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Family first

LIV Village is an NPO that places vulnerable and orphaned children into a family environment where they receive the education and love they need to thrive. We chatted to Carita McCririe, who runs the village with her husband Jono, about what drew her to the work and why she has chosen to raise her own family there.

Fourteen years ago, Carita visited Ndwedwe for the first time. Originally from Cape Town, she was invited to visit the site of what is now LIV Village by its founders Tich and Joan Smith, and she immediately fell in love with the concept of creating a safe and nurturing space for children in need. She joined the village permanently in January 2012, and just a few months later, met Jono who had come over from the UK as volunteer. The two quickly connected and were married two years later in a ceremony that included children and moms from the village. Now, the couple has three beautiful children of their own and are as committed as ever to their work in this unique space. “It’s so much more than an orphanage or a children’s village,” explains Carita. “It’s a place for families to do life together.”

The village is equipped with homes, where children live with ‘moms’ from the community in a family set-up. There’s a registered independent school on site, comprising an early childhood development (ECD) centre, a primary and a secondary school, as well as a technical occupational curriculum (TOC) stream which includes farming, admin, and culinary training. There are also sports fields and music, reading and therapy rooms to promote a holistic learning environment for the children, as well as a clinic.

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Carita loves raising her family as part of the village and finds her work deeply rewarding. “I’m so thankful for what the Lord has asked us to do. It’s the biggest privilege,” she says. “It’s not easy with all of the ups and downs of life and some of the hard spaces that we have to deal with, but the joy that we get from being here outweighs that.” Carita and Jono have an open-door policy and constantly have children and members of the village in and out of their home. “It’s a wild adventure,” she says. “It truly takes a village to raise a child, especially 160 children! We want the best for each child. What I love about the village is that everyone here does their best to raise the children as they would their own.”

Caring for children and single moms is the priority at LIV, and then creating opportunities for employment is also an important part of the vision. Beyond that, Carita says that the village serves as a beacon of hope for the community. The team runs a clinic for the community providing free health care and a church service every Sunday for anyone who would like to join from the surrounding area, as well as a kids’ church.

The past 12 years haven’t been easy – Carita says that running an operation of this scale and relying heavily on donors is a walk of faith every month. But, seeing the impact that a nurturing environment and community can have is profound. “It’s not always about the big things,” she says. “It’s about the small changes in their lives that we celebrate, especially when you see transformation and their story change. It is all about the journey to rescue, restore, raise and release a star. And that is why we are here!”

The village is a multifaceted space and there are many ways to get involved – from volunteering, to sponsoring a child’s education, or fundraising. “We encourage people to come and visit and see the village for themselves,” urges Carita.

Details: www.liv-village.com; 032 007 0571; [email protected]

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