Bridget Pleines Enlists Great American Taxi and Umphreys McGee To Band Together For Hope
We could use more people like Bridget Pleines in the world today. In a few conversations with her over the last week or so, she has spoken eloquently and candidly about The DiscoverHope Fund, microcredit loans and how the music industry, especially the jamband world, is a dynamic vehicle for positive changes. For those not familiar, The DiscoverHope Fund is a thriving, forward-thinking organization of good-doers focused on helping those who need it most. Through an extensive program of assisting disadvantaged Third World women by giving them microcredit loans to give them the power to change their own future and make it a better place, this altruistic organization is making the world a better place, one step at a time.
Jambands.com had the opportunity to catch up with Pleines, Campaign Coordinator, to discuss The Band Together for Hope campaign, two upcoming benefit concerts in Boulder (April 11, with Great American Taxi and Head for the Hills) and Champaign, Illinois (April 30, with Umphrey’s McGee), what a microcredit loan is and why this cause is so important to increasing the overall quality of life in so many areas of the world normally forgotten.
How did The DiscoveryHope Fund come together?
The DiscoverHope Fund (DHF) was formed out of a volunteer grassroots pilot project called "HopeBank" in Cajamarca, Northern Peru. The project was begun by a volunteer, Magdalyn Z. Miller, the founder of DHF, and lasted approximately 1 1/2 years and implemented successful microcredit concepts from other nonprofit institutions such as "Grameen Foundation USA" and "FINCA". During the Hope Bank pilot, 22 women benefited from loans averaging $77 per loan and 65 children benefited from these same loans. After the success of this pilot, Maggie continued her worked and formed The DiscoverHope fund which is a 501©(3) international development nonprofit seeking to lift women out of poverty by encouraging financial and spiritual abundance through microcredit and sustainable support systems. Of the world’s 6.1 billion inhabitants, one of every five (more than one billion people) live on less than one U.S. Dollar a day. Nearly half of the human race, more than 3 billion people, live on less than 2 U.S. Dollars a day and are faced with the life-threatening reality of poverty every day. These numbers represent real people, real families, and real stories of those who are trapped in poverty and cannot adequately feed, clothe, or shelter themselves. DHF is rooted with a passion and vision to create a world that really works for everyone. To me, Maggie is a great example about how the dream of ONE person can help to change the world. She provides constant inspiration to myself and countless people all over the world.
I like the idea of utilizing music as a vehicle for change. Walk our readers through that process. How much behind the scenes is involved in such a project?
The average microcredit loan given by DHF is $100, when you break that down it is the cost of approximately 5 show tickets (depending of the cost of shows). When I started to think about that I felt really empowered by the change we, as a community of music lovers, could make. The process is pretty simple, but time consuming. Basically in January I started approaching bands about becoming involved in our year long "Band Together For Hope Campaign", to date I have been in contact with about 200 bands.
This runs the gambit from person to person contact with bands at actual shows, contacting management via email and phone calls, utilizing personal relationships I have with musicians through my work in the industry, and bands spreading the word to other bands. I try to look at each band separately and know that NO band is too big or too small to be involved; you can only create things if you put the energy and ideas out there, so why not contact large bands and why not provide an opportunity for smaller bands to make large change? I go into it with the knowledge that the worst that can happen is they say no, at best they say yes, either way knowledge and light is still being spread.
Once contact is made with bands, the change really lies in their hands. Many bands choose a specific show to donate either a percentage of their profits, or they will choose a specific number of tickets to donate to DHF. It’s that easy for the bands. We then provide promotion for the show through Groove On Music and artwork for the posters courtesy of DayO Knight Studios if the band desire these services. Other bands choose to let us be present at their shows and have opportunity drawings (usually music-based) and also provide information to their fans about The DiscoverHope Fund and its mission.
We did our first full fledged benefit show last July with The John Cowan Band, Creek Road Ramblers, and Bawn in the Mash. This process involves getting a venue, securing bands, arranging travel and accommodations for bands, promoting the show (through internet, radio, papers, magazines, postering, word of mouth), getting donations for a music based opportunity drawing, putting on the actual show (set up, sound, tear down, all other logistics), and then finally resting and taking solace in the change we have made.
How did Great American Taxi get involved?
