ASTEP: Artists vs. HIV/AIDS and Poverty
One billion children, one in every two children worldwide live in poverty. Fifteen million children are orphaned each year due to the rampant HIV/AIDS pandemic. In India, which has the largest number of AIDS orphans of any country, over five million people are HIV-positive and over 30,000 babies are born with HIV each year. Africa has more than 5.3 million known AIDS sufferers. By age twenty, one in three women worldwide are infected with the virus.
Light has been shed on situations like the ones in Africa and India through mass media and celebrity-fueled exposure. For example, famous actors and musicians, major companies such as Apple, GAP and American Express have gone RED to assist in fighting HIV/AIDS. ONE is another organizational effort to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty and is supported by such notable people as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Jamie Foxx, Penelope Cruz, Dave Matthews, Salma Hayek, George Clooney, and Bill Gates, who appear in TV commercials to support the cause. In 2002, Richard Gere hosted a carnival with Bollywood actors in Bombay to raise awareness and funds to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. His charity, The Gere Foundation India Trust, also supports health clinics in India. Last June, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow personally appealed to government officials and rebel groups to ensure that children are placed at the center of peace and recovery in Darfur.
Last October, Madonna adopted a baby from Malawi after giving millions to assist the orphaned children there.Angelina Jolie, who never loses sight of her important role as an active UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, consistently uses her superstar status to generate media coverage on the dilemmas of refugees and the conditions under which they live. Two of her three children are adopted from third world countries and she is constantly being trailed by the paparazzi as they travel through such places as Jodhpur, Namibia, and Mumbai. It is undeniable; HIV/AIDS and poverty exist, not only overseas, but right here in our own community.
With celebrities donating large amounts of funds and creating major media buzz, we tend to forget about the organizations in our own backyards that have similar missions but do not require a large pocketbook to participate in the hands-on experience of facilitating change.Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP), a NYC -based global non-profit created by renowned Broadway musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, aims to mobilize the worldwide community of performing artists in an effort to create positive change for young people in need.
Artists, including recent and current Juilliard students, Broadway professionals, and local university students serve as volunteer teachers at these events.ASTEP’s programs take place in communities with populations of impoverished children who have limited access to arts education. ASTEP creates safe spaces in which the children learn to communicate and to develop skills for making positive decisions by interacting with the artists. Topics covered range from selfempowerment and positive future building to HIV/AIDS awareness
ASTEP is currently in the process of developing an orphanage in India that will be dedicated to empowering and educating severely disadvantaged young women. In early 2007, ASTEP will also launch a hospital outreach program that will bring professional artists into New York City hospitals and healthcare facilities to inspire and enrich the lives of children who are confined to these environments where arts education and experiences are rare.
ASTEP is always looking for motivated and loving individuals who wish to make a difference in the life of a child. Whether it is an afternoon sharing an artistic talent in a local hospital or volunteering a few weeks of time overseas in Africa or India, ASTEP needs you: the dancer, actor, musician, singer, playwright, and visual artist.
First published in movmnt magazie “Out of Line” Spring 2007 – Issue 3