Take a breath. Think about your upcoming yoga class or routine trip to the gym. It's not only an escape, it’s a way to maintain health of body and mind. In a city saturated with yoga studios, boot camps in public parks and organized races year-round, we sometimes overlook the fact that fitness comes at a cost.
Organized fitness programs are a luxury that must be paid for, a luxury not accessible to all demographics. That’s what Carolyn Haney noticed, and that was the impetus for the creation of WeViva, a new Austin non-profit that is taking fitness to the communities who need it most.
After working at several area non-profits that targeted children and obesity, she was struck by the void in programs available to the parents of the children she was serving.
"There are no completely free fitness classes, especially in low-income communities, in Austin," says Haney, founder of WeViva. "There has been a strong movement around the boot camp model in the fitness world, however, these programs are designed for, and can only be used by, those with the ability to pay for these services."
Coupling her background in social work and a passion for fitness, Haney created the model for WeViva, a travelling fitness and wellness program concentrated on providing free fitness programs to women who would otherwise be unreached.
WeViva targets low-income women, ages 18 and older, who live or work in a participating community. The flagship WeViva program lasts six weeks and includes at least two classes a week, each with a fitness activity and nutrition lesson or demonstration, all at no cost to the participants. All WeViva asks in return is that each woman make the commitment to attend at least one class a week.
"All of our classes are designed around the population to ensure that they are getting the most out of a WeViva session," says Haney. "We bring classes that are most culturally appropriate such as Zumba, yoga and strength training," Haney says.
And they do so in the communities that need it most. As the WeViva website states, "[L]ow-income minority individuals, especially Hispanic adults, have significantly higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the general population." By encouraging healthy eating and fitness in those communities, WeViva hopes to reverse that trend.
Since its founding in January 2011, WeViva has completed ten flagship six-week programs at various locations including KIPP Public Charter Schools, several Foundation Communities locations and Family Eldercare.
During its first year, WeViva has directly impacted over 200 people in Austin—women, men and seniors included. “We have received many testimonials about how much the classes have changed the way the participants view physical activity and healthy eating,” Haney says. One can argue that the impact goes much further than just the 200 class participants: as participants’ views on health evolve, so too will those of their families.
In 2012, WeViva plans to expand its flagship six-week long course into year-long programs at additional sites. "After the high turnout in each of the classes, organizations have decided to have WeViva continue programming for longer than just the initial six weeks," says Haney. WeViva is also open to finding new places to take their mobile fitness-forward organization: "We will bring you classes where ever you need them... for free!"
WeViva is member of I Live Here, I Give Here. You can donate to WeViva directly from our site using the new donation tool below.