Room Service International, Using Music to Affect Positive Change

Author: Rahel Tekle / Photos: TEISBE X Joshua Lang
02.20 / MB Series

MISSBISH had the opportunity to chat with Julio Galvezfounder of Room Service International, and  Joshua Lang, Artistic Director of Room Service International. Julio and Josh embarked on their first humanitarian tour in Southeast Asia to activate community service initiatives and engage in social and cultural experiences. A for-purpose, community-action organization, Room Service focuses on travel, philanthropy, sound & capture. Get to know more about the organizers, their experiences, and this amazing cause. 

Let’s start with telling the readers a little bit about yourselves, your team and how Room Service International came to be?

Julio: The team is comprised of friends, really family. They are highly motivated, intelligent and passionate souls from all walks of life. Joshua Lang, Room Service Creative Director and Photographer via Philadelphia, TEISBE, Content Director and Videographer via Bali, Indonesia and Tiffany Huynh, Strategy and Administration via New York City, and I manage Partnerships and Operations out of Brooklyn, New York. Both Joshua and I also DJ together under the Room Service Sounds moniker and play a fun mix of deep and soulful disco and house music. We officially launched Room Service in 2018. Room Service’s story began during my first trip to India in 2016. I was blown away by the beauty, the food, the textures and colors, but I couldn't help but feel a huge disconnect from the economic disparities and lack of social services throughout the country. I realized at this time how powerful music is, outside of the club, radio and studio, but on an intimate, human and global level, that it can be used to physically be somewhere and activate real change. I couldn't turn a blind eye to that anymore.

What is the mission behind Room Service, and how do you carry it out?

Julio: We are a for-purpose, community-action organization and our mission is to live a life of service. Room Service is our ultimate give-back and we activate tangible change within underserved communities throughout the world. Using the wonders of travel, philanthropy, sound and capture, our services depend on the needs of each community, as each requires much different attention. The capture component is important in raising awareness and exposing the beauty in the stories of these communities and the people who live in them. Our experiences are shared via Room Service's website, network and each of our personal social media accounts. What makes Room Service authentic and special is we will always carry out the service projects with locals, the members and leaders of these communities, as well as the promoters, venues and fans that support our vision. Physically being on the ground is critical because we are the ones who put the gloves on and we help educate one another at the same time. We do the work together.

Josh, along with your role as Artistic Director of Room Service, you are also the Founder of BWC Garments and BWC Sounds, how has your background in music and fashion help shape this philanthropic venture?

Josh: Being involved in both fashion and music before this philanthropic venture has helped me shape the branding and the overall visual aesthetic of Room Service. Right now, I would say we're still in the testing phase of logos, branding, color pallets, etc. - pretty much seeing what’s working and what’s not working. With fashion, not too many full-on philanthropy brands (if any) are tapping into that market, and having knowledge about production and designing is just going to elevate our brand’s overall look. There is a vision for Room Service to take an eco-friendly approach when we start creating our own small cut and sew collections. Our checkout page on the website will provide a list of organizations that we've partnered with, and you can read about and choose which company you would like to donate to. We will also show where a percentage of our profits are going because we want to be completely transparent with our supporters. With music, BWC Sounds is centered around house, funk and disco which is something I've always been into. Bright, fun and high energy dance music is something the RS team is very passionate about.

Julio, similar question to you, along with your role as Founder of Room Service, you were also previously the Director of Worldwide Bookings and Partnerships for Soulection, how has your background in music shaped this initiative?

 Julio: Over the last 15 years of my career, music has allowed me to see the world in ways I could only imagine, and has enabled me to connect with some of the most creative and empowering people I've ever met. Through traveling, performing, touring and developing countless artists, I've learned that music is such a powerful tool - but I never had as much intent as I do now in putting it to the ultimate test. The beauty of music and travel is you're exposed to people who are different than you, you just get to see the world differently, and because of this, I've learned to accept others for who they are and embrace love and compassion at very high levels. I've seen music bring people of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds together, and it's flattering to know that people travel the distance to see me perform, but in the back of my head I've always wondered what their neighborhoods and upbringings in these countries really look and where they're really coming from, and what sort of things we can do to help build their communities up together. I'm a music head and all about putting my people on and having those two worlds coexist in a fun and open environment with a lot of positivity and energy is a dream come true, the possibilities of what we can build together through music are endless.

How important do you guys think music and the arts are in influencing and changing society?

Julio: Music and the arts can communicate such life-changing messages, but I think the artists, whether commercial or underground, are inevitably the ones that have a huge opportunity to voice these important issues within society. These large fan bases can become incredibly powerful in creating actual change. I think it then becomes our responsibility to make some real noise and influence those who follow our work. This is why we feel so strongly about physically being present and having conversations with whomever we’re working with and the people we are influencing. We have to be mindful of the message behind our music, as well as our actions. We want to encourage the youth to stand up, have a voice, take action, and be of service. This kind of awareness can have huge ripples in progressing society.

