Today, very few people dedicate their lives wholeheartedly to helping impoverished communities and to changing socio-economic patterns. Then we met Kelli Givens — Chief Executive for the Sport for All initiative.
We're privileged to have phenomenal individuals in the world such as Kelli Givens. She is not only a diligent and grounded leader but she's also an amazing human being who draws so much pleasure from changing the lives of other people for the better.
Sport for All is a social community enterprise based on a world-class multi-sport programme that creates jobs for young people who provide coaching and lifestyle training to children living an inactive lifestyle or who have limited access to sport.
Very few people dedicate their lives wholeheartedly to helping impoverished communities and to changing socio-economic patterns. Then we met Kelli Givens — CEO of Sport for All, initiative to change lives.
The American born Givens was raised in New York and studied Fine Arts and Journalism at New Mexico State University through a basketball scholarship. After graduating, she worked as a Graphic Designer for 10-years before venturing into the fast food franchising business.
But Givens knew that she was more than just an entrepreneur and became interested in getting involved in development programmes to up-skill impoverished communities. In 2000, Givens sold her businesses in the USA and moved to Johannesburg.
Given says she loves Johannesburg and even has an apartment downtown, a few streets away from her office. “That is the only way I cannot be homesick,” she says. “Being in the city makes feel like I'm in New York.”
“I had never seen a shack in my life, before I came to South Africa. The housing issues here was something I had never experienced anywhere in the world.”
Driven by her passion and desire to help the underprivileged communities, in 2001 Givens joined Habitat for Humanity, an international organisation that builds houses for the poor around the world. She was the Director for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
“A house is the basis of a family and it’s important to have a solid house. The rest, such as education and sport can come after.”
She says a highlight of her work at Habitat for Humanity, was when they built 100 houses in five-days in KwaZulu-Natal, with the help of 4 000 volunteers who consisted of prominent people from around the world.
Givens does get frustrated and says she dislikes the sense of entitlement of some South Africans and the socio-economic patterns where there is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor.
“I have been here for the past 12-years and still today people are living in abject poverty with no water, housing, electricity or jobs — it is unacceptable!” But she says there are also many opportunities.
“It all comes down to will, and it has to be everybody's priority. Everyone has to get involved in changing and shaping their lives.”
Givens says when she left Habitat for Humanity after three-years; the organisation had built more than 250 000 houses in the SADC region.
Since then, she has been involved in many charity organisations in Africa and the world, including The SOS Children’s Village where she was the SADC Regional Director; the Starfish Greathearts Foundation as the acting Chief Executive and she has also worked for CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
“I am proud that I have left all the organisations that I was involved in, in a better position than when I arrived. I believe when the time comes for me to leave Sport for All, that it too will be in a better position and I hope that in the future it will be led by a South African. That's what we're doing… developing people and showing them how to do things better.”
Everything Givens has done in her life and career has also played a role for her personal growth. “I don't plan what I do in my life, I am so blessed that everything has happened organically.”
Contact Kelli Givens at 087 820 4030 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.sportforall.co.za