Inspiring lasting change in children’s lives through the power of collective action
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Together for Children Viva Church Partners

What We Are Doing

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The needs of children around the world are vast and can seem overwhelming. In cities across the globe there are compassionate and committed people trying to protect, care for and empower children. However, while they may be doing great work they are often working in an isolated and unco-ordinated way. This means that, although their individual efforts are valuable, their impact on wider society is usually small.

Yet Viva’s experience suggests that a group of churches and community organisations, locally focused and united in purpose, can be hugely successful in bringing lasting change for children.

We call these groups networks and, since 1996, Viva has worked across five continents to bring more than 150 of these networks into existence.

As well as initiating the networks, Viva continues to work alongside them to make sure they remain unified, purposeful and effective. Although every organisation or church involved operates autonomously, they are also actively participating in the wider group and can therefore achieve things as a whole that no one project could achieve alone. In fact, we are seeing many local networks grow to a stage where they are not only lifting children out of difficult situations but actually changing the situations themselves - making whole communities and cities safer places for children.

Read on to learn more about the three key phases of developing a network to this point…

>> Download the Together for Children model booklet in English and Spanish.

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PHASE 1 IN ACTION: Argentina

The network in Villa Maria, Argentina, was one of the first that Viva was involved in setting up. Quite a few local organisations caught the vision for this kind of partnership and were very involved, but the churches in the area seemed resistant and only one or two had agreed to join the network.

Then the network decided to put on a Viva Christmas Party, inviting 1,000 children from their community. It approached local churches about very specific ways they could get involved with the event: offering the use of their buildings, helping to provide food, paying for some of the gifts, lending volunteers. The churches responded positively, feeling that the requests were relatively simple and the results very tangible. When the day of the party came there were 18 different churches represented, most of which had not been involved with the network previously.

The success of the day, shown in both the children’s enjoyment of the party and also the relationships between the adults present, really opened the eyes of the local pastors to the benefits of working in partnership with one another. Almost all of those churches are now members of the network, actively involved in working with other organisations to plan joint activities for the future.

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PHASE 2 IN ACTION: Nepal

“Child sexual exploitation is a growing issue in Nepal, but when we first began to investigate we could only find five churches engaging with this problem. Now there are over 100. Through our network here a group of churches have come together as the Daughter Project and committed themselves to raising awareness of child trafficking issues and training people to stop exploitation in their own communities.

“Nepal has a lot of unprotected border areas, prime places for traffickers to take children across into India and put them to work in brothels and bars. So as a network we identified the nine areas of highest risk along the Nepalese-Indian border and began to focus our efforts on engaging the churches there. Now, four years on, those churches have grasped hold of the vision with both hands and we are seeing whole communities made into safer places.

“The Daughter Project would not be successful without the network - and the concept of networking - behind it. There are so many weak points across the borders, and so many channels through which children can be bought and sold, that one organisation alone would struggle to make a real impact. But over 5,000 different adults and children working together across 100 churches in nine communities - that’s a different story. And the Daughter Project has not only educated those people, but has given them the tools to begin educating others.”

Dhan Raj Ghimire, Network Co-ordinator in Kathmandu, Nepal

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PHASE 3 IN ACTION: Uganda

“In Kampala, the network’s soundbite is ‘Keeping Children Safe’. This goal is providing a common focus and vision for children’s work across the city, and we are starting to see transformation - not only in official systems and policies but in people’s attitudes, thinking and behaviour.

“Yet when the network began its focus was mainly on child protection policies, helping member projects to make their organisations safer places for children. However, as the members began to make changes and give children opportunities to speak, it was as if a dam of silence broke and stories of abuse and neglect started flooding the case loads of local social workers.

“As the network then tried to engage parents, police officers, head teachers and local politicians, much disinterest, carelessness and corruption was faced. So Viva walked alongside the network as new initiatives were created and tested, all attempting to engage these key players in fresh and creative ways of keeping children safe.

“Through the ‘child-friendly church’ aspect of Viva Engage local pastors were able to lead the way, ensuring that their churches were safe, welcoming and empowering environments for children. Slowly adults began to realise the ways in which they were neglecting and even hurting children, and whole communities began strongly and vocally speaking out against child abusers, neglectful caregivers, thoughtless parents and duty bearers who were not fulfilling their responsibilities. As this call to keep children safe in Kampala grew, so the opportunities for strategic partnerships increased: both with other civil society organisations such as the Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity, and also with the government itself through the Parliamentary Forum for Children.

“Whilst the network continues to support and help develop the work of its individual member organisations it is also empowering children themselves to shape the city they live in. Through our Child Ambassadors programme children are learning how to speak out for themselves and others, and recently some of these Ambassadors were able to take their concerns in person to the Speaker of the House of Parliament. Viva’s partnership with a music and media company has also given children the opportunity to make documentaries about their everyday lives; produce short films featuring their original songs, dances, dramas and poetry; and even film an advert that was seen by millions of people across Uganda, reminding adults that “children are worth your time!” We’ve had amazing feedback from several communities within the city that the advert has already begun to positively affect local adults’ behaviour towards children.

“We believe that as we continue to work together to keep children safe we will one day see a city where people’s homes, churches, organisations and whole communities are safe places for children to grow up.”

Mim Friday, Viva Network Consultant in Kampala, Uganda

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