Josh: Well not to state the obvious, but it's a known fact that music brings everyone together. I personally think we're influencing a lot of people right now who are in the industry to take that next step and use their platform for a bigger cause. One thing that separates us from a lot these companies is that we're actually using our influence to travel to these communities and talk to these organizations to make a change. Being there in person and talking to different youth centers about music, arts, and whatever else they're interested in 100% changes their mindset. We come from a different background than them, so being able to speak to them and use what we've experienced to open up their minds to another perspective is an incredible feeling. We have a very important responsibility in this society to go out and use our art to help those who really need it.

Room Service recently finished its Southeast Asia tour (congrats, btw!), what countries were on the list, and how did you give back?

Julio: Thank you! On our recent Southeast Asia tour, we visited Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. Education was our number one initiative. Learning about what was needed in each of the places we traveled to was extremely important. The projects are still ongoing because they require a lot of groundwork and funding. Like, in Jakarta we are in the planning stages of rehabilitating a multi-purpose court for the youth, and in Bali, we'll be providing a shelter home for a family displaced by the Lombok earthquake in collaboration with The Shelter Project. We'll also be contributing funding to the Yayasan Bumi Sehat Foundation which provides healthy birthing for mothers and medical aid for whoever needs it in Indonesia and beyond. While in Kuala Lumpur, we sponsored a feeding program and purchased a refrigerator and much-needed kitchen appliances for the 30-40 children whom daily seek refuge and education at the youth center known as Yayasan Chow Kit Krash Pad. In Vietnam, we visited multiple youth-run fashion and arts enterprises, as well as a new culturally-driven music venue and incubator called There VND Then, which will be the first of its kind in Ho Chi Minh City. In Bangkok, we visited the Khlong Thoey Music Program and spent time with the children learning about their music courses and the hardships they encounter coming from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Bangkok. Room Service will also be contributing funding to their music program in hopes of enriching the musical experiences of the youth. In the Philippines, we volunteered with our good friends, Project Pearls, a community organization based out of Tondo, Manila. During our trip to Manila on we worked with Project Pearls to help distribute food to over 2,000 children for the holidays and are in the process of providing more education scholarships for the youth in Tondo, Manila.

The first country you visited was Indonesia, can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

Josh: The hospitality in Jakarta is unmatched! Our partners over a Del La House have world-class taste and made sure we were in good hands during our whole stay. I personally got a little choked up when we went into the neighborhood down the street from our hotel. Walking around and seeing what these kids use to play and the conditions they play in with each other was a moment for me. No complaints, no frustration, no ego, they were simply just happy to be alive. When we got to the multipurpose court that we plan on rebuilding this year, I was shocked at the condition it was in. Half of the court was cracked, the net was torn apart and there was trash everywhere. In that moment I felt a rush of joy like whoa, we're actually out here across the world about to change these kid's lives. Crazy! When we started interacting with the kids they were so welcoming and happy that we were on their turf playing with them. All they wanted to do was take pictures and toss the soccer ball around. Obviously, there was a language barrier there, but you could tell that they were extremely eager to learn about the cameras and about us in general. The amount of gratitude we shared amongst each other was special and it was a great way to set the tone for the rest of the trip.

To those who want to help or be a part of Room Service, how can they contribute to the cause?

Julio: We'd be honored and would love for everyone to help support Room Service! Our recent tour was completely self-funded. All of our performance/show revenue was used to power 100% of our travel expenses, and 100% of the funds from the GoFundMe campaign will be utilized to support all of the Southeast Asian community projects we launched during the tour. For those looking to support and learn more about the tour and these ongoing projects, please visit the GoFundMe and contribute! As for following our journey and staying involved, folks can visit our Instagram and our website, launching very soon.

I know there is a lot of skepticism behind philanthropic ventures in today’s society. What would you say to the naysayers that argue philanthropy doesn’t really help and altruism is dead?

Julio: The biggest takeaway for the team is education. If we are able to make ourselves vulnerable and open to the unknown, learn about the people that make up our world, seek a deeper understanding about one another and the ways in which we live our day to day lives, we will then be able to fully accept and respect our fellow human. And the final piece of that puzzle is to reciprocate and share that education and new-found knowledge. And so, true philanthropy and altruism will never die. Another key element to true philanthropic ventures is transparency. Proper accounting and showing the people exactly where our funding goes and who is benefiting from it is important to our ethos and something we’ll be sharing with the public via our website as well. Room Service is an extension of our true selves, authentic and mindful in our actions. We’ve always been nomads, travelers, students, devotees of love and spirituality; Room Service enables our altruistic passions to become realities and work towards genuinely providing happiness and a better quality of life for the people we come in contact with. If we're already traveling the world, performing and sharing our gifts of music and the arts, let's push it even further and help make the world a better place for us all.

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