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October 7, 2009

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October 7, 2009

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.

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If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

bring the arts to impoverished communities around the globe. It could help kids find the confidence and self-esteem needed to be active thriving members in their communities, which would then create stronger communities worldwide.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

October 7, 2009

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October 7, 2009

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!

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

...the kinds of demographics it reaches. The audiences at each ASTEP benefit concert comprise of everyone from young hipsters to older donors, and each person is equally touched by ASTEP's message. It is such a joy to see that kind of common bond.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 28, 2009

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September 28, 2009

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.

Photos

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the smiles of the children I've worked with. The fulfillment gained from helping children in need is indescribable. I am still in touch with many of my students, and since volunteering, have had two friends decide to also volunteer at Shanti Bhavan.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

being able to use my art to give back. ASTEP utilizes artists' specific skills and passions, which produces volunteer work that is 100% committed and unbelievably powerful.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

talented, committed, passionate, and kind. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many artists who are very successful in their fields are willing to give their time and art to those who need it most.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

reach out to even more organizations who could utilize its artists, and provide more resources to the groups they work with now in India, South Africa, and the U.S. I cannot imagine how many people ASTEP could reach!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About once a year

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 27, 2009

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September 27, 2009

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.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

A concert where I witnessed countless people understand the impact that they have by helping these children

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Honestly I felt in terms of organiation and leadership this program was spot on

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Just learning and seeing the joy in the faces and the passion that everone involved has toward helping these kids have a better way of living.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Warm, smart, and driven indiviuals. But most of all there was a sense of selflessness and everyone seemed to be focused on the goal of helping these kids

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Probably start another 12 organizations and find more children in need of a brighter future.

Ways to make it better...

I could have actually got a chance to see the kids in India and had the opportunity to make a physical impact.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

I think a major problem would just be more publicity or outreach so that more people can know what they can do to help.

One thing I'd also say is that...

This program deserves to be acknowldged for it's dedication toward the betterment of children who need a helping hand.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 26, 2009

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September 26, 2009

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.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

...so dedicated to lifting children out of their dire situations through excellent education. I was continuously inspired by the tireless efforts!

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

...literally change the course of thousands upon thousands- one educated child at a time. And in so doing- the world will have a profound shift.

Ways to make it better...

I had had MORE time to give to the school! ;)

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

FUNDING. And, to some degree, public awareness of how much wonderful work they are doing and have done.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008

September 26, 2009

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September 26, 2009

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 ??!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the open hearts that have poured out through photos and shared life stories...

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How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 25, 2009

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September 25, 2009

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.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my evening performing for and with the children of ASTEP's Bronxville initiative.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

that I was given a sense of hope for the future, and that some of our more seemingly intractable problems as a people can be improved significantly.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

incredibly convicted, selfless, and driven.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

significantly increase understanding and dialogue between people of varied socio-economic backgrounds in communities all over the country and world through shared appreciation of and engagement in the arts.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 25, 2009

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September 25, 2009

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.

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

...universally humble. I've never spent time volunteering with a group of people so willing to offer themselves up to fill whatever role was needed, while still coming from such varied backgrounds.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 25, 2009

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September 25, 2009

I was working in the office itself doing data entry work for those who had made donations that past financial year, updating their contact details and logging the amounts posted to ASTEP.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Witnessing first hand the categorical integrity and high minded aspirations of the organization. It's infectiously enthusiastic volunteers, and the enjoyment of a job well done experienced by all.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Educated, fastidious, kind hearted and excited to be involved.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

September 25, 2009

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September 25, 2009

Any time I have been involved with ASTEP it has been a wonderful, learning, joyful and emotional experience. ASTEP is a unique organization that thrives where others have may have failed and looks to see where the weakness is in order to strenthen it, and succeed to help others to make it the best that it can be for the sake of others. We live in a world where our priorities have changed, life is fast and we forget about those who have a desire and need for help...particularly children. ASTEP is diligent in working to make sure these children have the tools to make it through tough situations using the most available asset to all of us - the arts. Bravo to all who serve tirelessly and selflessly, who are part of this organization to make it better each and every day.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Seeing their enthusiasm at fundraising events...the focus and energy to create sheer joy for the betterment of others.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Honestly, I'm not sure I can even think of a way. In the world of not for profit, I think part of the journey comes from learning from others - from our mistakes and adjustments along the way. As long as we can step back and look in - we grow.

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What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Their passion for what they do.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Wonderful - dedicated - energetic and though I've said it before, passionate!

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Do wonders for poverty stricken childen in places they haven't even explored yet.

Ways to make it better...

We had more hands involved with the fundraiser I worked on. However; it was the first time any of us had done this sort of project - and we all learned what we can do next time to make it bigger and better and even more successful.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

The economy and organizations in general are getting lost in the shuffle of individuals who are just trying to survive, who might be the ones who give on a continual basis throughout the year.

One thing I'd also say is that...

This organzation has heart, it has strength, it has a following community which is growing, it has passion, it has the power to be whatever it wants to be in the future.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About once a year

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

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