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‘Pride month is every month here’: How a Kiva loan helped keep Shannon’s inclusive wellness center open to all

Nestled in a professional building in northeastern Portland, Oregon, Be Abundant Bodywork is a serene oasis of massage tables, soft lighting, progressive art, and rainbows. 

As a proudly queer owned and operated business, its proprietor, Shannon (she/her), designed the rooms to reflect the sense of relief and refuge she cultivates with her fellow practitioners and clients, who come from a bevy of diverse backgrounds and identities. 

“When people walk into these doors, whether it be people of color, queer people, trans people, fat people, disabled people, this space was created with them in mind,” says Kai (they/them), who works with Shannon, of Be Abundant’s founding philosophy of intersectional inclusivity. 

"Pride month is every month here."

Observing that the pandemic has amplified issues caused by traumatic experiences, Shannon knew how important it was to provide a safer space to heal as the city began to open back up after the initial shutdown. A $2000 Kiva loan helped her purchase airtight containers to minimize the risk of spreading the virus by providing an individual “kit” of linens and other supplies for each person. 

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Kai (they/them, left) and Shannon (she/her, right) with their stock of clean linens for customers

“We were able to keep everything that a client may be in contact with clean and sanitized,” describes Shannon. “Kiva made that possible for us.”

Shannon's commitment to inclusivity

By emphasizing anti-racist and fat-positive principles as well as incorporating equipment like a Hoyer lift and extra wide tables to serve disabled clients, Be Abundant works to bring attention to the need for intersectionality in the healing arts. However, Shannon acknowledges that turning her vision into a venture has been a challenge.

“To be who I am, to live my life and my authenticity, there is this lack of resource availability.”

“It's always really hard to build these things when as a queer person, I'm cut off from familial wealth,” she says. “To be who I am, to live my life in my authenticity, there is this lack of resource availability.” 

The no-interest loan she received from Kiva US not only provided the materials needed but also brought enthusiastic support from members of Portland’s LGBTQIA2S+ community and its allies, many of whom were already familiar with how Kiva works. 

“Many of them were already Kiva funders, and so they just logged right into their account and supported us,” recalls Shannon of the rapid funding of the loan by friends and clients.

As Kai (they/them), a Be Abundant practitioner, puts it: “Pride month is every month here.”

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How Shannon pays it forward

Shannon also recognizes that inclusivity means providing economic pathways to access, mirroring Kiva’s mission of financial inclusion. She and her staff offer a pay-what-is-sustainable model. Those with means often pay more for their sessions in order to donate to the Pay It Forward program, also known as the Leah Fund, created in memory of Shannon’s best friend who passed unexpectedly at 25. 

“We allow all of our folks to pay what's accessible for them, in order to be able to access the care and support that they may need, at whatever frequency is best for them,” says Shannon. 

Reflecting another Kiva tenet of how small contributions can make a big impact, Kai explains the Be Abundant system even further: “Because we have such a wonderful model, our clients with more fiscal resources are in community with and taking care of our clients who don't have that. And so we create this beautiful web of people loving each other and they don't even know each other. And it's just amazing.”

In addition to offering integrative massage, yoga, and other non-invasive healing techniques with licensed professionals, Be Abundant also specializes in Craniosacral Therapy, a gentle treatment that can release chronic tension, and Aquatic Integration, a holistic therapy conducted in warm water. 

Be Abundant Bodywork specializes in inclusive, non-invasive healing techniques

Another opportunity to expand

“I live with complex PTSD, and these modalities really made a huge difference in my ability to connect with my body and feel safer in the world,” explains Shannon, who is Portland’s first—and currently only—Certified Aquatic Integration Provider. 

After repaying her loan and seeing the positive impact it brought to her clients, Shannon has already begun filling out another Kiva loan application. The long-term goal is to acquire a larger office space and bring a private therapy pool into the facility so she can conduct one-on-one Aquatic Integrative sessions and expand its range of services. 

“I'd also love to bring into the space a larger movement room,” she says. “A lot of our therapists who work here or are in community with us offer movement classes, so having the space to do that would be incredible.”

Related: 6 successful women entrepreneurs: there’s no ‘small’ in small business

“This is truly about life and… being able to change the world in the ways we can…locally, within our communities.”

Continuing the mission

While many businesses have begun incorporating inclusive language and other efforts to market themselves as LGBTQ+- and BIPOC-friendly, Shannon points out that inclusivity and intersectionality have been integral to Be Abundant Bodywork since its inception. 

“It's not an Instagram story. It's not a marketing ploy,” she explains.  “This is truly about life and… being able to change the world in the ways we can…locally, within our communities.”

Kiva lenders can also change the world in small ways. By making a loan of as little as $25 or $5/month to the causes that matter most to you, you become part of a community that stretches from urban centers to the far reaches of the globe.

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About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.