A model network

Hugh Stacey shines a spotlight on our partner network in Venezuela – an unlikely success story of hope and sustainability in a country that is socially and economically unstable.

Venezuela has been in a state of crisis for close to two decades, with widespread corruption affecting almost every area of society. Most Venezuelans have very little hope of seeing the circumstances in their country change, and as such, they have been experiencing one of the greatest immigration crises the region has ever seen. According to the UN Refugee Agency, over seven million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.

Yet, in the middle of chaos, Viva and our partner network, RENACSENIV, remains hopeful about what can be achieved. It impacts the lives of over 50,000 children with a team of just seven people. In 2022 they:

  • helped 280 children get back into formal education through Learning Spaces
  • supported 22 new churches in updating their policy manuals to improve child protection standards, and
  • successfully ran 18 initiatives with local churches to increase their in-country influence.

Additionally, during the annual Network Health Check (NHC) monitoring that we conduct across all our partner networks, Venezuela was one of only a handful of networks to receive a perfect 100 per cent score – hitting all its sustainability benchmarks, with Viva’s support, and inspiring other networks in Latin America and beyond. NHC is an important piece of Viva’s annual operation, where we measure various factors that contribute to a network’s effectiveness and longevity: things such as governance, leadership, programme impact, local influence and financial reporting.

Viva’s Network Consultant for Venezuela, Isaac Saldivar, is full of praise for the network and likens the team’s structure and operation to that of a Swiss watch! In terms of member churches and organisations, it is our largest partner network in Latin America. Not only is the team coordinating projects and campaigns across 19 of Venezuela’s 22 states but they are considered ‘the authority’ on everything and anything to do with children for the Evangelical Alliance of Churches in Venezuela.

While neighbouring countries wrestle with the reality of Venezuela’s mass immigration crisis, one of the other positive consequences of a difficult situation was the founding of Viva’s partner network in Peru by a former member of the Venezuela network.

There, Learning Spaces have performed an essential role as referral centres, connecting families to resources and services they need.

Despite this incredible success, Venezuela’s problems remain as prevalent as ever. Even with a perfect NHC score and seeing their influence spill over into Peru, they now have the interesting task of figuring out what to do next.

Over the next few years, RENACSENIV plans to build on the strength of the national network and launch three regional ones. Not overburdening one centralised network would mean that they could further increase their efficiency and programme quality, while also focusing on growth.

The success of our partner network in Venezuela truly flies in the face of what we hear about the country, and Latin America and the Caribbean in general.
We know that the region’s inequality and wealth disparity is among the most severe in the world.

We know Venezuela’s Perceived Corruption Index is the worst in the region, even receiving the fourth worst score globally.

Yet, we also know that the work that Viva’s partner network is doing in Venezuela is nothing short of extraordinary.

It’s encouraging to see what is achievable within one of the world’s most unstable nations, and it is something of which we can all feel privileged to be a part.

Hugh Stacey is Viva’s Supporter Development Manager