In 1997, Michael and I traveled to Kazakhstan to begin our very first microfinance project.
Kazakhstan is a country of extremes, but the city to which we journeyed was extraordinary even for Kazakhstan. In any given year, Karaganda fluctuated between ‑40°C in the winter to 40°C in the summer. This climate would be challenging for any society, but Karaganda was also inflicted by chronic unemployment and severe poverty. This was truly a bleak place, but one extreme provokes another, and so it was that Karaganda produced a multitude of artists. These residents were striking in their outlook, they were not angry in their circumstance; they did not spread messages of dread, but only of hope. They dreamed of better lives, and through their art they were able to make this dream a part of their reality, if only for a time. As we were leaving, a group of teachers, who we had worked with on establishing a new education centre, gifted us a painting produced by a local artist. This piece depicted a chilled angel appreciating a small fire, this picture inspired us then and we still reflect upon it today. No matter the weather, art can warm the heart.
We can see parallels to these inspiring artists in some of the poorest parts of the world. For instance, take the example of the ‘Landfill Harmonic Orchestra’ in Paraguay. These resourceful musicians have found a way to create symphonies out of tin cans, and in doing so they discovered a way to improve their community. The intrinsic connection between art, inspiration, education, and development is repeated across the globe. Over Christmas, perhaps we can all take the time to be inspired by the abundant culture around us. Be it in music, art, or museums, beauty has many homes.
In 2016, BFC will continue to be committed to development. To this end, we created a new platform, BFC.Green, which aims to assist environmentally conscious individuals, communities, and businesses. For BFC, being green is about achieving a healthy, sustainable existence; finding an intricate harmony between yourself, your occupation, and your environment. This encompassing vision means that BFC.Green contains a variety of green material, including: gardening tips, ecological product suppliers, recommended books and videos, healthy recipes, and many other green related morsels to get people inspired. Help us to enrich this platform by dropping by and sharing your own ideas.
We wish you a merry Christmas, a happy 2016, and that over the holidays you will be able to find your own angel by a fire.
With Kind Regards,
Marina & Michael Kortenbusch, and the BFC Team