ASTEP has changed my life as much as it has changed the lives of the children we serve. As a an artist and a teaching artist it often feels as though our lives are a series of the highest peaks and the lowest valleys. I can think of no better way to begin the climb "out of the valley" than using my art to meet the needs of the underserved. ASTEP gives that opportunity. It is an organization that allows its volunteers and its support staff to gain as mush as they give.
Review from Guidestar
ASTEP gave me a direction to move towards. Because I have done this program, I now know what kind of career path to move towards and why art was so inspiring to me all those years ago. The program is so well coordinated and pushes you enough that you are forced to learn a new set of skills or flex old ones. I felt safe, cared for, and appreciated. It was a great environment to fly in.
Review from Guidestar
ASTEP doesn't just put artists in a classroom, they dive deep in their volunteer training and focus on effective teaching methodologies as well as how to be a role model to the kids they work with. ASTEP makes magic! And with a small staff, they have an actual impact on the lives of the children they serve.
Review from Guidestar
ASTEP's mission--to empower disenfranchised youth through the arts--is unique and powerful. The organization serves several under-served communities both domestic and abroad. Through my experiences and from what I have heard from those who volunteered in South Africa and India, I believe their domestic programs are much better established and have fewer organizational kinks. ASTEP has incredible potential and it seems that as it is changing leadership, it is improving both in terms of impact and professionalism. I would certainly recommend volunteering one's time in Florida or NYC, but am hesitant to commend their work abroad. As ASTEP starts to recruit more heavily through Idealist.org and other formal sources, they will hopefully establish more professional leadership, preferably from industry professionals with demonstrated international development experience. Currently, ASTEP suffers from the same three drawbacks that seem rampant in any nonprofit: 1) A high degree of nepotism and croneyism, 2) Poor communications, and 3) an absentee founder. But again, like any nonprofit, their work may outweigh the negatives. A friend of mine spent a substantial amount of time volunteering with ASTEP in India and while I would not put up with some of the things she shared with me, she seemed to have an overall positive experience.
I first heard about AStep after agreeing to perform in a benefit concert several years ago. After watching the videos about the organization, the people it helped, its generous mission and altruism, I was moved to volunteer my time for it whenever I could. I am amazed at how much the volunteers who travel to India give of themselves to the incredibly neglected children they serve.
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.
I have worked as a volunteer with ASTEP helping to secure volunteers, funding, awareness and programs to help this new organization get established. I've attended benefit concerts and coordinated gift bags for donors plus coordinated materials to be sent to the orphanages and camps where they work. The vision of Mary Mitchell Campbell and her staff is extraordinary and must continue to be nurtured. I would love to see them with a stronger structure of checks and balances so that all efforts are coordinated seamlessly. In particular, I'd love to see them with a Marketing coordinator that will keep the public informed of events and opportunities to serve. They have done a marvelous job of securing volunteers to travel and work with the children, but I'm positive that with a person in place to be more pro-active and detailed in asking for donations, they will thrive and be able to do even more. I'm amazed at what they have accomplished.
ASTEP connected me with opportunities to use my personal skill sets in a way that helps others. I went to them with the talents I have to offer (performing, graphic design/layout,etc.) and they put me to work! They use their resources, both physical and fisical, very well. With a small core group they are always friendly, approachable, and easy to contact. They maintain a large and growing volunteer force and I look forward to seeing ASTEP's continued world wide impact, as well as my personal involvement in their efforts.
This is a truly inspiring group of people to know. It is one thing to have great talent; but, to have that talent and combine it with the passion to share it and nurture it in others is completely different. To use that talent to help other towards the great gift of self expression and improve the human condition is of incalculatable value. I would someday like to find my way to giving in the capacity in which these people do. It again is very inspiring...
ASTEP, Artists Striving to End Poverty, and all of the individuals connected with the organization are some of the most dedicated and selfless people I have ever encountered. My experience as a volunteer for their summer program in Homestead was a pivotal moment in my life. From start to finish, the experience was incredibly positive and fulfilling for both the faculty and the students. ASTEP's contributions to humanity are remarkable, and I feel so blessed to have come in contact with this magnificent group of people.
My experience is watching a great number of my friends create their organization and pour their heart and souls into working with these children. The volunteers of ASTEP are some of the most talented artists I know, yet they all put working with children first on their priority list, and their own careers second. That's love and dedication!
