The Viva Foundation of South Africa

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The Viva Foundation of South Africa

The Viva Foundation of South Africa was founded in 2007 by Leon and Meleney Kriel.  The couple conceptualised an approach to community building that stems from Meleney’s idea of an approach to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) whereby they are not seen as a liability, but a valuable human resource that requires a small amount of investment, nurture and care, then the Viva Kids idea was born. It namely provided beautiful facilities, innovative education and appealing early learning centres, and that will be no stigma attached to being an ‘OVC’ in contrast to others in the community should want to be a Viva Kid, as it is a title to be aspired. Leon came up with an idea of creating a ‘City of Hope’ inside a high-priority poverty area, that is appealing, healthy and advanced in technology and life-approach, where the surrounding community can be positively influenced, services provided and the area uplifted and transformed from within. This plan complimented the Viva Kids idea and led to the formation of the Viva Village.

The first Viva Village was established in the Alaska Informal Settlement, Mamelodi East, at the end of 2009 and it has become the heart of community life. The Viva Village functions as a hub service by The Viva Foundation and other partners, thereby facilitating a complete palette of services and closing inter-disciplinary gaps for the benefit of the community.  Other formats have been added to the Viva Village concept, namely the Viva Sharehouse (in areas where only a house or small space is available), Viva Connect Enterprise Development and Communication Centre and the Viva Community Gardens.  
Mission and Vision
The Vision of The Viva Foundation of South Africa is to be instrumental in the transformation of informal settlements and other high-priority poverty areas into stable neighbourhoods providing education, employment, business and recreational opportunities to the whole community.  The mission is to establish service hubs, such as the Viva Village, the Viva Sharehouse, Viva Connect and Viva Community Gardens, in every informal settlement and inner city area. 
Main Activities
Due to the partnership approach and the unique Viva Village concept of creating facilities and a platform for Viva and others to reach into a community, The Viva Foundation of South Africa is able to provide many services, beyond the projects and programmes that it initiates. The organisation makes it possible for anyone who wants to serve the community, to do so, without having to establish their own centre and reinvent the wheel.  The partnerships are organic and uncomplicated and therefore serve the beneficiaries best. 
Some of the initiatives that Viva presents are:

  • The Viva Kids Early Learning Centre;
  • The Viva Family to Family OVC and HIV/AIDS programme;
  • The Viva Rape Response Protocol Initiative;
  • The Viva Enterprise Development Initiative;
  • The Viva Township Art and Living Art Gallery.

Other initiatives in collaboration with partners:

  • The Viva Health Post (preventative health in collaboration with the University of Pretoria);
  • The Seven Stars Football Club (mainly girls teams);
  • The SOUNS Literacy programme (in collaboration with the Int. Rotary Club);
  • Skills development and income generation programmes (short courses and workshops).

Challenges and Opportunities
Due to the nature of informal settlements and the fact that the population of these areas are varied and from many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, disconnection is a challenge that Viva has been able to overcome, by forming a centre in the midst of the informal settlement and beginning a high quality early learning centre.  Through the children, direct contact to the parents and care-givers is established; this becomes the core of service-drawers.  Challenges that are faced in the families are assessed and solutions sought after. This approach circles wider to include other members of the community and within a short time Viva becomes the recognised ‘go-to’ and the heart of community life.
Another challenge is a mindset of desperation and hopelessness. Viva aims to inspire self-empowerment and keeps hand-outs to a minimum and only to extremely vulnerable families. The reason is that hand-outs perpetuate poverty and is counter-productive and in many cases condescending. Viva believes it is better to teach a family what the key indicators of well-being are in order for them to assess their own situations and assist them to address these challenges themselves. Help is given in order for help to no longer be needed.  While some of the initiatives address the symptoms of poverty, there is a stronger drive to remedy the causes of poverty. 
Impact and contribution to society
Viva’s impact is dramatically visible at the first glance through initiatives that uplift and transform visually such as the Township Art and Living Art Gallery and also the visually appealing Viva Village with green lawns, multiple trees and attractive facilities. But the impact goes deeper. Self-empowerment and a quick handing over of the reigns to the local community, together with education and enterprise development, breeds a culture of hope that circles into the neighbourhood. The individual success stories, gradual upliftment and betterment of a community are what Viva’s philosophy is all about.  A new way of thinking, striving for a better future and picking up of oneself - those are the elements of impact that are visible now and will be increasingly visible in the future.
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