Meet VIVO, a group of professionals, who are out to make a difference

When Simi Joseph, Marian Sona and Jacob John decided to start VIVO, a philanthropic organisation, little did they realise that their wish to touch lives would come true. VIVO which has just conducted a bake sale to raise money for Care Plus, an NGO working with the Regional Cancer Centre at Mar Baselios College’s cultural fete, Crossroads, is now set for another fund raising programme at the annual cultural fete, Dhwani of College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET).

“We have a bake sale, a game stall, a counter for nail art and a stall for T-shirt painting at CET till March 10. The net proceeds from the event will go to the educational support of children of House of Hope, Ernakulam,” says Sajan Varghese, a full-time volunteer of VIVO.

The seeds for VIVO were sown over lunch. “Actually, over many lunches. Sona, Jacob and I work at Technopark and we usually meet up for lunch with friends. We started discussing how best we could serve society. I mean most of us earn decent pay packets with enough to spare. That is when someone suggested starting a charitable society. VIVO, which means life in Spanish, was thus born in November 2010,” says Simi, an employee at UST Global.

Their first event at Technopark was a relationship seminar for the employees. “Most of our colleagues who were married were facing marital problems. Wondering how we could help them, we decided to conduct a seminar by Dr. John Joseph, a relationship counsellor. Those who participated in the workshop said they benefitted from it.”

Their next event was Heal the World, a concert which featured musicians such as Benny Prasad, Anil Kant, Reena Kant and Shreya Kant at Technopark. At first the members of VIVO were only techies. But then through word of mouth other professionals started joining the group. “VIVO now has doctors, engineers, and nurses to name a few, as its members. All of us help out when and where we can,” says Sajan.

When Simi found handling VIVO and work overwhelming, Rhema Kallimel took over. “A friend of ours, Rhema had come down from Delhi on a visit. She liked the concept behind VIVO. When we asked her if she could perhaps work for the organisation, she agreed. Rhema and Sajan are our two full time volunteers. They are in charge of our office in Pattom and handle various aspects of the organisation. The rest are part time volunteers,” says Simi.

Volunteers of VIVO, says Sajan, go to various schools and colleges to conduct seminars. “We conduct interactive sessions on a host of issues starting from health to various addictions. We bring in those specialised in these fields to address the students on these topics. The aim of this venture is to reach out to the youth as early as possible, to spread awareness especially on issues such as pornography addiction, substance abuse and AIDS. It is an attempt to raise a generation of responsible citizens.”

The organisation is associated with two NGOs – Care Plus and House of Hope.

Care Plus is an NGO operating within Regional Cancer Centre, which provides palliative care to terminally ill cancer patients. “We visit and spend time with these patients and their families. We donate money, food and clothes to those who need it.” House of Hope is a charitable organisation which provides shelter to the destitute and educational support to the talented but financially weak students. “We provide support to children who are good at their studies and also provide food supplies for 170 families every two months. The supplies last them at least four to six weeks,” says Sajan.

There are close to 60 volunteers in VIVO. And although VIVO initially only had professionals, school and college students also started joining in. “After our sale at Mar Baselios, many students have approached us saying they would like to volunteer with the organisation,” says Sajan. And they hope with more people entering VIVO, they will be able to touch more lives.