When WeViva began in 2011, the program welcomed 18 participants to one fitness class. Since that time, more than 1,000 people have take a free class through the program, which now offers more than 20 classes per week at 14 partner locations.
Founder and Executive Director Carolyn Haney has been in Austin for 10 years and has worked at two nonprofit organizations focused on children's health.
She said she originally decided to found WeViva to provide an affordable, accessible way for people to participate in fitness and nutrition classes.
The culture surrounding CrossFit intrigued her, she said, so she worked to figure out a way to make a CrossFit model for people who cannot afford it.
"What we do is provide affordable and accessible fitness and nutrition programs for people in low-income communities, focusing on the adults," Haney said. "We make it accessible because it's on-site we partner with existing organizations and bring our classes directly on-site."
Free child care is provided at each location where WeViva holds its classes. Classes include Zumba, yoga and strength training, and Haney said she knew from the start that she wanted to focus on the Hispanic population.
"It started so, so tiny, and I was like, 'This is just a vision, and I'm just a social worker, and I have this idea. Let's just see if it works,'" she said. "Fitness should be accessible to everyone. It's not fair that you have to pay for it. Some of the locations that we have classes in, it's not safe, you can't walk [alone at night]. [We]provide a safe place for the women to enjoy working out."
Paired with the fitness classes—which are all taught by certified instructors—is a nutrition component taught by WeViva's dietitian. That aspect includes a cooking demonstration using foods that can be purchased at the grocery store in the area where the class is held.
"They have different produce in all of them, so it's really important that my dietitian can say, 'It's at your local H-E-B.' That's really important to me," Haney said.
WeViva's free classes are open to both men and women, but Haney said she decided to start with a focus on mothers.
"There's this whole other notion, too, that starting with the mom—the person who goes grocery shopping, she's in charge of the extracurricular activities, she's in charge of how much TV the kids watch—it's a different view. A lot of organizations are starting with the kids because, obviously, they'll be in 50 years the ones leading our country. And I understand that, but I'm looking at it the opposite way," she said. "If you start with the mom, she'll impact the kids."
The organization has an annual budget of $50,000, which includes a stipend for Haney and payment for the instructors. The organization's funding comes from grants, donations and fees from partner locations; WeViva focuses on collaboration to find locations to hold its classes.
Those interested in donating may do so through https://weviva.org, which also provides a list of the group's free, bilingual classes held throughout Austin.