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.
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.
I traveled with ASTEP for a month in their international outreach efforts to India. It was a life altering experience and I will be traveling with them again in January on a similar trip. The organization is a phenomenal outlet for artists/performers to give back and help in a very direct way. We work one and one and in class settings to help underprivileged children learn to express themselves. This has the immediate benefit of out and out fun, but has a far deeper effect by inspiring kids to establish higher goals and teaching a variety of techniques for acheiving those goals for their futures.
ASTEP is a beautiful organization!! I first came to know it through one of it's leaders, Mary-Mitchell Campbell. After taking part in a handful of arts events that helped raise funds to assist the Shanti Bhavan school in India... I started getting really hooked. So much good can be done with so little! I love knowing that the door is open for me to visit India through ASTEP to help in a more hands on way if I choose/am able, but that in the mean time my financial gifts are put to great use. Everyone I have met at ASTEP is really dedicated and directly in contact with the many, many little people that benefit so greatly from this wonderful organization.
I first learned about ASTEP through friends of mine, and was asked to help work on a fundraiser. During the event, there were slides shown of the people that ASTEP was helping...young children who live in poverty-ridden area's in parts of India. And then, you see the volunteers able to go out there and bring joy and smiles and light to their world. It really touched my heart to know how far human beings would go for eachother. And to know how much art translate's to any culture or age group. I am truly honored to now work with and help ASTEP in any way that I can.
As a performer I have done lots of benefits for charities and organizations. What I have found so compelling about ASTEP is the passion and the personal change in the lives those who come back after volunteering for one of their international programs. Unfortunately, I have been unable to go myself but I have seen the change in the people who have gone and heard the stories that they tell. One of the best ways to teach and create change is not to lecture but to give a FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE. Arts education programs have a unique opportunity to give that. Through ASTEP's work, change happens! Every person I know who has been a part of ASTEP has come back with a new leas on lif as well as stories of amazing things that are happening in some of the poorest areas of the world. One particularly moving story was about a little boy in South Africa with amazing dance ability but none of the dance vocabulary. They sought out a prominent dance company who agreed to take him on scholarship IF he had the dance vocabulary. ASTEP volunteers worked with him to bring him up to speed and he made the company. This changes not only his life but the lives of his family and anyone who knows him through his story and the inspiration it brings. The stories go on and on for this amazing group. I am proud to support such a passion and purpose driven organization for this award. I promise you that you could not give it to a more deserving group.
ASTEP creates opportunities for people like myself to help underprivileged children around the world. I have had the opportunity to use my talents as a musician to help this wonderful charity through concerts and recordings. My wife and I are hoping to travel to one of ASTEP's sites soon.
The Art-In-Action Summer Camp created by ASTEP volunteers was the program that did it all for me. Before I was ever old enough to even think about volunteering for any organization, let alone ASTEP, I was a camper. After my first summer, I learned, not only the simplicity in loving art through all of its elements, but also, that I had the capability to be an amazing artist by just saying "yes" to all the challenges laid before me and by letting the true me come out and play with the world. It was on the last day, during the dress-rehearsal of the final performance that I said YES and with all the years of stage fright clinging on to my shoulders, I held on to my brother's hand (then the drama facilitator), and began to sing in front of all the campers, all the teachers, all the administrators...everyone. I sang my favorite song, and as it happened, I gradually felt the fear slip away. It was because of this camp that I grew confident in myself as a person, a friend, and an artist. I returned every year until I was too old to participate as a camper. I then continued as a Group Leader (a.k.a GL); a mentor for the middle school campers. GL's are the essential bridge between the facilitators and the students. They aid in the running of the camp and help facilitate activities in the classroom alongside the teachers, so that, eventually, one day, they can do the same and teach the arts to the kids in their own community. My summers were dedicated to the camp, and the extra curricular time during my school year was solely for the GL group. Our mission was to serve the youth of our community with the arts and continue building artistic awareness. Our community of Homestead still struggles to live cohesively with the arts, but the GL's did everything possible to paint murals, put on shows, take as many teens to the plays downtown, paint faces at the park, and build a family of artists filled with youthful energy, friendship, a sense of community, and the passion for the arts. This past summer, I taught at the Art-In-Action Summer camp for the first time. After 6 years of receiving the confidence, the passion, the support, the awareness, the love, the art, I was finally going to give it all back. Ultimately, this is the goal: the community will grow and learn from facilitators that travel from all over the world to then return and be able to sustain its own, and teach the incoming pupils; give back to their own community; teach their little brothers and sisters, like my brother taught me. I worked with two other musicians: a singer/guitarist from Seattle and a percussionist from New York. We had a focus group of 13 middle school musicians hungry to hit those drums, strum those guitars, blow their trombones and saxophones, rap those words, and sing their hearts out. After the three weeks, all 13 had learned the basics in music theory, created lyrics, a rhythm, a melody, and a full-sized band to “rock it out” at the final performance. I was so proud to know that I was there, that I was their support, I was their teacher. In the beginning, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to teach them anything, but in the end, I knew that I had taught them to let the music live within them, to let it push away those fears, and to let that music be heard. Like I said, this organization's project (AIA) did it all for me. If I could, I would nominate it for ALL awards. Its work is inspiring, encouraging, educational, passionate, growing, and simply awesome. It’s impacted so many around the world and deserves a billion thumbs up.
ASTEP is among the few non profits I know which strives to forge strong, communicative relationships on all fronts. The volunteer's relationship with not only the children/people who they encounter in their work but with those working at ASTEP is placed at a premium. The emphasis on the quality of human life of the children which they help is remarkable. One never questions their motive or their priorities.
ASTEP is the most empowering organization for youth I've come across. The full-time staff and the bulk of the volunteers are truly committed to illuminating the possibilities of hope and courage and overcoming obstacles for all those impacted by poverty, class, politics, resources, tragedy, etc. My experience in volunteering w/ ASTEP, especially for the Arts in Action Camp in 2008, was an incredibly validating time - confirming for me the pursuit of a teaching degree - for which I am now a candidate.