Get to know our Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi!


Read the interview below to find out more about our rockstar Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi!


Where did you grow up? 

Fresno, California.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team? 

Before joining the ASTEP team, I had the honor of working for a few different arts organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. I was Artistic Director for The Audacity Performing Arts Project, Inc., Program Manager for the Arts for Social Justice Program at Santa Clara University, and I taught dance classes at a High School and a Dance Studio in San Jose, CA! 

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones? 

Yes! I absolutely love to be on site with ASTEP programs! I am proud to say that I have been on site at all of the current ASTEP programs except one (and hopefully I will get there sometime soon!). I recently got back from teaching at Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in India, and it was such a beautiful and life changing experience. All of the ASTEP programs continue to inspire me and I learn more about each one of them every day! 

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started? 

Yes I did! I started in dance classes when I was about 3 years old, and I was hooked ever since! I studied Theatre and Dance in college and am a Musical Theatre performer, and through that I found my vocation to teach and share my joy for the arts with those around me – especially children. 

What is the most challenging part of your work? 

I would say that a challenging part of my work is balancing and coordinating schedules of all our teaching artist teams and volunteers. It is a beautiful challenge to have because we have a vast pool of artists with different backgrounds/jobs/expertise, which allow us to put together the best possible teams for our students – but it does call for extra attention to detail and putting my schedule puzzle solving skills to the test!

What is the most rewarding part of your work? 

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the smiles on all of the faces of the children we work with. Nothing can beat that pure joy! Everything we do is for the kids, and watching them discover their own greatness through our workshops and programs will always be the icing on the cake!

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP? 

Everything! From the moment I walk through the ASTEP office door, I am overwhelmed with the love and passion our community has for using arts to make a positive difference in the world. I am continuously inspired by the new volunteers I get to talk to each day, and I am constantly reminded of all the people in this world who are fighting to make a positive difference by sharing their heart/art. 

What song best encapsulates your working personality? 

If I had to describe my work personality in a song, I would choose “A Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins. Not only does this song put a smile on my face, but I think it describes my work personality and how I approach life in general. “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun!” 




Singing You Home – A Benefit Album

Artists Striving to End Poverty is so proud to be a part of this new project –Singing You Home.

Produced by Laura Benanti, Mary-Mitchell Campbell & Lynn Pinto, all proceeds of this bilingual album of lullabies will be donated to RAICES & ASTEP. We hope you will join us in supporting these children and families, separated at the southern border of the United States. Learn more here.

Click here to pre-order the album.



ASTEP Featured on Common Good!


We are excited to announce that ASTEP is featured on Common Good, a new website from Newman’s Own Foundation!

This site is dedicated to sharing the powerful pursuits of nonprofits all over the world, and the everyday good that is often overlooked.

Check out our story here.



Welcome to our newest staff member, Austin Sora!


We’re thrilled to announce that Austin Sora has joined the ASTEP staff as the Assistant to Development and Administration!

Find out some more about Austin in the interview below:

Austin Sora

Where did you grow up? Toronto, Canada

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team? I recently moved back to New York after living in Dallas for three years, performing with Bruce Wood Dance. Administratively, I’ve worked with The Clive Barnes Foundation, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Bruce Wood Dance.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones? My first teaching experience with ASTEP was teaching dance at Women in Need (WIN) as part of the ASTEP on STAGE! program. I’ve also volunteered for ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), in partnership with the IRC.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started? I have been dancing my whole life, and I am fortunate to be able to continue doing it professionally. The first class I taught for ASTEP in 2014 was my first teaching experience! It was a wonderful introduction to teaching because I saw first hand how much the arts can empower and connect people.

What is the most challenging part of your work? The challenges of this job are in a way what I love most. I am asked to wear a lot of hats, which allows me to work in several different areas within the organization. It can be a challenge juggling a range of responsibilities, but I learn something new every day!

What is the most rewarding part of your work? ASTEP’s mission is one that I believe in strongly, and I love coming to work each day knowing that I am playing a small part in bringing the arts to so many children in the US and abroad.

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP? The ASTEP community is made up of a special group of people, whose generosity and passion inspires me each day.

What song best encapsulates your working personality? “Happy” by Pharrell Williams! 🙂





ASTEP is pleased to announce that Laura V. Chittick, Steven Farkas, and Gabrielle Speaks have joined our Board of Directors!

