ashlee-rivalto-in-london.jpgAshlee is a senior CCPA major and art minor who is interning at the Offscreen Education Programme:

The Offscreen 2008 Student expedition ended Saturday, July 19. To celebrate the achievements and outputs of the expedition, Offscreen held a celebration event Saturday night. The night was a truly unique experience. I have worked on many aspects of the expedition, and although I realized the importance of the program and the strong ideas and aims behind it – I finally saw it all come together that night. I figured out why Stephen (Offscreen founder) sleeps, eats and breathes Offscreen.

Each student gave a presentation on his or her personal Offscreen experience. These presentations were touching, informative and allowed me to see, for the first time, the true meaning of Offscreen. Changing perceptions, creating cultural bridges and mutual understandings through education and art really works.

The students involved in the expedition became new people. They learned more about the world around them, they learned how to communicate and relate with types of people they had only heard about through the television, and most importantly they were given the tools to inform others. All of these students will take what they have learned back to Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Lebanon and hopefully change the perceptions there.

But this change will not be automatic. Sometimes the change will not even be recognizable. The change that these students, Offscreen and all NGOs are working to achieve is not always immediate, and it is not easy. But when changes are made, however small or large they may be, they take us closer to a better world.

This is why NGOs continue to fight for change no matter how many battles they have won or lost – there is always something more to be done. NGOs do not stop. Their pursuit for a better world seems to be a neverending struggle. As they continue to fight they may lose funds, lose employees and lose supporters, but they will never lose faith in their cause. This constant battle for change is what makes NGOs unique.

For example, after the student expedition ended last week, I walked into the office to find it very empty and very quiet. I thought Stephen had given everyone a day off to recuperate after the 14-day nonstop work they had done during the expedition. This was not the case. Everyone was at the studio (2nd office located in East London for design team) hard at work. With little to no sleep, the Offscreen team was uploading more footage from the expedition and working on the Edge of Arabia Exhibition coming up in October, which will bring 15 Saudi contemporary artists to the UK.

ashlee2.jpgSleep? You can sleep when you are dead … now it is time to make a change. So the battle continues to educate the world and create a common link between all people, whether it is through art, the sharing of ideas, or one Middle Eastern student’s inspirational journey – that is how Offscreen fights for change. How will you?

ashlee3.jpgI would like to thank Hendrika, Allison, Katie, Kellyn and Rachael for coming to the Offscreen Celebration. Your support means a lot!