Lanre Williams-Ayedun Knows the Value of Faith and Community Support in International Development  

Lanre Williams-Ayedun is the Senior Vice President of International Programs for World Relief, a global Christian nonprofit organization that has supported refugee resettlement, humanitarian assistance and development programming in more than 100 countries.

Working in social services was always Lanre’s plan. 

“My father is a development practitioner as well, so I grew up in this community,” she explains.

Lanre was raised in Niger and exposed to poverty at a young age. After an elementary school field trip to a nearby village, she felt called to use her privilege in support of others.

“I have a responsibility to think outside of just myself,” she shares. “There is great need around me and maybe there’s something I can do.”

She initially planned to become a psychologist to help others on an individual level. But with a wise suggestion from her father, her direction changed.

“It was actually my dad that suggested public health as a way of engaging with a broader range of people. It really resonated with me,” she says.

Inspired by her father’s work, his encouragement towards public health and her experiences growing up across east and west Africa, Lanre dove into her career in international development. Along the way, she’s been supported by a network of peers who have advocated for her and pushed her outside of her comfort zone.

A friend told her about the position at World Relief and encouraged her to apply.

“I had been in senior leadership roles, but this was the first executive-level position. And I thought ‘Am I sure I’m ready for this?’” Lanre shares. 

However, her friend continued to encourage her to apply. When Lanre reviewed the job description she realized she was ready for the challenge.

“Throughout my career, I could see how all the different positions I had been in were preparing me for something like this role,” she says.

The World Relief position has been a great fit and allows Lanre to coach others as they figure out how to best use their own skills, talents and experiences in service of others.

“I have realized what I really love is coaching and supporting people to do their best,” she adds.

Sources of Strength

Working for World Relief also allows Lanre to draw on her Christian faith during times of stress.

“If I didn’t have my community of faith, or my belief that there is a bigger purpose, there is someone and something bigger than us in this work, I think it would feel very overwhelming,” she shares.

In addition to praying with her peers, Lanre is inspired by her team’s dedication to their work.

“99% of our staff are local, they come from, live and work in their communities,” she says. “They continue to engage in real ways and to persevere, and that also is motivating to me.”

Being able to see the changes in a community also gives Lanre the strength to stay in the work.

“We provide services that save lives,” she shares. “It’s not just theory.”

Stay Open

Lanre learned to stay open to unexpected experiences early in her career. When she landed an internship with a small organization, she thought it wouldn’t be a good fit for her goals.

“But it was the best possible experience for me. Because it was small, they needed someone who was ready to do all sorts of things. I got thrown into so many things, I learned so much and I had so many different experiences,” she explains.

She carried this openness with her when she was tapped to serve as Chief of Party for a $65 million US government-funded project in Guatemala.

“It was a huge challenge. I’m super proud about what we were able to accomplish as that team and for all of the growth that I had,” she shares.

Lanre’s professional journey has shown her the value of not being attached to one specific outcome. She encourages other young women to lean into experiences and trust their resilience.

“You have the ability to get through the twists and turns of your career trajectory. Believe that; and believe that your community will come along and support you in it as well,” she says.