Awards speech from Kristina Miller, HAU Chair
Last year the HAU reviewed the Caroline Herschel Award process and voting was opened up to all members of the Union. Additional we appointed 3 independent judges to make the final selection for the award. Our judges represented the areas of business, education and philanthropy.
In 2020, the Herschel Alumnae Union received 5 nominations for the Caroline Herschel Award. The judges scoring came in very close, and although the final decision was a difficult one, in the end, the overwhelming choice made was, Joan Smith.
When I read about Joan’s journey and her life and career I felt very inspired and awe-struck by how much she has given of herself to others.
I asked Joan to provide a summary of her journey and honestly, I could not do it justice if I had over an hour to speak, so I will summarise some of the landmarks here and leave the rest to her.
Joan’s journey of giving back started small with the feeding of a few hungry children every week from the local community in 2001. Very soon they were making soup and feeding over 600 children per day as the number of malnourished children coming to them for help kept growing.
This work continued to develop and they started a back-to-school programme for older children on the street, running holiday clubs and sports programs, all the while assisting local creches through teacher training, facility upgrades and feeding schemes.
In 2007, Joan’s husband Tich joined her full-time in their community work and in 2009 they purchased 31 hectares of farmland near Durban airport and built the first LIV Village. LIV stands for LUNGISISA INDLELA VILLAGE and has become a brand over the past 20 years.
LIV currently looks after over 300 children across the country and thousands more through their holiday clubs and aftercare programs. In 2016 they took their LIV choir on a tour of Dubai and the UK.
The LIV Village’s first matric class matriculated in 2018 and some have gone on to study at university, including two who received music internships in the UK. The LIV matrics boast a 100% pass rate and 15 distinctions among the 11 students.
Their vision is to have many villages around South Africa. The LIV Filanskraal and LIV Port Elizabeth will hopefully be up and running as soon as land can be found to build the villages. LIV Lanseria has a babies’ home for 20 babies, 4 foster homes and an ECD centre.
LIV Lukhanyiso in Grahamstown has found land to start their village and LIV Thokmala has 12 foster homes around the country.
During their fundraising travels in 2018, Joan and Tich were asked to assist in setting up an orphanage in Texas and so there is also a LIV San Antonio.
There is so much more to tell, but the journey of 20 years is a long one. I am a woman who is also passionate about empowering others and working in underserved communities, so to me, the work that LIV does is mind-blowing. Just google LIV and Joan and Tich Smith and you will find pages and pages of web results and video content to work through. I cannot imagine the personal sacrifice that was the foundation of all of the good that LIV puts into the world.
In the words of Martin Luther King “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” I think in Joan and Tich’s case the answer is they are doing it all, everything, and the world is a better place because of it.
Thank you Joan for all you do and for being such a phenomenal Herschel representative. We congratulate you on your well-deserved Caroline Herschel Award.