‘Foundation 4 Orphans’: Public Policy PhD Alum Works to House, Educate Vulnerable Children


Wayne Lavender, a Schar School of Policy and Government graduate from the PhD in Public Policy program, is the executive director at the Foundation 4 Orphans, where he builds homes and educates hundreds of orphans in the African country of Mozambique. He set out, he said during an October appearance at the Schar School, to mitigate the crisis and give hope to over 150 million orphans worldwide.

While receiving his PhD, Lavender researched peace building between Christians and Muslims before graduating in 2010. Later, he became an assistant professor of peace studies and conflict resolution at the University of Sulaimani in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

In Iraq, Lavender taught his students how to care for orphans on an emotional level. “To this day, many of my old students still visit their assigned orphan children at least once a month,” said Lavender.

Lavender went on to become the executive director of the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity in Norfolk, Va., but his true passion was always growing the Foundation 4 Orphans to support as many children as possible.

Lavender said some 16,500 children will die a day from preventable diseases and extreme poverty. “Most children become orphans because their parents pass away from HIV-AIDS, get into car accidents, or their parents are simply gone,” he said. 

“The four fundamental forms of care that we provide are education, emotional care, physical support, and spiritual support,” said Lavender. “Each of our new communities has to be near a hospital, church, road, and fields. We have built five ‘houses for children’ in Mozambique.”

Education goes beyond the classroom for these children. “We encourage children to choose a career path, and the foundation helps them achieve their goals,” he said. “Our children aspire to be doctors, teachers, pilots—and one girl wants to be a judge to stop people from taking away the basic human rights of Mozambicans.” 

The foundation will soon expand to Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Lavender. “We want to build as many homes for children as possible, and the need is not going away.”