"The hardest part about this experience is knowing that we have to let the children go back to environments and challenges that might very well overwhelm them."
Composer/conductor Diane Louie, 43, of Los Angeles, CA, created the Founders Academy, a program that works specifically with adolescent children of recovering addicts.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Diane: I started Founders Academy, a program that works with teenaged children of recovering addicts. Founders Academy also provides educational opportunities for adults who want to work with our constituency. With our community of friends and neighbors, we pursue avenues toward self-sufficiency and good citizenship.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Diane: Founders Academy is located in South Central Los Angeles.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Diane: Founders Academy serves the teenaged children of families affected by substance abuse. Our motto is "Education...my entitlement, my obligation". We provide concentrated, structured and informed educational opportunities for the children and their families. We identify the needs and resources of the child, help him/her form a plan for the future and a way to fulfill that plan. We support teenagers who are dealing with a family member's addiction and mothers who are working on their recovery. Through fun and innovative means, we help people learn real ways they can be self-sufficient and truly empowered.
What inspired you to get involved?
Diane: I learned that children of addicts, especially the older children, face a unique set of challenges before and after a mother's attempts at recovery. I also learned that a mother's recovery, while it does not mean the end to her problems, presents a chance to start life again.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Diane: I started a program that taught recovering addicts to read. We started a monthly magazine that featured the writings of mothers working on their recovery, and the staff -- often recovering addicts themselves -- who worked with them. I got to know the mothers and their families and decided to concentrate my efforts on their teenaged children.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Diane: The best thing about this experience is working with our young people to find their talents and dreams, and helping them to develop so their survival ways and means, so necessary even now, do not derail them. Everyone wants a chance to be successful at something. Helping young people to find that "thing" is an enjoyable education for me too.
What is/was the hardest part?
Diane: The hardest part about this experience is knowing that we have to let the children go back to environments and challenges that might very well overwhelm them. Adult recovering addicts are told that they must remove themselves from people, places and things that might drag them down again. Children do not have the power to meet this mandate for themselves.
What was the biggest surprise?
Diane: The biggest surprise is the scope of the needs of adults who work with this constituency.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Diane: Everyone wants a chance to be successful at something. Workers want to know that they are effective. Donors want to know that their gifts are meaningful. Children want to know that there is a plan for them and their parents want to be equipped to help them. I have learned that reassuring all the characters in this play is very important.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Diane: Do it. Do it now. Do it to the extent you are able. Do it smart. No gift of time, treasury or talent is insignificant.
© Foundation Center
All Rights Reserved.