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.
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 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.
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!