My experience with ASTEP has changed who I am and what I live for. They are an extremely well organized group made up of passionate and driven artists that believe that arts education can stop the poverty cycle. And through my experience with them, I am now a believer of this concept too and will continue to dedicate much of my time to help it come true. I have absolutely no complaints.
These young people give 100% effort in making other peoples lives better. Great role models. I have seen thank you notes written by children that they touched. The group has done wonderfull projects. They were appreciated and welcomed, like a ray of sunshine in the lives of many children.
My experience with ASTEP changed my life forever; and even though I have been on a slight hiatus from them, those experiences continue to impact my life for the better. Above all, the best thing about the organization is that everyone who decides to get involved is passionate about what they are doing, and are doing it for the right reason. It is not a charity that is there just for the sake of being a charity, but it is there because they actually want to complete their mission to change lives for the better. And they will stop at nothing to achieve just that. ASTEP in the right direction!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I went to Bangalore, India two summers ago to volunteer at the Shanti Bhavan School through ASTEP. It continues to be one of the most pivotal experiences of my life. The time I spent there opened my eyes to a world that I had never seen or been exposed to before. There are no words to describe the impact that the children I met and worked with at Shanti Bhavan had on my life. And it would have never been possible without the help of ASTEP. ASTEP is like no other non profit, in that they do not charge young artists, such as myself, to pursue a calling for overseas outreach. When I was looking into international outreach, I looked into many organizations. ASTEP was the ONLY organization that didn't charge me thousands of dollars (not including plane fare) to go and help others globally. In face, ASTEP gave me a list of ways to fundraise the only money I would need to go...my plane fare. I was able to raise the money I needed to travel without a huge dent in my wallet. I also had the honor of working at shanti Bhavan with Mary Mitchell Campbell, the founder of ASTEP. Mary Mitchell is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and inspiring people that i have ever met. With a career blooming on Broadway, she continues to focus all that she has on ASTEP and keeping this unique and one of a kind organization alive and thriving.
I started out as a facilitator with astep, many moons ago. I believe i was part of the AIA camps on its second year, and i've been involved since. I now am a program coordinator for the summer camps. It has changed my life and brought me in touch with whats going on the world around me.
ASTEP has got to be one of the most reliable, genuine non-profits out there. It was established by a group of college students attending Juilliard whose only plan at the time was to give their time and energy through the arts to help as many people as they can. It has quickly evolved into an intense network of giving. The administration behind this organization is a young, generous group of individuals who put aside their career dreams as dancers, actors and musicians so that they could help as many children through the arts as possible. Living overseas in Uganda and working with former street children, I have experienced how powerful art can be to children who have had to deal with a great deal of suffering in their lives. I fully support this organization's mission and future vision.
ASTEP is an incredible organization run by inspiring and capable artists. Their programs have greatly changed the lives of their volunteers and those attending their workshops. They are leading a movement that is critical at this point in the world's development. A friend of mine told me of her time in South Africa and how she was able to change and be changed during her experience there. Specifically she has more respect and information about the culture there and in turn left her students with more confidence and body articulation than they previously had.
I'm a huge fan of ASTEP! The one on one connection with children who need our help is what makes this organization stand apart from others. I have two dear friends who traveled to India as part of an ASTEP outreach program and spent two weeks in the trenches with some of India's poorest and forgotten kids. Hearing about their journey was live changing.
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.
I have worked witrh ASTEP on several projects. They are organized, focused and committed to their mission. That they use mostly volunteers to create programs overseas is truly an amazing feat. ASTEP staff are aomng the most professional and energetic srtists I knwo - and they are using their talents to encourage other artists to use their talents to make a difference in the world.
ASTEP is a really wonderful organization and it provides a necessary bridge between arts and activism. I am so impressed with all the people who spend countless hours devoted to this work. It is truly inspiring!
I had heard about Astep through friends and was excited about what they do so I decided to attend a benefit. I was amazed. They are such incredible people with volumes of passion and love. What they're doing across the globe is astounding and inspiring.
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 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.
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.
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.