Laura V. Chittick, an Executive Director at J.P. Morgan, earned a BA from Columbia University and holds a graduate degree from Yale University. She lives with her family in New York City and is excited to work towards arts education for all children.

Steven Farkas, a member of the $20 billion Global Equity Team within BlackRock’s Alpha Strategies Group, graduated cum laude with a BS in Finance from Tulane University in 2008. An early start in the arts solidified his interest in the profound effect it can have on all children. 

Gabrielle Speaks, Director of Board Relations and Special Liaison to the President & CEO at Community Service Society of New York, holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s degree in History from Howard University. Gabrielle works towards alleviating poverty on a policy and structural level, and is thrilled to be a part of the work ASTEP is doing. 

We look forward to working closely with our new Board members and welcome them to the ASTEP community!




Jennifer Anne Saltzstein Kaffenberger, 1976-2016, was a loving soul. Her sparkling personality bubbled over with joy and happiness. She inspired everyone she met with her quick wit, compassion for others and passion for the dramatic arts.

Jennifer’s love for drama started early in life in Kansas City. At the age of four her mom took her to see the hit musical Annie. It was a transformative and jaw-dropping experience for her. From that point forward she was destined to follow her passion in the arts and make it a career. The live stage and sound of music captured her heart for the rest of her life. The thrill of the theatre and her admiration for all things related to drama was a hallmark of her life.

She majored in Drama at Duke University and went on to play parts in several off-Broadway shows in Manhattan. Off-stage she was a star of stars, caring deeply about others, doing what she could to lessen the sting of poverty everywhere, and speaking out against racism, bigotry and anything that divided people.

Jen waged a 26-year courageous battle with kidney disease. Despite the tremendous challenge, Jen managed to live a rich life. She was an educator; publisher; playwright; loving aunt; caring sister, and devoted wife. She formed deep, meaningful relationships that lasted for years.

Jen was an intellectual that deeply cared about people, and about the world around her. That’s why we know she would support every effort that ASTEP is making to help the world eradicate poverty while inspiring a new generation to appreciate the arts.

Jen’s private ASTEP fund will make annual gifts to transform lives, through the power of the arts. We would like to keep you informed on those events over the years so that Jennifer’s spirit and love for life can remain in your lives, too.

Many thanks for your contributions that will help us honor her memory.

+ To make a donation, please follow this link and list Carol Kaffenberger’s email address as the recipient ( In addition, you can mail a check to: ASTEP, 165 West 46th Street, Suite 1303, New York, NY 10036 and include Jennifer’s name in the memo line.




unnamedASTEP is pleased to announce George Wilkinson has joined our Board of Directors!

George is a Senior Manager at Satori Consulting, working within a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company to ensure the company’s regulatory compliance and inspection readiness. George earned an MBA from the University of Cape Town, Master of Science in Human Biology from the University of Western Australia and Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition, George is an accomplished contemporary artist. For 15 years he lived in various parts of the world including Australia, California, South Africa, and India.   He attributes world residency to having inspired his fascination with the Urban Organism.

George’s hand painted cities are like a biologist’s field drawings, cities as living beings. Despite their appearance, most of George’s subjects are imagined. If a real location is painted, it is an abstract, idealized vision of the future.

The love for cities conveyed through George’s work is derived from his belief that human nature is fundamentally misunderstood and misrepresented by biologists as an unnatural, destructive imposition upon the Earth.  George’s view: Impossible; no portion of physical reality doesn’t count in the story of life on Earth.

George is fascinated by the fact that Earth is glowing and emitting matter. His message:  We belong here.

We are thrilled to work closely with George and welcome him to the ASTEP community — together, we are introducing the transforming power of the arts to the children we serve!


* * * * * 




Volunteer in India this spring!

Want to use your artistic talents to inspire joy? Ever wonder what Southern India is like in the spring? Then ASTEP might be just what you’re looking for!

This spring ASTEP is sending a team of Volunteer Artists to Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in India to deliver a two-week arts camp that focuses on music, theatre, dance, and visual art. Together, ASTEP and Shanti Bhavan teach students that their voices matter, that their ideas have value, and that they are capable of transforming India and their communities. By bringing the arts to these children from India’s lowest castes, ASTEP provides students with the opportunity to develop their social and emotional skills and to imagine a world where anything is possible. All volunteers receive room and board and live on campus with the children.