I have been friends with Vince and the boys from Great American Taxi for some time. I also work as their publicist. They were kind enough to invite the DiscoverHope Fund to the Boulder Theater show on April 11th and let us conduct an opportunity drawing during the show. What about Drew Emmitt? After Great American Taxi offered this show, I asked Drew if he would want to be involved and he was kind enough to say yes. I know they’re pretty influential members of live music community here in Colorado…
But how did you choose Colorado for one and these two groups secondly?
I love Colorado and find inspiration in it everyday. I lived in Colorado and worked in the music industry there for about 5 years and love to have an excuse to come back there, especially for a rockin benefit. Seriously though, there is nothing more inspiring to me than the natural surroundings in Colorado and also the spirit of community in Colorado, especially in the music scene. There is always some group of killer musicians getting together to pick a few songs and give the proceeds to a great cause. Just off the top of my head, The Mark Vann foundation benefit shows in Boulder every December, the recent Watershed benefit for The Watershed School, The yearly Microbreweries for the Environment at The Boulder Theater, The Conscience Alliance benefits and the list goes on and on. Ask a musician in Colorado to pick for a cause and, if it is logistically possible, they are there….ask a Colorado music lover to come out and support a cause and they are there. That is beautiful and inspiring and true community.
The groups came together quite easily as I work as the publicist for both Great American Taxi and The Drew Emmitt Band. But, really the event probably wouldn’t have come to light without the help of Great American Taxi manager and keyboardist, Chad Staehly’s help. He offered to let us be involved in this show and Chad has always been such a great supporter of many great causes. He truly embodies the idea of "Band Together for Hope" which is using your passions as a vehicle for change. I am inspired by a lot of the work he does.
What can attendees expect from the event here in Boulder in April?
A great show and some great prizes being raffled. We will be raffling off everything from tickets to local shows, festivals, gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses, art work, and lots of other great things. Great American Taxi will be playing 2 sets along with Ft. Collins favorites Head for the Hills, Drew Emmitt and some other surprise guests. It’s Colorado so you never know who might come out of the woodwork and show up on stage. Mostly you can expect a great community of people coming together, having fun, and building inspiration for one another.
How did you become involved with the Boulder Theater? This is one of my favorite theaters in the country, and I’m quite excited that you’ll be hosting this event here. It seems that Boulder is quite the proper fit for such an event…
Man that is a great theater, right? I actually wrote an article for jambands.com in 2000 about my love of the Boulder Theater. It is just a beautiful place with great sound and history around every corner. I love that the ghosts of music, film, and life truly live in those walls. Also, I think The Boulder Theater is really interested in using their popularity for change, they have so many great benefits there…great people involved in that place. Plus, they have some great brews on tap! I am hoping that I will see you there!
What about the show in Chicago with Umphreys?
The show is actually in Champaign, IL at The Canopy Club, who have been amazing supporters of The DiscoverHope Fund. We will be doing an opportunity drawing at The Umphreys show with tickets to Summer Camp music festival as the main prize. Plus, it’s an Umphrey’s show so you can expect loads of good music, good brews, and lots of good people. Umphrey’s has done a lot to support DiscoverHope Fund from the beginning of the Band Together campaign. They have donated tons of merch and goodies, tickets to their shows, and then there are the really simple things that make a difference like putting DHF as a top friend on their Myspace. Imagine how many people are reached by such a simple gesture.
What are some of the things the women who receive these loans do with the funds? Do you monitor the use?
We believe in organic development – from the roots up – beginning with the dreams and desires of the women we work with. What the women do with the funds is often very indicative of their community and the environment they are in. Some specific examples are buying meat to make kebobs and sell on the streets, buying fish and preparing ceviche to sell for lunch, uses funds to buy shampoos and sells to tourist at hot springs, buying baby pigs to raise and sell at market, buying a cow and selling milk on the street, and many, many more things. It is staggering what a small amount of money (to us) can do, $1,000 can support a village bank of 10 women to receive their first loans, $500 can support training and education for 3 months for 20 women, $250 can support 10 women buying a barrel of rice for their stores.
Explain how the phrase, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime’ relates to the DiscoverHope Fund.
DHF believes that it is not enough to give some one in an impoverished situation a few dollars and expect their life to be better. What happens then when that money is spent? It is one of The DiscoverHope funds goals to provide training to support entrepreneurial, financial, and personal goals. DHF sees ourselves as the "fishing pole" so these women can begin to fish for themselves and change their lives. By providing education and support after the extension of a loan we are providing them with the knowledge of how to use that "fishing pole". We truly believe that when credit is accompanied by education beneficiaries can truly lift themselves out of poverty and pass this new way of thinking to their children and families.
