Viva works with 38 partner networks around 27 countries. Each of them is independent and locally led. This is important to us – it means that they truly know and are able to respond to local needs, are sustainable and there for the long-term and owned by local churches, organisations and people. This is recognised as a great model for long-term impact on the lives of children. (If you haven’t seen the independent Sagamore research on Viva’s effectiveness please contact us.)
Viva has 20+ years of experience in supporting networks of local churches and other grassroots organisations to co-ordinate their response and achieve much greater impact than would be achieved alone. Our local partner networks include an average of more than 100 local churches and organisations working together to address challenging situations on many levels. They naturally include peer support, prayer and result in a greater working capacity and reduced risk of burnout, essential in a protracted emergency situation. They are experts on the situation of vulnerable children in their cities. They know the situation and the issues and what will be exacerbated during this crisis.
Our team of regional experts bring a combined 143 years’ experience of developing targeted programmes to meet the most significant issues facing children. Viva’s children in emergencies’ specialist also brings an added layer of technical expertise and familiarity with international good practice, which supports a high-quality response alongside an experienced programme team.
Viva hears from a total of over 5,000 grassroots churches and organisations across our partner networks and harnesses and shares their creativity to enable a massive potential for new ideas and replication. Transfer of knowledge and multiplication of impact is possible in a very real and rapid way.
Being a networking organisation, some would think that we cannot continue to operate in conditions of social distancing but we are encouraging partner networks to be pro-active, adapt to the new situation and find ways to respond in a relevant and needed way. We are encouraging networks to:
- Choose to respond in faith (not fear) – many people are telling us how to wash our hands – in my church on Sunday we were taught to wash ourselves (maybe three times a day) in God’s word by speaking Psalm 91 over ourselves and our family – declaring our choice to exercise trust and faith in God for our protection and collective help in trouble.
- Ensure they are familiar with the facts from WHO website and your government guidelines so that they can support and advise others around with good and reliable information.
- Learn for each other to take positive steps you can make as a network. Different regions around the world are experiencing the WHO-declared ‘pandemic’ in different ways and different timelines. In Asia, our Hong Kong team have been on lockdown for many months whilst the rest of the world is just beginning to be reducing meetings. We can take this opportunity to maximise our connectivity and share learning from around the world to help networks create strong and helpful responses. Here is a space where Viva should by nature be very relevant. We have set up a page on our Children in Emergencies website to share learning and ideas. Some of these ideas include:
• Find alternative ways to connect members through social media groups, webinars and virtual meetings
• If programmes and events are cancelled, use any extra time you may gain to write a network Annual Report, update network policies and send newsletters
• Consider whether training programmes can be carried out through Skype, Zoom or other online video conferencing systems
• Arrange for those who are less at-risk in churches to offer delivery of food supplies to those who need to self-isolate
• Create a rota for calling and checking on those who are most isolated and vulnerable
• Develop activity toolkits that parents, teachers and families can use with their children in isolation – maybe even helping explain to children what is happening around the world
• Youth spaces run safely online through Zoom
• Continue spreading positive messaging through social media
• Are there critical functions that the authorities need an army of volunteers for? That is one thing that the church has available
• Use any extra time you may have by creating some video content to support online campaigns
Viva’s Network Consultants are our team dedicated to directly supporting our partner networks. They already have regular virtual communication with partner networks. We are encouraging them to continue to communicate regularly, and to ensure they are checking in on how the coordination teams are coping, and to identify further ways in which we can support their work.
In the coming weeks, we will:
- Continue sharing innovative solutions being used by our partner networks
- Assess all of our funded programmes to see how they will be affected and make contingency plans
- Be ready to provide any new technical development to support need to continue to support our partner networks to provide for churches and vulnerable children as we all navigate the challenges of this pandemic together.