Dates: 16 May through 6 June 2016
Application deadline: 15 March 2016
Location: Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project near Bangalore, India
Who: All artists! We need a diverse team and hope that you are a part of it!

** Room and board is provided by ASTEP and Shanti Bhavan for all Volunteer Artists
** Email Aaron Rossini at or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

7th Annual Holiday Concert to Benefit ASTEP!

NYC Christmas Logo_hi resWe’re excited to announce our starry 7th Annual New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP, taking place on Monday, December 14 at 7:00 PM at Joe’s Pub at The Public in New York City with a special silent auction, including items from HAMILTON, FINDING NEVERLAND, and LION KING to list a few!

Back by popular demand, the evening will feature Broadway’s most sought-after talent singing new and classic holiday songs. Expect fresh, original approaches — pop, soul, R&B, rock and more — to your favorite seasonal numbers, many of them captured on the Sh-KBoom/Ghostlight album “New York City Christmas,” available for purchase at the concert.

Conceived and produced by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Allegiance, Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz), the concert will again boast an incredible line-up of artists, including Lea Salonga (Allegiance, Miss Saigon, Les Misérables), Sierra Boggess (School of Rock, Master Class, The Little Mermaid), Lindsay Mendez (Wicked, Godspell, Everyday Rapture), Derek Klena (The Bridges of Madison County, Wicked, Carrie), Katie Rose Clarke (Allegiance, The Light in the Piazza, Wicked), Alysha Umphress (On the Town, American Idiot), Sally Wilfert (Make Me A Song, Assassins, Tom Sawyer), Kenita Miller (Merrily We Roll Along, Ragtime), Kay Trinidad (The Little Mermaid, Bare), Aurelia Williams (Sistas, The Musical, Papermill’s Once On This Island), Maurice Murphy (Motown The Musical, Leap of Faith), Zak Resnick (Mamma Mia!), Lauren Pritchard (Spring Awakening) and many more. The concert will be directed by Stafford Arima (Allegiance, Bare: The Musical, Carrie).

Also appearing will be musicians Shankel (on piano), Joe Mowatt (drums/percussion), Randy Landau (bass), Peter Calo and Jim Hershman (guitars).

Tickets are $100.00 each for premium seats, $75.00 each for general seating. ALL proceeds from tickets to the show and album sales go to supporting ASTEP’s mission to connect performing and visual artists with underserved kids, awakening their imaginations, fostering critical thinking, and helping them break the cycle of poverty. ASTEP places volunteer artists in India, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, New York and Florida and supports the efforts of ASTEP Chapters in more than a dozen communities around the U.S.

A special silent auction will also be held during the concert, featuring sought-after items such as:

  • 2 VIP Tickets to HAMILTON with Exclusive Backstage Tour and Meet and Greet with Jonathan Groff
  • 2 VIP Tickets to FINDING NEVERLAND with Exclusive Backstage Tour
  • 2 VIP Tickets to LION KING with Exclusive Backstage Tour
  • 2 VIP Tickets to Cirque du Soleil PARAMOUR ON BROADWAY with Exclusive Backstage Tour
  • Have Raul Esparza Record Your Outgoing Voicemail Greeting
  • Have Kristin Chenoweth Record Your Outgoing Voicemail Greeting

Tickets are available for purchase online through the Joe’s Pub website or at the box office at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. Seating is limited.

We hope you can join us!!



2015 Christmas Concert_Sponsors

Volunteer in India

Engage in the transforming power of the arts!


ASTEP is currently recruiting musicians, dancers, and visual artists for our three-week arts camp at Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, a school and home for economically and socially disadvantaged children outside Bangalore, India. With a team of 5-10 volunteer artists, ASTEP’s arts camp transform the school into a place of creativity, performance and ol’ fashioned silliness for the 300+ students at who live there.

Application deadline: July 17, 2015
Dates: September 6 – 23, 2015

Email Lizzy Rainer at to learn more!

+ Want to find out more about our partnership with Shanti Bhavan?

+ Check out photos from our most recent camp in May!


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165 W.46th Street, Suite 1303, New York, NY 10036
(212) 921.1227

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