Miami Based Non-Profit Responds to Congress's Call for Leadership

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Art Studio Miami (ASM), located in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, is preparing for an influx of students as youth impacted by the Haiti earthquake arrive in South Florida. Youth moving into Little Haiti will find desperately impoverished conditions and failing schools. ASM needs immediate support to fund academic and emotional services to help youth cope as they transition from life in Haiti.

Without educational support, one in three youth in Little Haiti will be incarcerated by age twenty-one.

"Youth arriving from Haiti are being welcomed to the United States by poverty, abysmal educational opportunities, and substandard living conditions. Without support, we are sentencing these kids to lives of poverty and crime before they even arrive."

Little Haiti based Art Studio Miami(ASM) is ramping up volunteer efforts in response to the anticipated influx of refugee children pouring into Miami from earthquake ravaged Haiti. ASM annually serves approximately 200 youth from the impoverished area of Little Haiti, and staff expect demand to increase dramatically in the coming months as children impacted by the earthquake arrive in South Florida.

Kendrick Meek (D-FL) addressed news crews on January 19 at the City of Miami’s staging area for Haiti relief, located directly across the street from ASM. Meek called for local organizations to provide leadership and support during the long period of rebuilding.

“South Florida is in this for the long haul; this will be the center for the recovery. . . and we are going to need leadership and understanding,'' said Meek.

In response to Meek’s appeal, ASM volunteers and staff have been working around the clock to prepare for additional students in the coming months. An army volunteer teaching artists and administrators have stepped up to provide holistic programming that will allow children impacted by the disaster to express their feelings through creative projects that prepare them for academic success.

“We must provide safe spaces where youth can heal and build solid foundations for better lives,” said Art Studio Miami Development Director, Beth Degi.

Since 2007, ASM has served over 500 youth from Little Haiti and Overtown using creative, art based projects to nurture students’ creative thinking abilities and prepare them for classroom settings and job situations. The organization partners with professional artists and community leaders to provide students with mentors and concrete tools to remain in school, and gain stable employment after graduation. Programs incorporate yoga, meditation, and deep breathing to help student’s develop positive ways to address the distressing living situations they face daily.

“In the wake of this disaster, people are forgetting that many Haitian people who have already immigrated to Miami are in desperately impoverished conditions, living at or below the poverty level, which in several cases means homelessness, no running water, and little food,” said Degi.

According to Degi, many of the youth served at ASM are struggling to obtain an education due to language barriers and health issues from lack of water, food and clean living conditions.

Degi said, "Youth arriving from Haiti are being welcomed to the United States by poverty, abysmal educational opportunities, and substandard living conditions. Without programs that provide educational resources and emotional support, these kids will have no chance at academic success and extremely limited job opportunities. We are sentencing these kids to lives of poverty and crime before they even arrive."

According to the Florida 11th Judicial Circuit Court’s Juvenile Justice Board, one in three youth in the area served by ASM will be imprisoned by age twenty-one.

Degi is calling on individuals, businesses and philanthropic organizations to provide financial support and supplies for youth being served at Art Studio Miami. Donations of non perishable food, bottled water, and funding are being accepted to offset the costs of increasing programming. Donations can be made at http://www.ASMHelpLittleHaiti.org or by calling the ASM office at 786-250-ART1.

ASM volunteers are also on the ground in Haiti. A team of ASM volunteers left for Port-au-Prince last Tuesday to assist directly with the relief efforts on the ground. Nearly all of the students served at ASM have family still in Haiti.

Art Studio Miami uses art as a tool for educational, emotional, and career development. Through the arts, ASM teaches life skills to prepare students for successful futures. Youth in foster care, homeless situations, and extreme poverty depend on ASM to provide tools that empower them to gain stable employment and contribute to our community. ASM has served over 500 youth in Little Haiti since 2007.

Art Studio Miami programs go far beyond art - they are lifelines out of poverty. ASM programs focus on dismantling the ‘Cradle to Prison Pipeline’ by providing students with mentors and tools to create a future free from the crippling effects of poverty.

For more information about ASM visit http://www.ASMHelpLittleHaiti.org. To view ASM programs in action watch the ASM video at blip.tv/file/2124377.

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