ASTEP is filled with dedicated artists who strive to bring arts education to children who might not otherwise have access to the arts. These children are frequently at risk (members of gangs, from broken homes, with HIV/ AIDS) and ASTEP helps them find their own individual voices and instill faith in themselves. I spoke with the founding members when ASTEP was just a seed of an idea, and have seen it develop since then into an international organization. I have also spoken with the children and seen the real difference ASTEP has made in their lives.
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 fell in love with the the mission of ASTEP and wanted to create a benefit concert for the group in 2007. I planned and organized it with them, put my money into it and expected them to be somewhat hands off because their staff was modest and the agreement was that I would do the leg work. However, they put at my disposal a team of volunteers who made the project run smoothly, particularly on the day of the event, getting behind the effort 100 percent and assuring its success. The concert sold out. They aggressively got word out to their donors and made sure there were volunteers on site for troubleshooting (when a piano failed to work, a phone call was made by ASTEP and we got a new piano within the hour). The point is, when they believe in something, they get behind it 100 percent. There is no room for failure. It's the kind of passion and monomania you wish we saw in government, education and justice.
I had the great pleasure of working with Mary-Mitchell Campbell on a benefit for ASTEP this past May. Mary-Mitchell was working at the college where I teach and organized a wonderful benefit/ fund raiser for ASTEP. We did 'Songs for a New World' under her direction and I had the honor of choreographing it. It was through this experience that I became acquainted with this organization. At all times through this process the need and importance of what we were doing was never forgotten. The children we were raising money for were always on my mind at least. What is really rewarding about this particular organization is your artistry is so important to the success and it is an amazing feeling to use your art in away to help people and give a little back. We as artist really don't make much money so we really can't give much in that way, but we can give of our time and what we love the most to help. ASTEP let's you do that and in fact excepts you to use your art to the best of your ability to help. It is a well run organization and every one who I have come in contact with has the passion and determination to continue this wonderful journey as well as making you feel like you are just as important as the big stars that they get to help raise money. I can't say enough about how wonderful these people are and how important and great the organization is for the world. They deserve all the awards and praise that they receive and then some.
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.
I have attended several ASTEP events and have been incredibly impressed by not only the passion and commitment of those who represented the organization, but also by the excitement, compassion, and generosity of spirit that those individuals inspired. The ASTEP mission strikes me as one that not only strives to bring dignity and hope to people who are severely lacking both, but also to find a common humanity and sense of purpose through art and love. Through pictures, film, and personal accounts, I've seen the overwhelmingly emotional and joyous experiences that have been shared on the other side of the planet through ASTEP.
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.
This organization reaches children worldwide and is unique in allowing healing and growth through art. Professional artists, who make their living at their craft, volunteer months of their time in order to share their talents with children in need. This approach through art provides a safe place where defenses can be lowered, emotions can be explored and childeren can be children. I am a frequent financial suporter of this nonprofit and am amazed by the efforts of its founder, Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
I had the incredible fortune to sing at a concert for ASTEP and it changed my life. Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who runs the orginazation, is one of the most caring, selfless, and thoughtful people I have ever met. She devotes all of her time to raising money for and increasing awareness of ASTEP. When she speaks of the children in Africa and how much their lives are enriched by bringing music and art into their lives, she always wells up with joyful tears of pride and gratitude. ASTEP serves as an important ambassador for the US, reaching out to those less fortunate through the universal connection that only music and love can create.
AStep is a vital and necessary organization bringing the arts to under-served communities. Lives are changed. Lives are saved. Over the course of several years I have seen the work that has been done, the faces of children illuminated with joy and gratitude at having been heard and seen...of knowing they are valued and that THEY make a difference in the world. Vounteer for Astep and YOUR life will be changed.
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.
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.
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.
