Supermodel Natalia Vodianova has come to become almost as well-known for her philanthropic contributions as founder of the Naked Heart Foundation as she is for her role as one of the most highly-celebrated models on the planet.
Anyone who has heard of Natalia may be familiar with her as an iconic face in magazines such as Vogue and W, a regular attendee of the finest events around the world from Manhattan to Cannes or as the live-in girlfriend of Antoine Arnault, the son of Bernard Arnault, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Chairman and CEO. However, the thirty-three year old mother of four came from very humble beginnings similar to the children her life’s work is devoted to. She grew up in Russia in poverty where she would sell fruit illegally as a child to help her family get by. She was scouted at 15 and her legendary career would soon take off transporting her to a completely different world but she never forgot the children.
Natalia Vodianova founded the Naked Heart Foundation in 2004 inspired by the children who survived the three-day Beslan school siege in the same year. She thought about how the young survivors could heal if they had somewhere safe to play for a few minutes a day. She recalled growing up with a sister with cerebral palsy who had no where safe to go for her vital daily walks. Though she was unable to reach the children from Beslan, the basis of the foundation was formed.
The Naked Heart Foundation organizes and supports numerous initiatives. Their main goal since 2004 has been “Play with Purpose”, the initiative to build 500 parks for children across Russia. The significance of the parks and playgrounds is that they help children to become healthier, more confident and happier while promoting positive thinking and giving them an
escape from their troubles. They allow for social interaction and development, stimulation of creativity and a break from dark, cold and harsh urban settings. The foundation alludes to the 1989 establishment of play as a universal right for every child by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. To date, the Naked Heart Foundation has built 136 play parks and playgrounds across Russia in over 100 towns. Every park and playground is accessibility for children with disabilities and the playgrounds have even been built on such properties as orphanages.
Their “Every Child Deserves a Family” campaign founded the Family Support Centre to support the parents of children with disabilities in the effort to help them support their children with basic necessities and counseling and to try to prevent these children from being given up to orphanages. Through this initiative, the first ever Lekotek was built (play library) as well as seasonal camps for children with special needs. ECDAF works with the full support and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities.
The ECDAF campaign may be supported by participating in their photo campaign where downloadable files of specific Russian letters are sent to donors who then take photos of themselves with the letters. Photos of various supporters are added to the official video. The popular initiative has even been taken up by the likes of Anna Wintour, Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg.
Support for all of the initiatives of the foundation may be given in a number of ways. Supporters may follow the organization on social media, sign up for the newsletter, make donations (payroll donations may be set up in the UK), shop Postcards with Purpose, join or organize fundraisers or volunteer professional, expert skills in the fields of marketing, linguistics, law and research. There are even special shopping partners with such special items as the Natalia Vodianova by Centro shoes which completely sold out on Net-A-Porter, and the Naked Heart dessert at London’s Mari Vanna restaurant. The initiatives of the Naked Heart Foundation feel like play themselves – delightful, interactive ways to give back.