“There is a place in Durban, South Africa, at the heart of the Kwa-Zulu Natal kingdom…”
I had the opportunity to visit this place during my practicum experience in South Africa. This place is full of life, young and old, and has an awe-inspiring presence to those around it. Nestled back in the rolling green hills, this is a place where nourishment, hope and opportunity are plentiful. You cannot pass by a single moment without hearing the sounds of laughter, learning and love sounding strong. It is truly a special place, and one that I will always hold near to my heart.
LIV Village is a home to 150 children who have been abandoned, abused, or seen their parents’ die prematurely. Here, the children are taken in by mothers and loved by everyone within the organization. LIV Village offers a full education program including early childhood development through grade 12 to all the children. Additionally, the children are taught practical skills such as sewing, woodworking and agriculture so that they can learn specialized skills to help support themselves as they grow older. There is a medical center on campus which provides both physical and mental care to the children, mothers, and other staff and volunteer members at LIV Village. Here they also have a team of nurses who currently care for three children with disabilities all day, every day. LIV Village is hoping to expand their ability to care for more children with disabilities by creating a disabilities center dedicated to providing children with any necessary physical therapy and developmental skills. Today, there are over 5 million children in South Africa living without a home or people to look after them. While LIV Village is only able to help a fraction of these children, their goal is to spread their presence across South Africa building thousands of villages for the children in need.
As an organization, LIV Village is working hard to not only better the lives of vulnerable children, but also to reach out to and support the surrounding communities. Cottonlands is the main area surrounding LIV Village and it is a very poor area. Families here are typically living on R 1300 (less than $100) a month provided to them through the government as social grants. Families can apply for these social grants only if they meet certain requirements such as, a family member living with a physical or mental disability, or the male figure of the family not being present or being unable to work. LIV Village supports this community by serving food to those in need as well as providing employment opportunities for those who are able. LIV Village is in the process of opening a community clinic where people from Cottonlands will be able to receive the medical attention and care they may need. With the nearest clinic being two villages away, most people in the area cannot afford to travel there or may not be capable depending on their condition.
While mainly dependent on generous donor funding, LIV Village is working hard to become a self-sustainable organization. LIV Village has created several small businesses of their own to help in this effort. These businesses consist of things like LIV eggs, LIV flowers and LIV clean, providing products and services to those across South Africa. In addition to supporting the LIV organization, these businesses are another employment opportunity for those in surrounding communities as well as an opportunity for LIV Village to reach out to build partnerships with other organizations.
LIV Village believes that by bringing government, church and business together, they can create change on a large scale to impact millions. They feel each party plays a critical role in the development of the lives of the children and the organization they run. It is not a single person or even a single group of people that is needed to raise a child. It takes a village to raise a child and LIV Village believes that “together we can”.
Watch the documentary above to learn more about LIV Village and where it started. Also, take some time to search their website to see how you may get involved.
About the Author
Madalyn Kern (second from right) is a PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder working with Dr. Mark Rentschler in the Advanced Medical Technologies Laboratory. This summer she completed her practicum in South Africa helping to design lower limb prosthetic sockets for rural areas.