Being a philanthropist and film producer from Paraguay, I had a lifelong dream to help the impoverished kids of my country, but I didn't exactly know how to start. On a scouting trip to Paraguay with my colleague Juliana Peñaranda-Loftus, we investigated different leads to figure out what we could do to help. We met with Paraguay’s Minister of Education, community leaders, school principals, and children from low-income families. Through research, we discovered the Recycled Orchestra, a group of children from a Paraguayan slum who play instruments made entirely of garbage.
We first met with Favio Chavez, the director of the recycled orchestra, in the town of Cateura, a shantytown built on top of a Paraguay’s largest landfill. The place is extremely poor and polluted. People's living conditions are terrible. Chavez explained how the instruments the members play are made entirely out of recycled materials. This seemed innovative and unique, but neither of us expected to hear what we did when one of the orchestra members started playing a violin. The sound of the instrument was so haunting and beautiful that we were brought to tears.
The first thing we realized about the recycled orchestra was that the children were learning not only how to play an instrument, but also about the importance of self-discipline and dedication. They were also acquiring the self-confidence that many lacked in their area. This translated into their real lives and showed them that they were capable of so much more. Consequently, these kids stayed out of trouble and their new sense of purpose gave them hope. We also found out that once the children started reaching a certain skill level, they were encouraged to start teaching the younger students. This provided them with mentorship and teaching skills that allowed them to give back to their community.
Peñaranda-Loftus and I wanted the world to be inspired like we were. We knew that bringing attention to this rare and beautiful orchestra could help raise funds for the children in the community, and thinking big picture, we saw the possibility of replicating this program in other countries around the world. A film was the first step, but we also wanted to create a movement.
One of our main goals with our film and Kickstarter project is to open chapters of this program in other countries as well as to encourage other organizations to give opportunities to underprivileged youth so that there are skill-related activities as alternatives to drugs and alcohol. Peñaranda-Loftus and I also want to bring attention to the sanitary conditions in Cateura, where hundreds of families, such as the ones that appear in the film, live along a polluted creek.
Donating to Kickstarter allows everyone involved to be part of this musical community that teaches children so much more than just how to play an instrument. This is a chance for people to follow the orchestra on an amazing journey towards affecting other children across the world.
This project will be featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.