Full Circle: The Rashi Purim Tamchui Project

An Unlikely Request

It’s not every day that the director of a nationally touring orchestra personally requests to perform in the auditorium of a Reform Jewish K-8 Independent School – or any school, for that matter. When Rashi parent Anna Levy was contacted by Favio Chávez, director of the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura, she jumped at his offer to visit The Rashi School for a private concert.

You may recall stories of this inspirational orchestra composed of children and adolescents living in the community of Bañado Sur, a village located around the Cateura landfill in Asuncion, Paraguay. Since stories of their inspirational work spread, the “Recycled Orchestra of Catuera” has played symphony halls and arenas, been special presenters at international social justice forums, business summits, and education conventions, and even opened for the heavy metal group Metallica during their South American tour. Their story is the stuff of documentaries and was one that earned the late Bob Simon of CBS’s 60 Minutes his 27th Emmy Award. In March, the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura is scheduled to play SXSW.

“Naturally,” you are (most definitely not) rationalizing right about now, “the next big step for this group is to swing by Rashi for a private concert on a Tuesday afternoon during Boston’s snowiest month on record.”

However, to Favio, it was both a pleasure and an honor to pay the school a visit. Two years ago, students from The Rashi School chose to allocate more than $2,300 to the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura during their annual social justice program: the Rashi Purim Tamchui Project.

The Rashi Purim Tamchui Project and the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura

In 2012, the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura was one of the five organizations chosen to benefit from the Rashi Purim Tamchui Project. Students learned about their work and how it made the lives of not just children but their whole community better. At the end of Education Week, the students had the opportunity to meet Favio and his orchestra through an online video chat client, but they didn’t receive the same one-on-one interaction that is possible for an organization based in the Boston area, or at least the United States. “Favio was sad that he couldn’t be here with us originally [during Tamchui in 2013],” explains Jacki Hart, Rashi parent and co-Chair of the Rashi Purim Tamchui Committee. “So, when an opportunity arose, he jumped on it and wanted to have at least some of the kids from the orchestra be here, live.”

Grade 3 with the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura
Grade 3 with the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura

“We had a concert in Boston with the whole orchestra,” said Chávez during his visit this January. “While we were here, we wanted to visit the school and finally meet the children who we had seen on the computer two years ago.”

Graciously, Chávez offered to host two assemblies: one for the elementary school and the other for the middle school. He, along with four of his older musicians, formed a quintet who introduced themselves and their instruments to the students at The Rashi School. This was especially a treat for our third graders, who just completed curricula inspired by the orchestra during which they made their own instruments from reused materials. “It was very impressive,” remarked third grader, Scott B. “It was hard for us to try to make a perfect sound like the instrument does. They did a really good job of it and theirs actually looked like the real instrument. The saxophone had every little detail – that was pretty cool!”

Get Involved in the Twentieth Year of the Rashi Purim Tamchui Project

This is just one of many stories begun by the relationships we forge through the Rashi Purim Tamchui Project. As this year’s project is just beginning, we look forward to meeting five new inspirational organizations.

courtesy The Rashi School