I met Sarah Geller the founder of AEI at an event where she was nominated for an award. I have never felt so strongly about a single organization in my life. As an actor AEI's method of providing emotional rehabilitation makes so much sense, and as a kid I understand the positive effects of fun. I was so inspired by AEI that offered to help fundraise during the summer of 2011.
I am 17 and live in NYC and although Sarah lives across the country she helped me every step of the way. I decided I would sell something and try to collect donations at popular flea markets on the weekend. Sarah helped me score a free table, and I spent days making back packs completely out of duct tape.
I had a great time and everyone I met received AEI beautifully.
The largest problems in the world do not have simple solutions. However, we live in a world of instant gratification and synecdoches, whereas we process the majority of our information in summaries and tag lines. This is often especially true with philanthropy: We want simple, direct altruism, where we can throw money at a problem and know how it's being used in 10 words or less. This is where the great American conundrum of altruism is found: How can we make any significant progress very complex international problems when we require simple and direct solutions to feel morally gratified? Too often I feel that non-profits must distill their approach to a crisis in order to attract donors, and as a result the solutions become minute and vapid. Enter Arts Education International, the very definition of macro-solution. Food packages and clean water solve much of the basic needs in terms of pure survivalism. But how does one approach the larger, more abstract crises of the world,such the trauma of civil war and the preservation of the arts? Arts Education International provides emotional rehabilitation and comfort to children who have little other comfort or joy in their lives. By hiring indigenous artists for their programs, AEI helps to facilitate the arts, provide creative output for traumatized children, teach them to sustain themselves by producing and selling crafts, facilitating arts education, and providing jobs for artists, dancers, and musicians. Sarah Geller has assembled and trained some of the most talented dancers, musicians, and artists I've ever seen associated with an education-based non-profit organization. If you have not seen their videos I highly recommend them to get a true impression of what they are doing right now.
When I donate to non-profits, I oftentimes find myself worrying if my donation could have helped those in need more if I gave it to a different organization. I have never had that worry about AEI. Sarah Geller and her group really organize exceptional programs that emotionally rehabilitate those who need it most. This is more than evident in her work with the Vision Stars, a group of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone who record dance and hip hop music with the support of Arts Education International. It oftentimes makes me wonder why there aren't any other organizations focused on emotional rehabilitation through the arts. It is my intention to continue donating to Arts Education International and continue to check their website for updates.
As a long-time supporter of AEI, I have been incredibly impressed with the dedication of the staff in the U.S. (who work on an all-volunteer basis) and how communicative they are with AEI donors. Each campaign they run is followed up with extensive reports, updates, and blog-postings from the programs they support. When I donate, I always feel confident that my donation is being used on the ground in Africa in the most effective way possible.
As the Executive Director of AEI, I can speak to the unmatched dedication of the artistic instructors on the ground in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Since I founded AEI, one of the most important principles of our work has been to cultivate relationships between the children we serve and the bearers of artistic tradition within their own communities. Today I can proudly say that we are fostering these mentorship relationships daily, and that the artists instructing the children we serve are not only singularly talented, but compassionate and caring role models in communities with conflicted histories. Our artists help orphaned and abandoned children to confront trauma on their own terms, and to become leaders in their own communities. I simply can’t say enough and am grateful for their hard work and dedication each day.
AEI is an up-and-coming nonprofit with a unique approach to promoting education in the developing world. In my experience with NGOs, I have never seen an organization that is so resourceful in their use of funds, so culturally sensitive to the needs of the communities they serve, or so lovingly tailored to the strengths of individual students. By working closely with local artists, AEI is able to sponsor arts, drama, dance, music, writing and handicraft classes that are culturally relevant and valuable to the community in many ways. AEI provides for the personal and professional development of youth, reconciliation within post-war communities, employment for local artisans, and a forum for cultural exchange. The director and staff have an unwavering commitment to both the letter and the spirit of their mission and I'm honored to be a small part of the amazing work they do.
