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Simple Compassion – Choro Music Project: Changing the World Through Kiva

Today’s Simple Compassion is a guest post from minimalist, intentional living, musician Tom Pinit about what he is doing to help KIVA.  Enjoy!

Music has been an integral part of my life since the age of four. I vaguely remember my parents asking me one day if I wanted to play an instrument:

Me: “How about drums?”

Them: “No, too loud.”

Me: “Piano?”

Them: “Too big.”

(pause)

Them: “How about violin?” (Read: It’s small, portable, relatively inexpensive, and we know a great teacher.)

Me: “Ummm, ok sure.”

From that moment on, I have always played and loved music. From summer band camps to youth orchestras, college “heavy folk” bands to Brazilian ensembles, it has been a constant in my life. A dozen years ago, I traded in my violin and electric bass for the bandolim, the Brazilian version of the mandolin. And so, my love for Brazilian music, and choro in particular, has grown stronger ever since. I have been in three Brazilian groups over those past 11 years, playing at jam sessions, cafés, wine bars, fundraisers, and weddings. The music is fun, interesting, and challenging, and it’s kept my musical juices flowing…and then some.

Is This All There Is?

Toward the end of last year, I started having what could probably be described as a mid-life crisis. By the way, is it technically a mid-life crisis if you’re in your mid-thirties? (Wikipedia doesn’t think so.) I had a loving wife, two adorable little boys, a house in the suburbs of beautiful Portland, Oregon, and a steady job despite the horrible economy. So what was wrong with me? I felt like something was lacking. I needed to answer that quintessential life question, “Is this all there is?

Enter Chris Guillebeau and his book The Art of Non-Conformity. I happened to stumble upon a post he had written, which led me down the blog wormhole to AONC. One of the topics Chris wrote about was the microfinance organization Kiva, based in San Francisco. Investors lend small sums of money through Kiva’s website to poor and rural entrepreneurs around the world. Kiva’s borrowers typically do not qualify for traditional bank loans. These small businessmen and women agree to repay their loans to in-country field partners who in turn repay Kiva who then repays the initial investor. (Check out this short informative video to see how Kiva works.)

In essence, the $25 you loan through Kiva can be “permanent” when the original loan is repaid and that money is reinvested in a different person, repaid, reinvested, and so on. Their current repayment rate is close to an astounding 99 percent. It is for these reasons that I love Kiva’s microfinancing model.

The Choro Music Project

I made an initial $25 loan using some of the proceeds from a recent gig I had played. That was a powerful act in and of itself. I was helping a group of women in Paraguay obtain their clothing inventory for the summer season. That $25 would be repaid to me over several months and eventually available to re-loan. I thought, this would be a wonderful way to leave my legacy on this earth for others to follow. And thus, the Choro Music Project was born.

The Choro Music Project [CMP] is a social entrepreneurship that uses the power of music to change world, one grace note at a time. Through Kiva, the CMP invests a portion of profits from gigs, events, CD and merchandise sales, as well as 100% of donations received. The money that is invested in Kiva is eventually repaid to be re-invested or used for business purposes to promote and broaden the impact of the CMP. To date since November 2011, the CMP has invested $240 in 11 loans in 11 different countries. Our goal is to be invested in every country in which Kiva has field partners for a truly global reach. Currently, that total is 61.

The people we’ve helped are in all fields of business, from arts and crafts to bicycle repair to chocolate-making. The latest businessman we’ve helped is Sahil who lives in Azerbaijan (yes, I had to look up where this was on the map). Sahil is using his Kiva loan to purchase musical instruments for his son, help his eldest son start his business, and keep his own dairy and taxi businesses going. As a fellow musician, this was a fantastic opportunity to help a family halfway around the world.

How awesome is this? Playing accordion for the cows!

So far, we have had great response from people who hear about Kiva and the CMP’s mission. If you would like to get involved, you can donate directly to the project and become part of the movement. (Please note that donations are not tax-deductible as they are invested and repaid.) Or if you’re in the Portland area, come to one of our gigs or hire us to play your next event or fundraiser.

Thanks for reading, and thank you Lorilee for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my project with your readers.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite musical inspirations Jason Mraz:

Music is the medium I use to recover from life’s often deafening blow. I constantly reawaken thru music. The act of making music is how I tune in and/or tune out to solve life’s puzzles, trying to make the most sense of that which I can’t seem to stop questioning. In life there are problems. In music, if not a direct answer, comes a divine perspective.

Thanks Tom!

Do you have a charity or a project that supports a charity that you would like to share?  Please contact me.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks again Lorilee for helping spread the word about Kiva and the Choro Music Project!

    • Thanks for all you do with Kiva!

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