CRESTVIEW — When Jennifer Wayer arrives at her Crestview Family Dentistry office, she is ready to ensure people have healthy teeth, gums and mouths.
When she’s not assisting patients, she’s helping children and families nearly 9,000 miles away in the south African nation of Swaziland.
ORPHAN TO HEIR
Wayer’s involvement with Swaziland began five years ago while volunteering with World Vision International, a Christian-based humanitarian group. She contributed to a pipe-building project that brought drinking water to the community of Mpolonjeni and its 30,000 citizens.
Wayer saw an opportunity to help even more people through a project she’s named Orphan to Heir. The soon-to-be non-profit organization focuses on the nation’s 200,000 orphans and aims to provide them medical and theological support.
“We live in a bubble of privilege [in America],” Wayer said.
Swaziland is not as fortunate. The nation has the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate, about 28 percent infected, according to the World Health Organization and several health watchdog agencies.
The disease’s effects leave a large number of children orphaned, according to Wayer.
“This disease is taking away an entire generation,” she said.
Orphan to Heir brings training and resources to these children, caregivers and local pastors. Providing bibles in the country’s native language, siSwati, has been one of Wayer’s primary goals. Religion is currently passed down using oral tradition, Wayer said.
Pastors and religious leaders had no formal training, Wayer discovered on a previous mission. Orphan to Heir sponsored those leaders to receive that education at the University of South Africa.
Wayer has also used her own educational background and work experience to teach Swazi children proper dental hygiene. These dental and medical skills have also been passed to area leaders so they can continue to care for their citizens.
“We can’t police the world and always put Band-Aids on problems but [Swazi leaders] can be those individuals,” Wayer said. “They just don’t have the resources.”
She has also partnered with the New Hope Centre, an orphanage and school founded in 2002, in Swaziland.
A WIN-WIN SITUATION
A WVI display with statistics, information and pictures sits just inside the Crestview dental office’s entrance, flanked by a woodcarving of Africa reading, “from orphan to heir.”
Not everyone in the office has embraced Wayer’s causes, but overall it’s been a supportive environment, she said.
She’s also found a win-win situation: a way to benefit the local community while assisting the Swazi children. Some patients over the years have been unable to afford their dental care procedures.
Wayer compromises with what those individuals can afford and accepts it as a donation to Orphan for Heir.
“It benefits our community because it allows us to provide care to those that couldn’t afford it otherwise and still raise donations to help the [Swazi] children,” she said.
Wayer hosts other fundraisers for Orphan to Heir, such as a recent Boston Butt sale.
Wayer, often accompanied by her daughter Sarah, will take her sixth trip to Swaziland in May.
“We’ve been very organic with the growth and direction of [Orphan to Heir],” Wayer said.
She’s currently converting the group to a 501(c)(3) organization, which would deem it a non-profit.
Email Wayer at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on Orphan to Heir, including ways to make donations.