Living in one of America’s fittest cities, an Austin woman identified a lack of healthy lifestyle options for adults in low income communities, particularly in the areas of fitness and wellness.
Carolyn Haney, Founder of WeViva, created an amazing mix of lifestyle and social trials that are changing the way families in low income communities think about and implement exercise and nutrition in their daily lives.
In 2011, Haney took her knowledge and training from a Social Work background and joined the Austin start-up scene with a goal to enrich the lives of families residing in Austin’s lower income and at risk neighborhoods. The mission was to change the lifestyle and habits of one family member, positively impacting the entire family structure over time.
Haney has focused efforts on communities in need and relies heavily on forming partnerships and collaborative ventures with other local non-profits, the City of Austin and many other community supporters.
This fitness and nutrition model is a sustainable effort that will allow one person to enroll and participate in six weeks of unlimited fitness and nutrition classes at no cost. The six week fitness challenge motivates participants to reach healthy goals and track progress along the way. Haney shared, “This is a one of a kind program; no one else is doing onsite fitness for adults in low income communities. We are really paving the way.”
Dance Your Way to FIT
The certified, group fitness instructors and nutritionists at this 501(c) 3, encourage individuals to participate in Zumba, Yoga, Strength Training and Nutrition classes that are structured to encourage better lifestyle choices regarding fitness and nutrition.
WeViva offers supportive, bilingual, group instruction designed for women that is not only accessible, but also free. Haney and her fitness fairy godmothers currently host 22 classes at 14 locations each week for adults, and provide free childcare. Using a cross fit business model, participants are sent on an energetic path, introduced to fitness, and they take away culturally appropriate and hands on nutrition training.
As WeViva has incorporated dance, a support system of other like-minded individuals and instructors who provide comfortable and safe workout environments, classes have quickly become over-crowded.
Meanwhile, Haney is finding creative and inexpensive ways to keep the programs available.
Feel like dancing? WeViva and Zumba Fitness recently introduced Austin to Zumbathon, a two hour, dance like no one’s watching, feel good event that benefits WeViva participants. If you missed it this time around, keep your eyes peeled for similar announcements in the future. Haney has high hopes that Zumbathon will become a bi-annual event.
Give New Life to Fitness
Although Haney is filling this particular fitness void for Austin, it does come with a price. As with many non-profits, funding and time are the largest obstacles to keeping this start-up afloat. With a resounding 70 percent return participants, the classes are full and attracting lines and crowds outside of some of WeViva’s most popular venues.
WeViva communities, which include AISD, Austin Charter Schools, Foundation Communities and Southwest Key Programs, have helped to raise a massive amount of awareness and interest in program participation. Since January 2013, nearly 700 people have participated in at least one WeViva class. Plans for the future of this wellness program include adding more instructors, adding classes and locations, incorporating incentive programs and possibly introducing classes for kids.
Interested in helping to keep WeViva community members running, dancing and cooking their way to healthy? You can sponsor an individual or an entire fitness class, nutrition class (includes food lesson, cooking demo and tasting and a supermarket tour) or donate in-kind fitness equipment.
Had you heard about WeViva before? What do you think of this local non-profit’s mission?
Photos courtesy of Carolyn Haney. Video courtesy of Austin Multimedia Group.
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