ASTEP is truly amazing. They provide such love and care to everyone they encounter. They taught me a lot about reaching out to others.
Wonderful meaningful....donated electronics and small musical instruments to the kids. Found astep staff to be sincere, hopeful, dedicated, humble. I reallly believe in this charity especially during these hard times
I volunteered for a month, working to build self-esteem in children born HIV positive, through performance art. The kids accomplished more than their adult supervisors would have thought possible. And I, simply as a person, grew more than I ever expected.
My relationship with ASTEP began when I attended a ceremony honoring distinguished alumni from my college, Furman University. ASTEP founder Mary-Mitchell Campbell brought an entire room full of Furman's most honored council members to tears with her firsthand experiences of changing children's lives afross the world. ASTEP, I soon came to find out, was hard at work enriching the lives of impoverished children in countries across the globe, doing so primarily through music, dance, visual art, drama, and writing. By fostering an artistic voice within the souls of the orphans she calls her own, Mary-Mitchell's vision of international fiscal harmony begins to resound. ASTEP is AMAZING! I have volunteered in New York City to produce benefit concerts (namely last Christmas', which starred a number of Broadway stars including Sierra Boggess and Raul Esparza), raise money for the organization, and increase awareness. Although most of my volunteer work has been behind the scenes, I cannot wait to take further steps towards volunteering my time actually in India or South Africa, changing lives through music, one child at a time!
I first spoke to Artists Striving to End Poverty's founder, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, at 10:00 PM in the middle of finals week my sophomore year of college. I had emailed her through ASTEP's website earlier that evening. After reading my letter, she called me, and we spent the next two hours discussing ASTEP, Shanti Bhavan and its beautiful children, and what I would be teaching them just two months later as a volunteer teacher in southern India. ASTEP was the charity I'd always been hoping to find. I remember Googling "Artist + charity + volunteer," and constantly being disappointed with the lack of results. ASTEP is able to capitalize on the large community of artists trying to find a way to give back to the world. Often times, we are not the most wealthy group of people, but the resources we do have to offer are valuable beyond measure. When teaching at Shanti Bhavan, a school in Tamil Nadu, India, whose name translates to "haven of peace," I was amazed at how much I grew and took from the children I was there to enrich. I only hoped I would be able to give back to them the amount of hope, joy, and love they had given me. While there, I taught theatre games and improvisation to grades 6 through 10, English literature and composition to grades 8th and 9th, and read bed time stories to the youngest children, ages 4 to 6. Shanti Bhavan and the George Foundation purposely work with ASTEP to bring volunteer artists to its school. As artists, we provide an important link in these children's education. From the time they were born, these students were told they were "untouchable" - a part of the lowest caste system in their culture. They lived in poverty and were not allowed to drink from the same wells or worship in the same temples as their upper caste neighbors. It was also believed that they did not deserve the same opportunities as upper caste children, because they would never be able to achieve the same success. There destiny was set in stone according to many people in their culture. Many of the children at Shanti Bhavan lived through horrific experiences at a very young age. On top of often being malnourished and frequently sick from dirty drinking water, a large number of children have been abused. One of the first things they learn at school is good touching and bad touching, so they are able to report any bad touching when they come back to school from breaks at home. When dealing with young people who have lived through things no one should ever have to experience, it can be difficult to find ways to talk about them. And because of the lack of therapy or counseling in much of the Indian culture, it is important for ASTEP's artists to use their art as a way for these children to share their stories. Sometimes writing a poem using symbolism instead of literal explanations of a story deep inside of you is exactly the outlet someone needs. Or sometimes that outlet is playing a game where you are allowed to describe how you’re feeling that day with a color of the rainbow, a season of the year, or the weather in the sky – instead of having to say “I miss my mother who I lost a long time ago.” When given the right form of expression, these children’s voices and stories can be heard in a way that not only helps them shed light to experiences often buried away deep inside, but also allows those stories to be heard by others who can learn and grow from them as well. ASTEP has changed my life. As Mary-Mitchell said to me one night at Shanti Bhavan, "Once you know, you can never go back to not knowing." Those children's stories, their beautiful smiles, and beautiful tears, have unmeasurable power and love that I have been blessed to know and experience. Thank you to ASTEP for allowing me to share and grow in my art in ways I never could have imagined.
I personally think this program is a wonderful opportunity for not only the performer who donate their time but especially for the children who benifits from the time, effort and donations given by the volunteers and the patrons. This program not only gives to the children of India but it also educates the people volunteering on where specifically their efforts are going into.
I had a tremendously valuable experience with ASTEP...and I know that the children of Shanti Bhavan School in India (to which teaching artists are sent by ASTEP) also benefit from interaction with the many generous artists who give of their time and talents.
My experience with this extraordinary organization....is through association....and a chance meeting that was set up for me while doing business in India. I have had extensive conversations, and shared stories w/ Mary Mithchell Campbell, Vivek George and his brother re: ASTEP'S partnership w/ the GEORGE FOUNDATION and thier work. I have attended and participated in 2 Benefit performances for ASTEP...and look forward to hands-on work in the future !!!Human Rights and educational opportunities for children in need.....could there be any better mission ??!
Early this past spring, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to appear as part of a group of Broadway performers at a benefit concert for ASTEP's Bronxville outreach program. From start to finish, the entire experience was moving and profoundly inspiring. I was able to perform for and meet children and families whose lives had undeniably been changed for the better through the efforts of ASTEP's volunteers. Watching the children perform complex theatrical material at a high level, and the incredible pride they clearly felt in doing so, was unforgettable. And there's not enough that can be said about the bridges that are being built in that community by allowing children from widely varied socio-economic and family backgrounds to share their love and enthusiasm for artistic expression, and discover their overwhelming commonality in being part of something bigger then themselves or their day-to-day struggles. I will certainly jump at opportunities to contribute to and support the activities of ASTEP going forward. This organization's impact on the lives of these children is truly immeasurably positive.
My experience with ASTEP was life changing. The organization gave me the opportunity to teach at the incredibly important Shanti Bhavan residential school in rural India. The organization provided financial support, training, fund raising assistance, and an incredible amount of inspiration. I am a professional actor, which gives me the opportunity to work with many charities in a wide variety of settings. The individual attention, self-sacrifice, and dedication that I experienced with the entire ASTEP staff makes this non-profit a shining example of what philanthropy can be. I will continue my work with ASTEP as a fundraiser, donor, volunteer, and recruiter.