Having been on the founding board of Free Arts for Abused Children, FAAC, in 1977, and currently President Emeritus, I am in a unique position to proudly comment on the enormous success we have experienced and continue to experience for 34 years.
The number of children we have reached with our programs during these 34 years and the hundreds of volunteers we have trained and placed in residential care facilities are amazing and heartwarming and successful beyond our dreams.
Our executive director and dedicated staff are superb. As a registered Art Therapist, I have participated in training our volunteers and establishing FAAC affiliates nationally in Phoenix, New York, and Minneapolis who follow our programs but have their own 501(c)(3).
I became a Board member of Free Arts for Abused Children in 2004 and moved up to President in 2006. In the 7 years I have been involved, I have seen this organization grow both in terms of financial health and program expansion. This organization moves me so much because we provide children with the opportunity to express themselves without having to "talk". These kids have to talk to therapists, judges, counselors, lawyers, social workers. Providing art gives them a safe place to be themselves, express their feelings, and dream.
Most of these children truly have no advocates because their parents cannot or are not able to provide a safe environment for them. Being a mother myself, it saddens me on a deep level to think that these children cannot depend on their parents. So I believe that Free Arts can provide comfort and hope to their lives.
Lastly, I love the volunteer aspect of this organization. With over 550 screened and trained volunteers each year, we service more than just the abused children -- we provide a community service for better understanding in our society.
I have only been a board member for a year, but in that time, Free Arts has touched my life greatly. I had been looking for a place to serve in the community for a while, but never quite found the right fit. This is it! I am an artist myself, who came from a very dysfunctional family. Growing up, art was my solace. It gave me a place to escape the pain and express the feelings that were raging inside me. The at-risk and abused children we serve don't have access to the art materials that most kids take for granted. This is where Free Arts comes in. We provide the missing link - the materials and the tools to help them express all that is going on. The healing process even for a brief few hours begins. These hours build on themselves and at the end of a volunteer program, you have a group of children who start to feel better about themselves. Their self-esteem increases and consequently their presence in the community becomes less threatening to those around them. I was privileged to attend a Free Arts day at a girls’ home in Hollywood. The girls entered the room with an attitude of why do I have to be here. They were angry, shut down and very defensive. We handed out canvases and paint, magazines and found objects. They could paint anything that came to mind or use the materials for reference. It was a profound experience to watch these girls slowly lower their wall of defense. The one young girl I was working with treated her painting with such care that it became a meditative exercise. After awhile she softened her demeanor, made eye contact and even laughed. On a soul level there was healing taking place. By giving these kids a chance to express their feelings, we had made, even for a brief few hours, a difference in their lives. They were treated with respect and dignity, given a chance to be themselves in a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment. I left with a great sense of joy that I had made a difference in a young persons life. With your support we can reach even more of these children, giving them a chance to move beyond the limiting perimeters that currently define their lives.
Free Arts for Abused Children is a great organization for not only the deep, positive impact it makes on thousands of children a year but by bringing together hundreds of volunteers so that they can gain a better understanding of their society/culture/city. Free Arts reaches over 25,000 children a year. They bring art into their lives - art can be a tool to express oneself or build self-esteem or bring pleasure or create bonds with others. It's so far-reaching in ways that are intangible. But based on the stories that we hear from our participants, bringing art to children in-need is crucial.