Theatre

Using The Arts To Help Change The World.

My journey down the road of becoming a Producer started whilst I was in high school. In my final two years of school I produced my first major show and a number of other events and all of these had a charitable component to them. I was a school prefect and headed up much of the fundraising efforts, which went towards our seven sponsor children from across the globe. It was a great learning experience, because not only was I beginning to learn the basics of putting on a successful event, but also how the arts can have a real benefit on others less fortunate than myself.

Last year I had the fantastic opportunity to be part of the team presenting a workshop of the new musical Facing East for the first time to the public in Chicago. This musical is not only a piece that confronts many LGBT issues, early in the development of the work it was decided that every production of the show would benefit The Trevor Project, a national US organisation providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to the LGBT community.

There are a lot of causes in the world, sometimes it feels like there are so many that we can be left wondering if what we’re doing is really helping. I’m a firm believer though that if you change one persons life, you change the world, and that the arts are a great vehicle to rally people together and promote change, tolerance, acceptance and community.

I’m always looking for new ways I can help out people less fortunate than myself and last year a friend of mine introduced me to Kiva, a project that I’m really excited about.

Kiva is a not for profit organisation helping to alleviate poverty across the globe through microfinancing. That may sound a bit technical, but it’s actually one of my favourite charitable models. Kiva describes Microfinancing as ” a general term to describe financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.” and also “the idea that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services.”

It works relatively simply, and I’ll use an example of someone I’m supporting to explain a bit more in depth.

Jean From Rwanda, photo from Kiva.org

Jean sells Irish Potatoes in Rwanda from 6am to 9pm every day of the week. He has been doing this for the past three years. He’s looking to expand his business and has requested a Kiva loan of $525 from Vision Finance Company (A partner of World Vision) to be able to grow more potatoes. Profits from these sales will allow him to save for the future.

Kiva lists Jean’s story on their site, along with his loan goal, and people from around the world can then read about him, and if they wish to support his endeavours, chip in a donation starting from a mere $25 to help him out.

Jean raised his small loan in under 24 hours through 21 lenders across the globe.

But this is the part of Kiva I love the most. My $25 investment in Jean’s future isn’t the end of my donation. As these are loans, and not hand outs, Jean repays the loan he took as his business profits, and progressively my $25 is returned to me. When I am fully paid back, I can put it towards another borrower, making it a donation that keeps on giving.

Another great aspect of Kiva is the way you can pick who your money is going to. I like to support people in Rwanda after studying about it’s devastating history in school. Other friends of mine like to support women, people working in agriculture, or community arts initiatives.

As a producer I understand the power of someone investing in my work. As a Kiva lender I get to watch as even just a small investment helps to get low-income earners around the globe out of poverty.

At the moment, through sponsorship and donations from a number of businesses, Kiva has a trial program where you can see how lending works, for free. New users have access to a $25 loan that they can put towards a Kiva Borrower of their choosing. Unlike a traditional Kiva loan though, you will not get to reinvest the return, but it’s a great chance to learn how the organisation works and get a taste of how you can help, and someone will get the benefit of having a loan fulfilled without you needing to spend a cent.

If you’d like to take up this Kiva trial, or find out more about how Kiva works follow this link: www.kiva.org

I would love to create a group on Kiva of Producers, Theatre Makers, and other Artists to recognise the contribution we’d be making to people around the globe. So if you do sign up to Kiva, let me know via twitter @seanjbryan or leave a comment below.

And let’s continue the discussion of how ‘The Arts’ can help support and change ‘The World’.
What projects have you worked on that have had a charitable or community component to them?
Do you agree that The Arts have a significant role to play as a vehicle for change across the globe?
Are there particular campaigns and initiatives that you think have been really successful?
What are your experiences producing or working on charitable events?

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About Sean Bryan

Creator of Mortimer Sparks, one part of Duck and Mouse.

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