ASTEP (Artists Striving To End Poverty) is hands-down one of the best youth-arts non-profits I have ever worked with. From the founder to the staff to the volunteers, the commitment level, humility, passion and impact of the organization is astounding and infectious. Their listening-first approach to working with underserved communities and youth has been one of the most effective methods I have experienced as a teaching artist. Instead of trying to provide a solution-based curriculum or a one-time experience, they seek to understand first what the issues of the community nd the youth are, and create a dynamic and immediate arts curriculum that addresses those issues and concerns. They build a presence and a relationship with a community, returning yearly to continue the work -- in Homestead, Florida and at Shanti Bhavan in India, there is now year-round arts activity. That investment in a community, that understanding of safety and needed space for the kids to see themselves beyond what they know -- it reflects the intentions and commitment of ASTEP to long-lasting, transformative, empowering arts experiences. Last year, I volunteered for a week at their summer arts camp in Homestead; it was an absolutely life-changing and life-shaping experience. The mentoring artists work almost non-stop to bring an unforgettable and inspiring arts experience to kids who otherwise have very little access to the arts. I remember being astounded at the lengths to which they will go to bring a sense of magic and possibility to every day of the camp. In the first meeting I attended, I remember thinking, "There is no way that what we are planning is going to happen, especially with so little resources." And lo and behold, it did! That is ASTEP's motto: Anything is possible -- and they truly practice what they preach. They believe it for their students and they believe it for themselves, and the kids begin to believe it for themselves. Seeing kids who are surviving incredibly difficult circumstances transform and grow and change and blossom in the camp hooked me into teaching and passing on the arts as a major part of my life, especially within underserved communities. Inspired by my time with the organization, I am now partnering with ASTEP volunteers and artists to create an arts-camp experience for youth in my home community. ASTEP is incredible. I continually draw from my experiences with ASTEP for inspiration, insight and instruction as a teaching artist with other organizations too. I have heard from participants in the programs to volunteer artists how their ASTEP experience opened them to worlds within themselves that they didn't know existed. Through the support of ASTEP and their involvement with the arts, they are imagining themselves and their lives beyond their present conditions. Not to mention, they draw volunteers from some of the highest tiers of artists around! I continually talk about them and refer people to them, because I believe that they epitomize what this work is about: utilizing the arts as an agent of service, change and transformation in individuals' and communities' lives.
Marrying the needs of the Third World Children ( education, hope,nurturing..a FUTURE) with the needs of the young US performing artist who has the energy and time to try to make a difference and give back for what living in the US has given them ...is such a brilliant WIN/WIN solution for the dilemma of winiing the hearts and minds of future generations in these crucial developing parts of the world.
I first learned about ASTEP through a classmate of mine in college who fundraised for her trip to India. When she returned it was clear that she had had a profound experience volunteering at Shanti Bhavan. Since then I've had several friends and acquaintances who have trekked overseas to participate in ASTEP's India program and they have all had remarkable experiences. This summer I began volunteering at the ASTEP office helping with bookkeeping, and while the tasks are simple, I still feel like I'm contributing what I can for the time being. (And Beth is consistently good company.) I hope to head to either the India or Africa program within the next two years. ASTEP is an important vehicle for change that harnesses the generosity of spirit and talent of artists. I look forward to learning more and more about the change this nonprofit is making in the world as I continue my involvement as volunteer and artist in the ASTEP family.
I served at the Master of Ceremonies for a Winter ASTEP benefit concert in 2008 produced by ASTEP@NYU which is one of the highlights of my career here in NYC. We had an incredible roster of singers who all came out pro bono to assist the cause. The audience was a mixture of industry professionals, students, and friends. ASTEP serves as a connecting force in an industry where is is easy to get tunnel vision. Artists are historically the ones who change the world and lead revolutions and ASTEP is certainly on the way towards making long lasting and meaningful change in the global artistic and human communities.
I have known Mary Mitchell Campbell for ten years through the music theater business and not only have I been blessed with her love of music through collaboration, but her passion for helping out those less fortunate than her is infectious. She is always brainstorming about better ways to harness the time and energy of those who want to reach out but don't know where to start. I was honored to have been asked to perform a benefit concert of my original songs with the other cast members of the Broadway Revival, Company, with all of the profits donated to ASTEP. ASTEP is the focus of her energies and has inspired many people to follow the example of helping those in need. It is a success story that will continue to thrive and motivate volunteers and benefactors for years to come.
