Ridgefield native pledges to help orphans
Ridgefield native the Rev. Wayne Lavender, Ph.D., has spent the last week and a half visiting Mozambique, Africa, as a guest speaker at the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Mozambique. While there, he also met with leaders to further discuss how the non-profit organization he founded, the Foundation 4 Orphans (F4O), can further help transform the lives of orphans.
Upon his return home, F4O, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises awareness and resources to help orphans and vulnerable children in the United States and around the globe, will hold a special fundraising event Nov. 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lounsbury House at 316 Main St. in Ridgefield. The event will include music, hors d’oeuvres, a presentation by Lavender and a special guest speaker from Africa.
Lavender, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in North Haven and a past longtime pastor of the New Milford United Methodist Church, will address the annual conference at the request of the Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, resident bishop of Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Madagascar. The UMC of Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also partners with F4O, as is the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq.
Bishop Nhanala has asked F4O if in the coming years it can help construct up to a dozen new community-based orphanages modeled after the Carolyn Belshe Orphanage in Cambine, Mozambique, built more than a decade ago under the leadership of Lavender and the New Milford United Methodist Church.
An estimated 150 million orphans are alive today, mostly in developing nations of the south. Approximately 16,000 children die daily from the effects of extreme poverty.
“The plight of orphans is real,” said Lavender, executive director of F4O. “It’s an ongoing humanitarian crisis. And our collective neglect of these precious children is, in essence, a crime against humanity.”
“We lift communities by serving orphans,” he said. “We know that we lift both the donor community and those receiving the aid. We lift donor communities in that when we give, we receive more than we give, and when we help someone else, our own path is illuminated. And we help communities that receive aid where there are an abundance of orphans by providing jobs in building orphanages and in caring for these precious children.”
Lavender’s book “Who Will Care for the Orphan?,” was recently translated into Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique. Bishop Nhanala has requested each of her clergy members read the book.
The Foundation 4 Orphans serves the educational, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of orphans and vulnerable children, “the very thing these children lose when their parents die,” Lavender said.
Lavender, who is also a professor at Quinnipiac University, has participated in four mission trips to Mozambique, as well as mission trips to Brazil, Iraq, Egypt and Vietnam, since 1998. In 2016, he took on a five-month journey running, walking and driving across the country to raise awareness about orphans and vulnerable children and funds for future projects around the world.
F4O recently celebrated the construction of an orphanage for nearly 50 children in Dondo, Mozambique. Plans are in the works to build additional orphanages in northern Mozambique and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to building orphanages, a chapter of F4O operates a mentoring program for orphans and vulnerable children in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, where Lavender served as a visiting professor at the University of Human Development from 2011-2013. During his time there, Lavender worked with students from the university and other nearby colleges to create the program to help children affected by war.
F4O continues to work throughout the region and has expanded its mission from mentoring children in need to also visiting refugee camps for those fleeing either the Syrian regime or areas overrun by ISIS.