I have been supporting this organization for several years and have been impressed by its maturing effectiveness. It has expanded its highly successful model of utilizing/supporting indigenous artists to achieve its highly laudable goals in a variety of troubled venues. The organization is efficiently run and enjoys unblemished reviews from all who have interacted with it. I recommend your long term support.
I have been a volunteer with AEI since 2007, and have had the great pleasure of seeing the success of AEI programs in Sierra Leone firsthand. The director and on-site administrators are 100% committed to providing amazing arts outreach programs for the kids who need it most. I have personally met dozens of war-afflicted teens whose first educational and career opportunities were provided by AEI. It is truly remarkable to witness the transformation of children who thought they had lost all hope, find so much joy and take so much pride in the new directions of their lives.
I have had the pleasure of being a member of AEI's board for the past 1.5 years, primarily focusing on working with Sarah Geller on tactical issues including operations, budgeting, organization planning, and program execution.
I continue to be impressed by Sarah's singular focus and vision for her nonprofit and have witnessed first-hand the impact that AEI's programs have on orphaned and abandoned children in West Africa. Sarah operates her organization with a keen focus on what the kids need, and is effective at aligning her administrators' and artists' objectives to investing the limited funding that she works tirelessly to generate into the right place at the right time. This is why she continues to be successful and why AEI's programs have expanded by over 75% in the past two years. And as a donor, I cannot envision a more effective way to make a difference in childrens' lives.
I have been working with AEI for 4 years at both the Peace and Love orphanage and the Teshie orphanage in Ghana. Amongst other arts, I teach dance, batik, bead-making and African history. From my experience, AEI has implemented programs that have had a very positive impact on the children at these orphanages. Through sponsorship of arts programs, AEI has helped the students to learn sustainable livelihood skills and to express themselves through visual art, crafts such as basket-weaving, dance and music such as drumming and flute. I have seen the positive effects of these programs and think that AEI is doing a great job.
This is a great organization, not only does it help children who have so little, 100% of what is donated goes to the children. It is nice to see a charity use no money for adminstrative cost and to use all that is collected to help the children.
I first became involved with AEI after I attended a fundraiser held in New York. I began volunteering shortly thereafter, and most recently helped out at an immersive arts camp that taught over 200 children in Sierra Leone. My experience volunteering with AEI changed my opinion on service work in general. The sensitivity with which the administrators approach their work is astounding...they work hard to support community development in a way that is culturally informed and accommodating. As a result, it is clear that the children not only learn practical skills, but also develop a sense of pride in their heritage and admiration for their mentors (the artists). It was especially rewarding to see the joy on their faces as they sang, danced, acted and created!
I am generally more interested in our planet and animal neighbors, but I've always thought that charities that actually change children's lives for the better were the only charities worth donating to. I support the causes of entities like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, but the whole idea should be to have more and more kids growing up educated, open-minded, in tune with their surroundings, able to express themselves, and able to critically think. Doing so will lead to more and more responsible, intelligent adults that will make the world a better place for people, animals, and the Earth alike. AEI is a no-brainer.
I have helped in a fund raising venture w/ AEI. The program presented a video of what AEI does and how they help these children expand the music and art of their culture. These children don't have much but yet they appreciate so much.
I gave a donation. This organization brings joyful experiences to many children who would otherwise live a very weary life.
Great organization, doing impressive work. this is a great concept--more charity organizations need to adopt this model. The people running these programs are obviously very dedicated and know how to run an international charity.
I have been following and contributing to this charity since its inception. It is doing amazing work. Fully 100% of contributions goes to the program--I know, I checked. By employing local artists to teach the kids, they are helping both the children and the community in which they are being raised. They provide long-term programs at each of their sites--not like a lot of charitable programs that do "one-off" events, take a lot of pictures for their brochures and disappear. This one deserves our ongoing support!
AEI is a young organization with a unique perspective. The organization uses the arts to promote emotional healing, but also as a vehicle for concrete economic opportunity for severely disadvantaged youth in war ravaged countries. It is deeply committed to working with and in local communities and building programs that will eventually be sustainable without AEI's continuing presence.