Up With PeopleBy Mallorie Ann Ingram

You might have seen them perform at past Super Bowl events or even during the Olympics years ago. Maybe you’ve attended a show and seen them live. This year, the popular cast of Up With People arrived in Brevard County and once again, has filled the air with an upbeat message guaranteed to make quite an impact within the community. This family-friendly entertainment has been known for sending a positive message and influence throughout service projects, not to mention touching various lives, especially when it comes to some of our own Space Coast residents.

There’s no doubt, various young people will begin signing up for their own experience to join Up With People after seeing the cast perform at Eau Gallie High School last month. In fact, Brevard’s very own Monica Shah did just that. All it took was watching the performance 20 years ago in Vero Beach; she was hooked and said she just had to do this.

“The program had the message of using music to bring world peace,” Shah says. “No matter where we’re from, we can work together to make the world a better place.”

Shah traveled to nine different countries and over 80 cities while staying with different host families along the way. Not only is the show designed to raise proceeds for the beneficiary, in this year’s case, the Children’s Hunger Project, but also to use music as a universal language to talk about global issues, women’s rights, racism and the like.

“Sometimes people think you need money to make a difference, but we all have a little bit of time,” Shah says. Between living with different people from different backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles, it’s amazing what can
be learned. 

“Music touches people more than just preaching to them,” Shah says. “It’s definitely the best experience you just can’t learn in a classroom.” 

Meet Monica Shah

“My passion to give my time to children with special needs and give back to the community stemmed from this program. I went to this show in 1998 not knowing what Up With People was at all and immediately fell in love with the show full of color, music, high energy and positivity. I interviewed right after the show and was blessed to be selected to travel. I told my parents I wanted to travel with the program and their response was ‘you need to go to college, get a job and get married.’ Fortunately they discussed my desire with some friends and realized this would be an experience of a lifetime. I am forever grateful my parents let me pursue my desire to travel with the group. Thanks to Up With People, I have a broader understanding of many other cultures and now have friends in 23 other countries.  I developed personally and learned how to communicate with people even when we spoke different languages.”

“After traveling in Up With People, I attended Georgia Tech for four years and stayed in Atlanta for 16 years, eventually falling into my family’s footsteps with the gas station and convenience store industry.  I wanted to give back to the community that made my family successful. My first way of giving back was to bring the group to Brevard. I am so glad they got into some of the public schools this time and is getting in even more local nonprofits to spread their service. It’s also great that we are getting local community members and employees of some of the sponsors out volunteering with the cast during their one week
in Brevard.”

Meet Like van der Berg | Promotional Representative

“My name is Lieke van den Berg and I am 25 years old, from Noordwijk, the Netherlands. I studied cultural anthropology and development sociology with a masters in global economy and culture and documentary film making. I got involved with Up With People almost two years ago, when they went to the Netherlands, and I hosted Lucia from Mexico and Kara from Colorado for a week. The reason I decided to join is because I believe that if we bring people together and start conversations to help us understand each other, we can bridge cultural differences, appreciate each other, and create peace. Last semester, I visited Zionsville, Indiana; Mexico City; and Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, to organize the visit of the group. I very much enjoy the work as it takes me all over the world and allows me to meet all different people, building friendships for life.”

Part of Lieke’s role is to help find host families for cast members, coordinate the logistics involved with the program, and get the program out in the open before their week of service. 

“Even though we are all from different countries, we can all stand up on stage and share the same message,” Lieke says. “So, if we can do it, it shows that others can do it too.” 

Lieke also says it’s important to highlight the projects coming to Brevard because it’s crucial for them to be ongoing where people continue serving within the community, even after the cast is gone. 

Meet Kelli Rountree | Promotional Representative

“My name is Kelli Rountree and I am 23 years old from Tucson, Arizona. My whole life growing up I heard about Up With People from my cousin, Walter Belcher. He traveled with Up With People and is now working for the organization. During my last semester of college, he convinced me that the program would be a perfect opportunity for me to travel the world, meet new people and help make the world a better place. I graduated from Northern Arizona University with my bachelor’s degree in strategic communication with a minor in ethnic studies. After college, I joined Up With People and traveled with the group for six months doing community service, making life-long connections and performing for millions. I met so many wonderful people and stayed with host families that I am still in contact with.them.”

“After my time with Up With People was over, I decided that I wanted to continue helping others and travel the world,” Rountree says. “Now I am working as a part of the advance team for the group setting up Brevard county for the next cast to arrive.” 

Here’s a look at some of our local organizations and groups that Up With People worked with during their community service week.

Keep Brevard Beautiful (Beach clean-up) 

Tropical Elementary (Crafting world flags)

Eau Gallie High School (Take a Stand and Civil Discourse workshops)

Brevard Rescue Mission (Cleaning and helping out where needed)

Crosswinds (Canvas painting)

Hunger Project (Food packaging)

The Scott Center for Autism 

Space Coast Early Intervention (Weed pulling)

Chamber of Commerce (Painting)

Inspired Living Palm Bay (Trivia songs and games with dementia patients)

Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy