Acting/Film Program @ Uganda School

$3,602 of $15k goal

Raised by 46 people in 7 months
Jennifer Azano  NEW YORK, NY

Hello there!  In January, I will be moving to Uganda to continue running the Creative Arts Program I developed at the AVRS Secondary School in the village of Mpigi, Uganda. 

Though the program thus far has been a great success, the school does not have any funding to support the course.  Your help is desperately needed so that this life-changing program can continue!

Here's the story:

3 years ago, an American man by the name of Richard Stanley built a school in the village of Mpigi, Uganda. With his own funds, he built the school and sends over 200 children from around the country of Uganda free of charge.

It is an amazing endeavor!  The children live at the school and are housed, fed and given a solid education that many of them would not be afforded otherwise.  The goal is to prepare these children for the future and enable them to continue their education and get into college.

After visiting Uganda for the first time several years ago, I fell in love.  It is an absolutely amazing place, and the people are some of the most kind, genuine and lovely human beings I've ever met.  What I also did notice, was that the children are very shy by nature and seem to lack self-confidence.  While what Richard has done with school is wonderful, the children are only learning the basic subjects - math, english, science, history, etc.  There are no art programs or classes to faciliate creativity or self-expression.  And so, I came up with an idea to start a creative arts program.

I firmly believe that if you want to change the world, you must start with the youth.  Donating money can go so far, but actively being on the ground, giving your time to nurture, support and cultivate educated, confident young people is the key to making this world a better place.  By giving them the tools neccessary to progress, they will be able to actively change their homes, towns/villages and even countries for the better.

Being a writer/director, and artist all my life, I strongly believe that art has a very positive impact, and thought that these children could really benefit from an art class.  As a whole, Uganda has a lack of art programs in the educational system, and I believe that all children, particularly those in developing countries, can benefit tremendously from being exposed to art and having the opportunity to express themselves creatively.  I thought that by teaching an acting/film course at the school, the kids would gain self-confidence, and would be given tools that would help them later in life, whether it be in the film industry, or future jobs, interviews, even college. 

And so, I travled to Uganda for the month of January with my friend Mike, an actor here in NYC, to teach an Intro to Acting & Film Intensive.  We spent all day, every day, with a group of S4 students (boys and girls ages 14 &15).  We covered quite a bit of material - beginning with discussing films and the art of storytelling,  moved into acting/improvisation, screenwriting, and directing.  We taught the children proper formatting, and had them write and act in their own scenes.  We explored the art of filmmaking from pre-production through post.  They learned about different crew roles, equipment, shots, terminology, and real on-set experience.  The kids took a natural interest, and their excitement each and every day spoke volumes.

I concluded the course by having  the students write a short film together as a class, which we then filmed over a period of six days.  Each student had a role in the film, and when they were not acting, they acted as crew members.  It was such a fun and eye-opening experience for them, and they really enjoyed experiencing what making a real film is all about!  And the final product, well... it was simply AMAZING!!!!  I was so, so proud!  These kids have so much talent and potential, it is awe-inspiring.

I returned to New York, edited the film, and Mike and I returned in June to set up a special premiere for them.  I rented out a theater in Kampala, and bused the students in.  We had a real red carpet, step-and-repeat, their movie poster hanging, Rent the Runway generously donated dresses for the girls, and Mike kindly provided shirts and ties for the boys.  Members of the Ugandan press were there, as well as local filmmakers, and we invited the other teachers and those students who have families to attend.  It was such an incredible day! The students told us it was "the best day of their lives!" and that they never imagined being able to make a real movie and see themselves on the big screen.  The were glowing with pride.  Everyone in attendance was absolutely blown away by the incredible talent of these kids.  What they were able to accomplish, especially with no prior experience, is absolutely amazing.  The raw, natural talent of they possess,  and how they were able to create a very well-rounded and deeply moving story in such a short period time, is truly special.  

You can view my students' short film here: Son Rise 

And the kids... well, they completely changed!  In just one month's time, they blossomed.  The shy students that just one month before were afraid to speak in front of the class opened up, gained confidence, began to build relationships with each other and express themselves.  To witness these transformations was incredibly moving and inspiring.  They thanked Mike and I for "changing their lives" and "opening up their eyes to film".  They told us it was the best thing they've ever done, and begged us to return so that they can learn more.  Even the other children at the school who were not a part of the program would come to us and ask us to come back to teach them.   The positive changes were unbelievable, and seeing what an impact it made, Richard asked if I would like to continue the program and expand it to the rest of the school.  Well, I said YES in a heartbeat! 

This is truly the most fulfilling work I have ever done, and has been life-changing for me as well.  And so, I have decided to dedicate my life to this worthy cause, and will be returning to Uganda in January to teach full-time.  I am so, so excited to return and work with my beloved students, as well as  the rest of the brilliant children at AVRS!  There is so much untapped potential, and it is my goal to encourage, motivate, support, build their confidence and foster creativity.  They have so much to say, and deserve to have their voices heard.  Creativity is such an essential part of life, and these children deserve an opportunity to have such a program.
Now, the reason I am raising funds, is because I will be volunteering my time.  This is not a paid position, and at this point, I have already spent my life savings starting the program (from travel expenses, buying camera and sound equipment, books, dvds, pens/paper, renting out the theater, posters, etc.) and I am completely tapped.  Unfortunately, the school does not have the funds to supply, but I will not let that to be a reason for the program not to continue.

I think if we all work together, this can happen!  I am more than ready to dedicate my life and time to these kids, but I need your support for items neccessary to continue.   Here is a list of what the funds will be used for:

-Books (on acting, monolgues, short plays, camera and directing)
- Pens/Paper supplies
- Laptops (it is my goal to bring at least a few laptops with me so the kids can learn how to type. As they will hopefully be moving onto college, these skills are neccessary.  I will also teach them to write scripts in proper computer format and also film editing)
-Final Draft/ Adobe Premiere Software (programs for screenwriting and film editing)
- Stage Lighting (At the school is an stage area which we will use for class. There is currently no lighting)
- Digital Cameras (For the students to play with and learn shot composition, camera angles etc.)
- Film Equipment (I have one, but for the 200 kids at the school at least one additional DSLR will be required, including lenses, tripod, sound equipment, slate, etc. so we can continue to create films and give them real on-set experience with real equipment.)
- DVDS (as many of the students have only seen films I have showed them, an essential part of the course will be watching films and having group discussion about theme, story, characters, arcs, shots, etc.)

I know this is lengthy, but wanted to share with you the full story.  I came up with this idea hoping to have a positive impact and change these amazing kids lives for the better, and in the end, they have had a truly profound impact on mine.  I never thought this journey would take me to where it is going, to moving to Uganda, but I honestly love these kids with all of my heart, and feel it is my purpose to teach them, be their support system, help guide them, build their confidence and prepare them for the future. 
Any donation, no matter how small, will be a tremendous help and immensely appreciated!!! Thank you SO MUCH in advance for your support!!!!!!! 

(While we were away, they continued to meet as a class and worked on a new script.  Look at what they wrote - how cute!?)

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Update 1
Posted by Jennifer Azano
6 months ago
Thanks so much to everyone who has donated so far!

Here is a very special moment from the film premiere I set up for my students. Please consider donating to help keep this special program going!

Little Isaac & Job speak at the premiere
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$3,602 of $15k goal

Raised by 46 people in 7 months
Created September 11, 2016
Jennifer Azano  
Michelle Tolpa
10 days ago
William Weber
10 days ago
Madison Lee
11 days ago
Taryn Leo
12 days ago

Sending you much love, energy, faith, strength, good vibes and support ❤

1 month ago
Ashley (Hultgren) Dennis
1 month ago
Liz (Wysocki) DiDomenico
1 month ago
John Carey
1 month ago
Melissa Clark
1 month ago
Michelle Tolpa
2 months ago
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