I feel very fortunate to be working with this organization. ASTEP continues to contribute the heart and soul of art in regions of the world so starving for empowerment and creative solutions. As a Board Member I observe on a regular basis how wide the metaphoric net is cast for quality educators and artists wanting to contribute to a better world. Each day I leave the ASTEP office I find myself more optimistic and impassioned than I was when I arrived. The administration here does their absolute best to meet the needs of the children we serve as well as those of the volunteer artists we bring on board. I highly recommend anyone looking for an enriching experience to learn more about ASTEP.
My involvement with ASTEP has truly been a blessing in disguise. I was a Pre-med freshman walking onto the campus of New York University- without a clue of where I wanted to get involved and with whom. But then, I found ASTEP. I am not musically talented or artistically talented, but I can, wit admiration, express the overall enjoyment I have working with some of the most talented people of my generation. ASTEP has touched me in ways outside of my Pre-med bubble; we have worked with the community, provided poverty awareness, and spread the beauty of music and art. I couldn't ask for anything more out of a club.
I taveled to Port Elizabeth, South Afirca, in 2007 with this non-profit that brings arts education to kids living in poverty. My role there was as a filmmaker, to provide documentary evidence of the organization's work abroad. It ended up being a life-changing experience. We lived in a black township where unemployment and HIV rates were sky-high. The kids were so thirsty for the curriculum brought by ASTEP's volunteers. Best of all, it was not just ars gratia artis (art for art's sake), though that would have been enough. The curriculum addressed HIV awareness, sexual abuse role play, many things that these kids may not be equipped to handle but are, unfortunately, forced to face all the time. Best of all, it gave them a sense of mastery and confidence that was palpable. The highlight was a weekend trip to Johannesburg to see The Lion King. For children who had never left their neighborhood, a thirteen hour overnight journey was almost beyond the bounds of their imaginations. And that's the point. You could almost feel them begin to wonder: "What else is possible for me?" The greatest challenge this organization faces is connecting with local cultures and NGOs already in place. It is delicate. But I know ASTEP's directors aim to create an effect liaison with the areas they serve. On my visit, it seemed that the volunteers could have used more preparation for the living arrangements they would encounter. They lived in a nice house. But things like sporadic hot water and close quarters seemed to catch them by surprise. Either they were not well-informed or they were not flexible. But it is my understanding this snafu has been addressed in subsequent recruitment efforts. All in all, an extraordinary group doing essential work. High level of organization and a profound local impact.
ASTEP is a truly amazing organization. I was on the board and all I can say is that Mary Mitchell Campbell is an inspiring and committed leader. All the volunteers and staff have giant hearts and give of themselves so fully and freely. A heart can only get you so far without organization and Ms Campbell was wonderful about having meetings, gathering volunteers, seeing what people did best,using them wisely and then giving them room to grow. A tireless worker, Ms Mitchell and her team produced extraordinary fundraisers and benefits, with some awesome New York talent. I am humbled and awed by the vigor and dedication of the people behind this organization.