October 1, 2009
I am an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California, and I first became involved with ASTEP last summer after a different organization's international volunteer program fell through. A family friend of mine had been involved with ASTEP since its formation, so without a back-up plan, I went to find out what ASTEP offered. And I couldn't have been more amazed by the wonderful experience I had with their organization. ASTEP's program was very different than the previous organizations I had researched. There was a real focus on working closely with children around the world and supporting innovative solutions to poverty. I chose to become a part of the Shanti Bhavan Children's Project, an alternative boarding school for children of the "untouchable" cast in rural India, a program that ASTEP had begun to work with very closely. I received comprehensive training and total support when planning and preparing for my trip, often dealing with ASTEP's founder personally. Although at the time I was one of the youngest volunteers, having not yet entered college, and although this was the farthest I had ever traveled from home, I felt fully prepared for the job by the time I set out. As soon as I arrived in India, the Shanti Bhavan staff and ASTEP volunteers took me under their wing in the most loving way, and I felt instantly at home at the school and with its children. The school's mission is an honorable and creative one (to educate children who would otherwise receive no education and be "un-hireable", and to instill a sense of community so the children will want to return to and improve their rural communities when they are able), and the way it is achieved is inspiring. My time at the school, and working to help it from ASTEP's New York City offices afterward, was life-changing. I encourage anyone to become involved in any way they can in helping ASTEP spread love, hope, and prosperity around the world.
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
open new schools internationally and expand the working Shanti Bhavan structure to other impoverished areas.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every six months
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
MY ROLE:Former volunteer & I traveled to and taught at the Shanti Bhavan school in India through ASTEP's program, and then returned to their offices in New York to help out.