The Naked Heart Foundation was founded by model and philanthropist, Natalia Vodianova
It was the Beslan school siege in 2004 that spurred Natalia Vodianova to set up the Naked Heart Foundation. Desperate to do something to help, she had a simple idea: if the young survivors could be distracted in play for at least five minutes each day, it would help them to heal. Providing them with safe outdoor play facilities that would redefine their city landscape would be a form of therapy. (see third video down)
Natalia failed to make contact with the Beslan authorities in the months following the tragedy, inundated as they were with offers of aid. But she decided in the meantime that other children could benefit from her idea in Russia, where the authorities do not provide playgrounds and families with children account for most of the poor. A childhood spent looking after a sister with cerebral palsy with nowhere safe to take her for her essential daily walks made Natalia determined to provide facilities that would cater for all abilities.
The Naked Heart Foundation was set up in 2005 and in 2006 we completed our first play park in Natalia’s hometown of Nizhny Novgorod, five minutes from where Natalia grew up.
A Childhood Without Play
Natalia Vodianova grew up in a poor district of Nizhny Novgorod with her mother and two half sisters, one of whom has cerebral palsy. Like most children living in urban environments across Russia, Natalia and her sisters had nowhere safe to play in the outdoors. As a teenager, Natalia helped her mother sell fruit on the street and later set up her own fruit stand with a friend to help her family out of poverty.
A Career in the Fashion Spotlight
When she was 17, Natalia was given the opportunity to work as a fashion model in Paris. By 2000 she was working with designers such as Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Yves Saint Laurent. She has been the face of Calvin Klein, Chanel, David Yurman, Guerlain and Jacob & Co., and is recognised as one of the world’s top fashion models. In 2001, Natalia married Justin Portman and gave birth to their first child. They now live permanently in the UK with their three children and are actively involved in the work of the Foundation in Russia.
Giving Children a Place to Play
Natalia’s experiences as a child and opportunities as an adult have allowed her to become a bridge between the international community and the needs of Russian children. In 2005, Natalia and Justin created the Naked Heart Foundation to construct modern Play Parks for less fortunate children in Russia. In Natalia’s own words: “When I wanted to play as a child, there was really nowhere to go. My vision is to build safe play parks in as many towns as I can. I want the play parks to be for all children, including children with disabilities.
Natalia’s calling came suddenly, to do something for the kids (see video below)
The CA– USE:
The Naked Heart Foundation founded in 2005 (NHF) is a Russian charity registered in both the United States and United Kingdom. The Naked Heart¹s mission is to provide safe outdoor Play Parks inspiring those underprivileged children living in Russian cities where more than 25% of all families raise children below the poverty line.
To date the foundation has built 60 play parks in 44 Russian cities!
Including facilities in orphanages, rehabilitation centres and children’s hospitals. Recently, three playgrounds were opened in the UK and a part of this year¹s Love Ball proceeds will go towards further international projects.
Natalia has explained her motivation behind its establishment in terms of her perception of the importance of play for children and the lack of playgrounds in Russia. She was inspired to found the charity after visiting Russia with her son Lucas and finding there were no suitable places for children to play. Ms Vodianova has also reported the 2004 Beslan School siege as a motivation – she was in Russia at the time and the crisis had a profound effect on her.
Natalia Vodianova says : “Play is a necessity, not a luxury. It is through play that children at a very early age engage with the world around them. In the words of an eminent psychiatrist : play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair.”
The first Love Ball, which was held in Moscow in 2008, raised $5 million and was the most successful charitable fundraiser in the history of Russian philanthropy. In February 2010, the second Love Ball took place in London and raised £1.2 million. In March 2011, the foundation celebrated its 5th anniversary with a gala event in Moscow which raised $1.4 million.
Our mission is to provide a safe and inspiring environment in which to play for every child living in urban Russia. This is clearly a huge task, but one that we are slowly fulfilling:
one screw, one bar, one fence, one slide, one swing, and one community at a time.
We believe that play is a necessity, not a luxury, and that every child should be given a secure environment in which to play. Please join us in making this dream come true, for all Russia’s children.
From Building Play Parks for the Kids, Natalia takes it another step further in the Spring of 2011
NEW PROGRAMME – Spring 2011:
EVERY CHILD DESERVES to HAVE a FAMILY
In Spring 2011,The Naked Heart Foundation is launching a new programme, based on the principle that: “Every Child Deserves to have a Family”. This new programme will support the implementation of new and development of existing family support centres. The foundation pledges to dedicate 30% of funds raised in 2011 towards this new programme.
Grounding principles of the new program:
– Providing support to families of children with special needs, thus helping children to stay in their families and not be taken into orphanages.
– Development of a network of centres providing psychological, therapeutic, legal and social support for children with special needs and their families, as well as for families intending to foster or adopt.
(Learn more about Natalia Vodianova and her cause by following the links below)
See Links to Natalia’s Cause