garage containing items that will be shipped to the Republic of Seychelles this month. As the nation's U.S. consul general, Church holds an award she accepted July 23 on behalf of Seychelles. The award from Travel and Leisure magazine denotes Seychelles as the World's Best Island 2007.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Lise Church’s heart not only belongs to two nations, but it also serves as a vital bridge.

Twice a year, the Federal Way resident visits her homeland of Seychelles (pronounced “say shells”), a nation of 98 islands and about 85,000 people located off the eastern coast of Africa, north of Madagascar.

More than just vacations, the trips also fulfill a mission.

In the United States, Church has led a donation drive the past 10 years that fills one giant shipping container with essential items to benefit St. Elizabeth’s Orphanage and Convalescent in Seychelles.

From bicycles, toys and food to pillows, wheelchairs and medical supplies, the shipment helps young children as well as elderly residents at an orphanage that struggles to make ends meet.

In 1999, Church even organized an effort to ship a pre-fabricated house following a freak storm that devastated her native country.

“You don’t realize all the poverty,” said Church, who gives ample gratitude to the Federal Way community for its support. “It’s surprising the stuff in America we throw away. These people keep them like treasures.”

As the U.S. consul general for Seychelles, Church is the lone link and representative between the two countries. She joins about 32 consuls from other nations, such as Jamaica, who live in the Puget Sound area.

Church often fields calls from across the United States regarding immigration and other issues pertaining to Seychelles. In July, she visited New York City to accept an award from Travel and Leisure magazine denoting Seychelles as the World’s Best Island in 2007.

Her visibility in Western Washington’s consul community could pay off for both the state and Seychelles.

Church eventually befriended Beth Willis, corporate director with the World Trade Center in Tacoma. Willis and her husband once traveled with Church to Seychelles for about 10 days, meeting all kinds of business owners, artists and even a former president of the nation.

The economic potential left an impression on Willis.

“It was like being on a trade mission,” she said. “From a trade point of view, we’re always looking for economic opportunities for Washington.”

Among the possibilities include finding distributors for tuna from a state company, for example, or having wholesale grocers send packaged goods. Willis is also looking into setting up an export plan to Seychelles with Washington’s wine industry.

Seychelles depends on tourism to pump foreign money into its economy, and the nation seeks more opportunities to boost financial prospects, said Willis, whose job involves regular international trade deals.

“They’re interested in doors being opened for them, and we’re interested in providing goods and services that raise their standard of living,” Willis said. “I would not even know what the Seychelles were without Lise Church.”

Contact Andy Hobbs: editor@fedwaymirror.com.

Get involved:

To help cover the $6,000 cost of shipping a container of goods to the Republic of Seychelles, Lise Church will host a fundraising dinner Sept. 23 at her Federal Way home. Cost to attend the island buffet-themed dinner is $25. Church will also arrange to pick up any donations. To learn more, e-mail lisechurch@comcast.net or call (253) 874-4579.

Check it out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seychelles

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