A Force for Good
25 Jun, 2017 | Sophie Hogan
Photo: Sophie Hogan
Claudia Cárdenas is touching lives with Fundación VIVA
After being ushered up to the third floor of the VIVA headquarters in Calacoto, a well-off neighbourhood in La Paz, we see Claudia Cárdenas, who has a strong and commanding presence. She is polite and confident in how she greets us, eager to talk about the work that is her passion. With the imminent annual photo contest, which is one of the biggest events of the year for the foundation, there is much to talk about.
Claudia came to VIVA in 2008 with ample experience in television and government, as well as a fresh flow of ideas for the mobile company’s budding NGO. And so, that year, Fundación VIVA was created. She has kept the drive of the foundation focused on doing good in Bolivia and making the country better in ways that had not been undertaken before. ‘I studied economics, and so I know my way around finances,’ Claudia says, as we sit at her desk in the VIVA headquarters. ‘I worked for the government for seven years in external financing. Television was always more of a hobby for me, and my plan was to do something surrounding social responsibility,’ she continues.
One of the programmes she has developed is VIVO Seguro, a mobile app for emergencies. ‘We work directly with the police to manage it,’ she explains. ‘If someone is in trouble, they can open the app and press the panic button, which alerts the nearest police officer using your GPS location. It can contact the nearest officer by telephone regardless of whether you are on TIGO, VIVA or Entel.’ The project is evidently thriving. There are already 300 lines across the country. The calls are paid for by the foundation and therefore completely free to the user. What’s more, you can upload an emergency contact that you can call through the app. For those without actual phone credit, it could be lifesaving.
‘By the end of April, we already had 66,233 downloads of the app, which is not only more than we hoped for, but a huge achievement in itself. And there is still more to do,’ Claudia points out. Her challenge is to improve the living conditions of people through tools such as technology, citizen safety and species preservation. ‘The reality is you have to give something away by doing these projects. We must help others develop abilities to look after themselves, and better the country as a whole through our assistance with these projects.’
However, the most current and exciting project for the foundation is its photo contest. In its seventh year, the competition entails taking photos of different species that dwell within Bolivian borders. The foundation selects four species per year for the contest. This year’s competition includes the pink river dolphin, an emblem of the VIVA Foundation. 'In the previous versions, we have included more than 16 species in danger of extinction. We work with the Ministry of Environment and Water, and the NGO Conservation International, to choose the species,' Claudia explains.
'We are saving lives with the citizen security project, and our photo contest is helping us spread the word and save the lives of endangered species.' - Claudia Cárdenas
The winning photos are then put onto the tarjetas that people buy to install credit onto their mobile phones. Putting the animals on the tarjetas is important to the cause, as many people do not even know that some of these animals exist in Bolivia. ‘We receive applications from both national and international photographers who are residents in our country,’ she says. ‘The prize money has this year been raised to $1500, and each winning photographer will have their name on the tarjeta, to recognise the rights of ownership, and spread their work throughout the country.’
The photos of species that are eligible this year are: the river dolphin, the black cayman, the eagle of Azara, and the Andean snake. Anyone can enter, but they must be within the country when receiving the prizes, and when the tarjetas are being issued. ‘Last year, a boy from Peru was successful because his photo was taken right inside the border; the photos must be taken in Bolivian territory,’ Claudia says.
‘We are saving lives with the citizen security project, and our photo contest is helping us spread the word and save the lives of endangered species,’ Claudia smiles. ‘It brings me great joy to know we are helping the people of Bolivia.’ It is clear that Claudia is completely committed to the foundation of her own creation, and it’s easy to see she is passionate about the work she does. As she continues with her ongoing efforts, we hope there are many more exciting projects to come.