Katy Perry and Sister Angela’s Tough Childhood Inspired Them to Help Kids Find ‘Hope’ in the Arts (Exclusive)

The singer and her sister — who faced financial struggles growing up — co-founded the Firework Foundation together to help kids in underserved communities

<p>Rony Alwin</p> Katy Perry and Angela Lerche in 2022.

Rony Alwin

Katy Perry and Angela Lerche in 2022.

Katy Perry is one of the bestselling musicians of all time, but the superstar has always dreamed of leaving a legacy beyond her No. 1 hits.

Growing up, the singer — who was raised by strict Pentecostal parents — struggled financially, and her family often relied on food stamps and food banks for their next meal.

"You want to talk about food stamps? I can talk about food stamps. You want to talk about food banks? I can talk about food banks. You want to talk about busking in the street as a teenager, hoping to make $20 to cover yourself, I can talk about that too," Perry, 39, who launched the Firework Foundation in 2018 with her older sister Angela Lerche to help kids in underserved communities get access to the arts, tells PEOPLE in its latest issue.

Adds Lerche, who serves as president of the foundation, of helping the kids feel less alone: "A lot of times it's reminding them that we didn't come from anything either. [Katy] wasn't born into some musical family that had all this access. She worked so hard for so many years to get to be where she is."

<p>Rony Alwin</p> Katy Perry and Angela Lerche in 2022 at Camp Firework.

Rony Alwin

Katy Perry and Angela Lerche in 2022 at Camp Firework.

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Over the last few years the Firework Foundation has hosted more than 400 middle schoolers to Camp Firework, where kids from underserved areas surrounding Los Angeles participate in songwriting sessions, shoe design workshops and choreography classes.

Both Perry and Lerche are hands on during the camp, and "I'm up with them in the morning, and they're throwing whipped cream on me in the evening," says Perry. "The kids know me as the girl that sang 'Roar' or 'Dark Horse,' but I hope [by the end] they [think], 'I too can live out my dreams like Katy Perry. She's just like me, in a lot of goofy ways.'"

Campers are also encouraged to take what they've learned — including mental health tools like Transcendental Meditation — back into the real world.

"We [want to] support these young people throughout their whole education journey," Perry says of the kids, some of whom have gone on to participate in the foundation's Leaders in Training program, which partners with schools like FIDM for design workshops and LAAMP for week-long music programs.

Related: Katy Perry Says the First Weeks of Motherhood Were the 'Biggest Life Change Ever' but 'It's the Best'

Seeing tangible growth in the campers has been an emotional experience for Lerche, who calls working with her sister on the foundation a "dream."

"I'm just so grateful. It's so overwhelming because you hear so many stories from these kids, and what it's like back home and what they're dealing with," says Lerche. "They give so much to us, and I'm just grateful that we're able to show them that there is something better out there."

Adds Perry: "If in a hundred years nobody knows Katy Perry or the song 'Firework,' but they know what the Firework Foundation is, then I'll have fulfilled my purpose."

For all the details and interviews with PEOPLE's Women Changing the World, pick up the latest issue, on newsstands Friday.

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Read the original article on People.