Why I support Viva – Dick Stellway


As a new member of the Viva fundraising team, I have the privilege of getting in touch with many people who have been supporting Viva; some since the beginning – almost 25 years ago!

I was curious to find out a bit more about what makes Viva a cause that people will support over so many years. I had the opportunity to pose this question to one of our stalwart supporters, Dick Stellway, and was blown away by his insights. Dick served with Viva for over ten years, starting in 1999, as facilitator for what was then known as Viva’s ‘Children and HIV & AIDS forum.’ Here are his insights as to why he gives to Viva:

Viva’s ‘do with’ approach

I recall once hearing Samuel Kamaleson note how, in working with others, we can ‘do to,’ we can ‘do for,’ or we can ‘do with’. The ‘do to’ approach might be what we do to people we regard as ‘objects’ that somehow meet ‘our needs.’  It can be manipulative and often is. The ‘do for’ approach can be appropriate in times of emergency—like assisting victims of the explosion in Beirut. 

But when we do this long-term, it can be condescending — as when we ‘praise ourselves for what we are ‘doing for’ others, all the while keeping ‘them’ dependent on our handouts’ . This approach sends the message that those recipients are not capable of doing much on their own.

The ‘do with’ approach has the potential to become a win-win situation, and this is Viva’s approach. I love the way that Viva links people together—people participating in the networks, people supporting the networks and people connecting beyond Viva to other agencies. When you take a ‘do with’ approach, you realise that everyone has talent to offer

Dick (front row, centre) at the 2007 Asia Cutting Edge Conference in Bangkok. Dick says this is
“the group I was privileged to work with who were engaged in reaching children affected by HIV & AIDS.”

For example, Jean Webster, who mobilises churches across Zimbabwe to reach out to children impacted by HIV and AIDS shared how she often hears, “But what can we do; we’re too poor?” But Jean’s response is “What do you have?  You have hands.  What can you do with your hands?  You have feet, what can you do with your feet?” 

I like this about Viva’s ‘do with’ approach, as it taps into existing talent, and sends the message that everyone is capable and has something to contribute. This makes Viva’s model sustainable.

Viva is here for the ‘long haul’

There is an old African proverb: “You can break one stick, but you can’t break a bundle.” Viva helps Christian organisations with a common vision discover one another and explore ways they can work together. Working together, we begin to envision new possibilities that none could have imagined while working alone. By bringing these organisations into a network, they are forming an unbreakable “bundle.” 

I believe the shared vision is a core component. The Christian organisations that work together in this network all share a vision to protect and to improve the lives of children at risk. It is a vision that God has laid on their hearts. They are not willing that any marginalized child within their reach should suffer and perish, either physically or spiritually. They want to be ‘there’ for these children so that, in keeping with the vision Jesus expresses in John 10:10, they might have life—abundant life.

Viva’s communication on the impact of the giving

Donors appreciate receiving feedback on what their giving is accomplishing. Feedback permits inclusion. It involves, at least potentially, being part of a team.

Viva’s flexibility

While I believe it is very important for Viva to hold to its networking model, I am pleased that it has found room to accommodate what might be regarded as ‘novel’ approaches. These include the focus on children in emergencies and the education programme to girls who would otherwise be outside of Uganda’s education system. 

Our roles as believers – the division of labour

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the gifts of the spirit. Some people have the gift of working directly with children at risk, some have the gift of building an organisation, some have the gift of strengthening organisations through financial means or prayer.

We are so grateful to faithful supporters like Dick who are a part of our Global team. As he mentions, we all have different roles to play, and Viva would not be where it is today, having the impact it does on the lives of millions of children, without people like himand like you.  

If you would like to find out more about giving to our work please contact Sophie on s.olivier@viva.org.