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Review for Artists Striving To End Poverty Inc, New York, NY, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

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've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the documentary work I did. I performed interviews with the children before and after their experiences with ASTEP. Their sense of confidence and curiosity had grown immeasurably. I've never seen such a profound change in kids in so short a time.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

attempt to recruit people with an educational background.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Working with kids who are eager for contact with the arts.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Creative, self-motivated.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

fund arts education for an entire community, bending its long-term trajectory toward enlightenment and economic success. Or create pilot projects in many more needy areas.

Ways to make it better...

A bus on a long cold overnight journey had had a functioning heating system.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Recruitment of skilled volunteers who are not only great artists in their own right, but can be quickly transformed into educators.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Board Member & Film documentarian, then Board Member.