“Angel by a Fire” by Roza Abuseva, 2000. Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

An Abundance of Beauty

Dear ,

We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This celebratory time presents an opportunity to reflect upon the path which we have taken to bring us to this point. With this in mind, Michael and I’s thoughts were cast back to 1997, and our first microfinance project in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is a country of extremes, but the city to which we journeyed was extraordinary by any standard. In any given year, the city of Karaganda’s temperature 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 suffering from chronic unemployment and severe poverty. This was truly a bleak time, 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 about their circumstance; they did not spread messages of despair, but one 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 our project came to a close, a group of teachers, who we had worked with to establish a new education centre, gifted us a painting produced by a local artist. This piece depicts a chilled angel appreciating a small but warming fire. This picture inspired us then and we still reflect upon it today. No matter the circumstances, art can lift 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 take in the abundant culture around us. Be it in music, art, or museums, beauty has many forms.


It is our hope that over the festive period you will be able to find your very own angel by a fire, and feel inspired for the year ahead and the challenges which await.

Best wishes,
Marina & Michael Kortenbusch, and the BFC Team

Marina Kortenbusch     Michael Kortenbusch