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Norwalk Plus magazine : Norwalk Plus Spring 2009 Mar 13, 2009 - 9:33 AM


Investment Dance

By Marcia Powell


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Low-income entrepreneurs around the world to benefit from the 5th annual Artists for Peace concert in Norwalk

Nikole La Chioma
Nikole La Chioma, artistic director of The Parker Project (contributed photograph)
Attendees at the 5th annual Artists for Peace (AFP) concert, which will be held at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at Crystal Theatre Performing Arts Center in the former Ben Franklin School, Bayview and Hillside Avenues, South Norwalk, can help improve the lives of people they do not know and will never meet in person. Proceeds will become loans to low-income entrepreneurs in countries around the world through Kiva.org, the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending web site.

Kiva President Premal Shah says, “We are grateful that Artists for Peace has chosen Kiva.org as the beneficiary of its 2009 concert. We also appreciate the increased visibility that Kiva projects will receive because of this year’s concerts in Norwalk and New York City. Many of us are looking for ways to contribute without making a significant impact on our pocketbooks. A small loan for entrepreneurs to purchase business-related items such as sewing machines or livestock can dramatically improve their lives and those of their families, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty.”

Micro-lending tries to improve the economic condition of people in the developing world by giving them very small loans instead of charity. The Kiva web site contains more than 1,500 profiles of potential borrowers who want to start a small business. The business might be a carpentry shop in Togo, a rice farm in Ecuador, clothes designing and making in Kenya or a restaurant in Cambodia. Lenders can review the profiles and choose those that they want to support with a loan of $25.00 or more. Potential borrowers can be viewed by nationality, gender, type of business or level of need.

Violinist Metta Hadari and Cindy Berier
Violinist Metta Hadari and Cindy Berier, director of BernierDance (contributed photographs)
Kiva has about 100 microfinance institution (MFI) partners worldwide. It sends the funds collected from lenders to a MFI partner in the selected borrower’s home country. The MFI partner distributes the loan funds to the designated entrepreneur and often provides training and other assistance to maximize the borrower’s chances of success. Over time, the borrower repays the loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva.org and e-mailed to lenders who request them. According to data released in November 2008, loans made to entrepreneurs through Kiva have achieved a repayment rate of 98 percent.

When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses) or withdraw their funds. According to Shah, “Kiva lenders often choose to reinvest their initial loan because they were able to witness the impact it made on an entrepreneur. Since investing in community is one of the most cost-effective ways to fight poverty, Kiva is seeing continued lending growth despite the tightening economy.”

The Artists for Peace Concert organizers, David Vita of Peace Action and Cindy Bernier of BernierDance, selected Kiva as this year’s beneficiary because of their own experiences with micro-lending.

Vita says, “I’ve been an active proponent of micro-lending ever since my first trip to West Africa 25 years ago. I saw, first hand, how small things can make a tremendous difference in people’s lives.  That’s what micro-lending does.  But what I’ve found often lacking in microfinance is connection, not knowing something about the person and the purpose of the loan.  Kiva provided that connection for me and that’s why we chose it for our fundraiser.  Ticket sales will be tied to individual Kiva recipients.  When you buy a ticket, you’ll receive a flyer with information about, and a photograph of, the person on the other end of your loan.  As the loans are re-paid over time Artists for Peace will then re-lend them to other Kiva entrepreneurs. The funds will keep turning over and over, benefiting more and more individuals around the world. That’s what you get for the price of a ticket to experience a wonderful concert!”

Anabella Lenzu/Dance Dramma
Anabella Lenzu/Dance Dramma will perform :The Corral," a piece that explores the themes of homeland and patriotism. Lenzu is a native of Argentina who presents Master classes at universities throughout the U.S. and abroad
Bernier, who has been a Kiva lender for several years, says, “You don’t have to give away money to support a good cause. By enabling people to connect with and make personal loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world, Kiva is revolutionizing the fight against global poverty. Our hope is that the Artists for Peace Concert will increase awareness of the impact that poverty has on families and individuals around the world and encourage attendees to be part of the solution by becoming Kiva lenders. All of my loans -- to a small grocery store owner in Tanzania, an electrician in Cambodia, a group of women with small businesses in Sudan and others -- have been repaid in full. The only interest paid by Kiva borrowers to me is a better world and those dividends make me feel like a millionaire.”

2009 AFP CONCERT

The 2009 Artists for Peace Concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at Crystal Theatre Performing Arts Center in the former Ben Franklin School, Bayview and Hillside Avenues, South Norwalk.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the 2009 concert will focus on poverty in the third world. This vibrant evening of acoustic ethnic and world music, dance and the spoken word will incorporate material from the World Voices Project and include excerpts from the documentary film, “The End of Poverty?”.

Participants represent diverse cultural experiences including African, Argentinian, Haitian, Iranian and Israeli. Among the performers will be violinist Metta Hadari, musicians Afshin and Katayoun, BernierDance, Nikole LaChioma with The Parker Project, Amina Olushola Heckstall with Ballet International Africans, and Jessica St. Vil with KaNu Dance Theatro.

Tickets can be purchased through www.smarttix.com and prices are $15.00, $25.00, $50.00 and $100.00. For more information visit www.bernierdance.org or call 203-227-7205. The performance in New York City will be held on Sunday, May 3, at the Jewish Community Center on Amsterdam Avenue.

The AFP Concert is produced by BernierDance and the Stamford/Greenwich Chapter of Peace Action.

Artists for Peace is an annual collaboration performance donated by socially conscious dancers, musicians, writers, actors and visual artists with the shared mission of raising funds and consciousness through an original performance event intended to enlighten, inform and inspire. Each year AFP chooses a non-profit organization working for peace and social justice as a recipient of the funds that are raised. Artists for Peace gave its debut concert in May 2005 at the Stamford Mall surrounded by thousands of shoppers. Since joining with BernierDance to produce its concerts, organization has raised funds for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur; Homes for the Brave, an organization that works to end homelessness among veterans; Youth Empowerment Support (YES), a program developed by the Norwalk Housing Authority; and to purchase 280 solar cookers for refugees living in Chad.

WORLD VOICES PROJECT

“Embrace a Culture of Curiosity, Not a Culture of Fear” is the motto of Brenda Ray’s World Voices Project (www.worldvoicesproject.org). The goal of the project, which is a mosaic of recordings of people reading the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights in their native languages, is to travel around the United States and throughout the world as an artistic and educational audio installation. A key focus is to reach young people; to encourage them to grow up embracing people’s differences instead of fearing them; and to appreciate other cultures, which leads to respecting human rights.

THE END OF POVERTY?

“The End of Poverty?” (www.theendofpoverty.com) by Philippe Diaz is a documentary on the foundations of modern poverty and the end of neo-liberalism. It was an official selection in 13 international film festivals, including Cannes.




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