This organization and services they provide are AMAZING! I've been a volunteer,a participant, as well as a facilitator for their program in south florida. It is a program that helpsyou learn not just about all the different art forms but about yourself and your potential to be someone successful in life. My favortie part about this experience is looking back on the progress I've made. I came from "tagging" school property to studying Vangogh. I couldn't imagine the world of trouble I'd be in now without their help and support.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in a handful of performances that raised money for ASTEP. I performed as a musician onstage with several fantastic musicians, all leaders in the broadway orchestra community. Each performance was at a venue that held over 100 people, but each time the place was packed, and several thousands of dollars were raised each night. I'm also fortunate to know Mary-Mitchell Campbell, ASTEP's founder. I know personally that she gives generously from her busy and demanding schedule to not only set up the fundraising events, but to travel to poverty-stricken parts of the world where ASTEP's profits are disbursed into communities. ASTEP is an efficiently-run nonprofit organization that engages all kinds of highly talented people to raise money for poor communities. And it directly oversees how those funds are donated. Please help the cause, any effort you make will be well-spent and will enrich the lives of people across the world who really need help from us.
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.
I have been a volunteer at the Shanti Bhavan Residential for poor children in Souther India where ASTEP volunteers regularly come. I have had three volunteering periods at this school (Jan to end April for the years 2007, 2007 and 2009). During each of these four month periods, I have had the pleasure and honor to work with, support, or simply enjoy the ASTEP volunteers who were there during these times. I had heard about ASTEP volunteers, especially from the kids at school who always have great stories to tell about them and who are always anxiously awaiting new ASTEP volunteers to show up. In my mind, academics naturally take front stage at any school. However, immediately behind is the kind of work that ASTEP does. Their approach with the kids allow the kids to develop their creativity, musical talents, dance skills, etc. The ASTEP volunteers bring to Shanti Bhavan what no regular teacher, however skilled he or she might be, can bring. ASTEPers bring out the best in the kids. I have seen otherwise shy, reserved and timid kids litterally "break out" of their shell and perform in public. I have seen kids express themselves orally, or through other forms of artistic expression, where under normal circumstances they would have kept their thoughts and impressions to themselves. ASTEPers bring to this school a level of education which, in my mind, very very few other schools in India, or for that matter the world, offers its students. ASTEPers interact with kids of all ages, and this is a great part of their contibution. No one is left aside, whether he or she is not (initially) talented, too young, or apparently disinterested. The ASTEP contribution to the evolution and eduction of the kids of Shanti Bhavan is beyond what one could expect. They teach the kids respect, involvement, contribution, interaction, and bring out the best in their character and personality. I have had great rapport with all the volunteers from ASTEP with whom I have had the pleasure to interact. They are dedicated, resourceful, involved, and above all, they totally enjoy what they do. The smiles from the kids and their yearning to want always more (rehearsals, practices, courses, direction, coaching, etc.) is a testament to the effectiveness of the ASTEP volunteers and their love for what they do. These great people and Mary Mitchell Campbell who directs the organization merit all the support and kudos which they so richly deserve. Jacques Lafortune Montreal Canada
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.
I have been fortunate to watch and observe ASTEP's amazing work over time. The extent of the work they do is amazing and done with complete selflessness. They exist only to make the people they help lives better.
ASTEP is an incredible organization that not only positively impacts its recipients, but also positively impacts its volunteers. I performed at an ASTEP benefit and was thrilled for the experience of working alongside my peers in the Broadway community. The night in and of itself was a treat ... the fact that the performance benefited such a worthwhile cause was the cake ... the thrill of being part of such an outstanding cast of volunteers was the icing. The organization is supported by artists who want to SHARE their art and enable others' artistic dreams to thrive. It is an honor to donate my time, money, and support to ASTEP.
ASTEP is amazing. Its goal is nothing short of miraculous--help impoverished children across the world learn how to free their voices, love themselves, and feel empowered, all through exploring the arts. ASTEP takes music, theater, dance, visual arts, and more to places where these programs do not exist at all. But ASTEP does not just teach indigent children how to do art--ASTEP uses the arts as a lens through which the children learn about HIV/AIDS, self-expression, and self-sufficiency. I have heard so, so many stories about ASTEP children feeling stronger, happier, more powerful, and actually freer after participating in an ASTEP program. The program is so unique, because it has artists of the highest caliber teaching children who have been abandoned and who otherwise might never even see a play, let alone be in one, or even write one! Many children across the world, not just in impoverished areas, have no arts education. What an incredible thing to bring this most important subject to the places where people most need beauty and a forum to express themselves. I am so proud of ASTEP's efforts, and feel privileged to be involved with this incredible organization.