Before getting involved with this altruistic organization, what were you doing?
I have been working in the music industry and continue to do so. I run a full time publicity agency supporting amazing artists and getting the word out about their music. My work with the DiscoverHope Fund is really just an extension of this, taking my passion and knowledge and using it as good. My number one job is being a Mom to my 4 year old daughter Marley Vann. She is my main inspiration every day, to help create a world for her to really grow and flourish in, a world I can be proud to raise her in, one where people truly strive to cultivate hope and support one another.
It seems to me that the live music community and DiscoverHope seem to be such a rational pairing. How did the two worlds originally come together?
I met the founder of DiscoverHope Fund 2 years ago through her husband and was instantly attracted to what she was doing. I thought her ideas were so revolutionary and just made sense. Of course you can’t just take someone who have spent their entire lives in poverty and give them a few dollars or some food and expect anything to change. You have to show them another way of living and provide those tools as well as funding. When I sat down and thought about what I could do to help Maggie’s work instantly my thought was music because that is what I do. We decided to hold our first benefit concert in July 2007 and it all just snowballed from there. After that show I noticed a desire in our community to make change and I wanted to try to provide an easy way for people to actively participate in change.
I really like what you said to me earlier. ‘We can all use our individual passions as a vehicle for change.’ That statement has a lot of meaning to it. Other than music, do you feel there’s anything that can really unify people the world over?
I believe HOPE can unify people all over the world. It is an amazing medicine. But I believe whatever your passion is you can use it for change, for me that is music, for someone else it could be clothing, design, art, sports…you get the picture. A great example of this is that the same weekend as our Colorado benefit Maggie Miller and her sister (a soccer coach) will be holding a soccer clinic where all the proceeds go to DHF. I think too often we all feel helpless to make a difference when the truth is, we can take what we already do everyday…what we love and use it to change the world. We are so powerful when we all stand together. You are a great example of this thought right now, your passion is music and writing and whether you realized it or not when you started to write this article YOU are actively participating in making change. YOU are providing the information to the jambands.com community, YOU are opening minds, YOU are changing lives.
These Microcredit loans are a fairly revolutionary idea. How do you decide on the proper candidates? Do women have to physically apply for them or does DiscoverHope go out and select the qualified women?
This is definitely a little out of the realm of what I do for DHF but I will tell you what I know. One of the obstacles that face these women is they live in remote areas and don’t have access to banks, and even if they did most traditional banks would not extend a loan to someone with no collateral, no credit history, and no business track record. So, DHF brings the "bank" to them. Really the women in village are their OWN bank. They start a community bank and hold each other responsible for the timely pay back of these loans so that THEY can extend loans to others. There are requirements before loans are given and also during the course of the loan as well. For the most part women in the community are living advertisements for the power of microcredit and they "recruit" others who are in need. And remember, once the village bank is formed, the women who formed the bank can extend new loans once their loans are repaid.
How can the general public or someone reading this article get more involved?
There are so many ways that the general public can get involved. You can donate at www.discoverhopefund.org. Imagine if everyone reading this article just gave $10, its amazing what a change that can make…100 people donate $10 that is $1000 which could fund 10 life changing loans. If someone who reads this realizes they have a passion that could help raise funds, by all means contact me or Maggie at the DiscoverHope Fund we welcome ideas and inspiration. Also, very simple gestures like adding The DiscoverHope Fund to your top friends on Myspace or Facebook, that helps to get the word out to millions. Come to one of our benefits. If you are in a band, contact me about becoming involved in the future…5 tickets can change a life. If you know someone in a band, let them know about this campaign. Most simple, help get the word out, tell your friends, send an email asking people to check out our website, but a banner on your website…knowledge is power.
What’s next? Where do you go after these one off shows?
For the rest of 2008 we will continue the Band Together for Hope campaign and continue spreading the word that way. Maggie Miller has many other things in store, her passion and mind are amazing and I truly believe she will change the world. Among other fundraisers, Maggie continues to visit Peru and check on the progress of the women there. Also, in December 2007 the DiscoverHope Fund sent their first field program manager to Cajamarca, Peru. She will spend the next year in Peru being the eyes and ears on site. I would love to get to a point where in a couple of years we can have a full fledge multi day festival that benefits DHF. I think that would be amazing, keep your eyes out for that.