Blog Action Day: ASTEP Toward Ending Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day, “an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day.”  This year’s aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion about poverty. I was particularly excited about this topic because it is one that has been on my mind for the last several years.  It is a complex issue and one that I have been working to understand while doing my small part to increase awareness.

There are many political and activist organizations which offer resources and calls to action that I would encourage you to explore, and I will include a short list at the conclusion of this post. While I certainly appreciate and value the work of these organizations, I have always felt that change begins with one person reaching out to another. Sometimes it seems easier to throw money at problems, hoping to stick a finger in the dam of global poverty.  However, there are groups who seek a different approach – to reach out and help one person or one small group of people gain access to the things we sometimes take for granted. Building one well in one community, offering a small loan to one individual so that they can grow their business and in turn help others and the economy within their community, reaching out to one child to give them hope for their future.

“One person can have a profound effect on another. And two people…well, two people can work miracles. They can change a whole town. They can change the world.”
-Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, writers of the TV show Northern Exposure

ASTEP in the Right Direction

When people make a one-on-one connection with someone in need it can alter their lives (and consequently, the lives of others) forever. This was the case for Mary Mitchell-Campbell, a successful Broadway music director whose volunteer work in India inspired her to make an impact on worldwide childhood poverty.  She founded ASTEP (Artists Striving To End Poverty), an arts-based nonprofit that works directly with disadvantaged children, seeking to empower them through the arts. ASTEP has been a work in progress since about 2001, but received non-profit status two years ago and currently leads programs in the U.S., Africa, and India, connecting “artists who wish to share their talents with children who can benefit from artistic encounters.”

How does this combat poverty?

As you and I know, the arts have the power and potential to teach life skills (communication, self-expression, problem solving, decision making, perseverance) in ways that wind deeply into the heart, soul, and mind of the person/people whom they touch.  Essential life skills are typically what a disadvantaged or impoverished child lacks, limiting their future and opportunities as they grow into adulthood. Amazingly, hope is present in the most hopeless of situations. Anyone who has worked with the disadvantaged can tell you about this surprising phenomenon.  In these situations, however, it becomes difficult for those without opportunity to nourish this hope. The arts can provide the tools needed so that these children can invest in the hope they have for their future.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.
And sings the tune
Without the words,
and never stops at all.

-Emily Dickinson

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_1tkkqg328]

You Can Teach Anything with the Arts

ASTEP has designed programs for children in areas where war, disease, disaster, and poverty have ravaged villages and communities. These are places where childhood is marred by concerns that, in developed nations, even grown adults do not have to cope with; where trial and trauma has a psychological impact on the youth who live there. It is in this arena that the arts, and specifically ASTEP, have been able to make a positive impact.  ASTEP recruits artists, students, and professionals who volunteer to share their time and talents as teachers in the organization’s programs. Their workshops, camps, and projects are developed to serve the needs of each, particular community and help children there deal with their own difficult circumstances. Watch this video diary of how one weekend made a difference in the lives of some South African youth.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4YXMQCRNCo]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em59lkMrBRc]

How You Can Help

If you’d like to know more about ASTEP, please visit their website and download the presskit.  If you’d like to get involved there are several ways to do so.

  • Volunteer: artist opportunities are available in their active programs (currently in India, New York, and Florida) – click here for an application.
  • Give Your Time: ASTEP runs a soup kitchen initiative in Manhattan every third Sunday of the month.
  • Consider Donating: contribute money, supplies (like dance shoes), or equipment, or sponsor a volunteer.
  • Become a Partner: combine the efforts of your non-profit with those of ASTEP.
  • Purchase Tickets to ASTEP events.
  • Assist the NYC Office: data entry and fundraising research opportunities available.
  • Host a Benefit Concert: consider donating proceeds from your school’s dance recital!
  • Set up a Change Drive: small change = BIG change.
  • Purchase Items Online: Go to the volunteer page for links to sites which donate to ASTEP with the purchase of items, Broadway tickets, or even for searching online.
  • Form an ASTEP Club at your college.
  • Spread the Word: on your website or blog, at your studio, or to your friends.

Also, stay updated on ASTEP’s activities by signing up for their mailing list.

Worth Your Attention

Please check out these other organizations, all doing their part to bring an end to poverty.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIvmE4_KMNw]

The Girl Effect – Girls have the power to change the world! See more about Girl Effect projects and how you can give.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nf8tuVny4Q]

ONE.org – Join the fight against global poverty.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3tWjeIN4qA]

Stand Up and Take Action – Against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals. Stand Up October 17-19, 2008 and Take Action. Find an event near you.

Learn More

How much do you know about world poverty? Take this quiz and find out!

Investigate and learn more:

The World Bank’s PovertyNet

Global Issues.org – Causes of Poverty

The Skeptic’s Guide to Global Poverty (excerpt) – buy the book

Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle Suzanne began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. Nichelle holds a BA in dance and is an instructor with more than 17 years experience. She covers dance performance in the Houston area as a freelance writer and balances daily life as a mom to two young children. In June 2012, Nichelle presented the whats, hows, and whys of blogging on a panel at the annual conference for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, to better equip artists and companies for engaging their audience and new readers through online communications and content.
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)

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Comments

  1. fascinating. i hadn’t heard of astep.

    saw this via the front page of blog action day. it’s great that you’re participating. :)

  2. I’m so excited to find a dance blog (you knew I was a writer but did you know my great love is dance?). Thank you so much for sharing these organizations. The only one I’ve heard of is One.org, but I want to explore both ASTEP and girleffect more. It’s crucial that we all become more familiar with ways to make a difference.

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