By Steven Olender
April is National Volunteer Month and is dedicated to honoring volunteers in our communities as well as encouraging volunteerism.
We can’t possibly appreciate volunteers enough. Our volunteers selflessly give their time and seemingly endless compassion to help give children a better life. Being a CASA volunteer is a difficult job and sometimes it is a thankless one. It’s an important job, though, and volunteers change the lives of children every single day.
Sometimes it’s not easy to see that. When we think of changing lives, we often think of grand, cinematic moments, of volunteers rushing in to save the day. The real experience of making an impact on a child’s life is rarely grand or cinematic, though, and the work consists of countless small moments and individual actions that add up to something great.
As part of National Volunteer Month, we asked CASA supervisors “What are some of the small things volunteers do for kids that make a world of difference?” Here are just a few of their answers.
“Taking kids to eat. It’s seems really trivial and silly, but if a kid really loves Sonic and there is no one in their life who will go out of their way to take them to get Sonic, that makes a huge difference, especially when things are tough. It makes them feel like people are paying attention.”
“Celebrating birthdays. Sometimes we are the only ones who celebrate, but even if the placement is celebrating, birthdays mean so much for kids and having your volunteer celebrate it shows that you are special to them.”
“Getting to know their personalities. Being able to tap into their likes and dislikes and bring those things up, knowing what is important for them, is vital. Really knowing them means you can better speak to their needs, but, also, children just simply need to feel known.”
“I think one of the biggest things is just being there and explaining things to kids. Even if we don’t have an answer for them, just explaining to them that even though things are confusing, we are working hard on resolving the situation. Often decisions are made and kids can feel like they are an afterthought, but letting them know what is going on and how it will affect them helps them feel there’s someone who cares what happens to them.”
“Just being there. Our volunteers are usually the most consistent people in kids’ lives. That consistency and bond that forms, where, no matter how many changes there are, they know you are there for them. It makes them feel good, not only with themselves but that in their situation, they’ll be okay.”
“Having little rituals with the kids. I have a volunteer that brings the same milkshake to a kid every time because she knows she can’t take her off campus. Knowing that someone has taken the time to remember your preferences is huge.”
“Getting to know their parents. Whatever the outcome of the case is, having a relationship with bio-parents makes a big difference. It shows that you value where they came from and building that bond means you can work amicably with parents to make things better for kids.”
“Visiting kids who move around a lot. Especially when kids are moved farther away, getting out to see them as soon as possible makes sure that kids know they are not forgotten. It helps them feel a sense of safety.”
“Always being in their corner. Having an unconditional positive regard for the child. When everyone else might focus on their behavior issues, our volunteers see the whole child. It makes kids feel that someone cares for them regardless of their behavior.”
“Get on a kid’s level. A volunteer who will play basketball or make believe with kids, or who has Disney princess tea parties with them makes them feel appreciated and loved and secure. TBRI would teach you that a child has basic needs like food and shelter and structure, but they also need playful interaction. It’s essential to a healthy, growing child’s. When a CASA does, it is a huge deal.”
“The things that go unseen by kids. The small advocacies in school, or that they do with placements to make things more stable. Meetings and back and forth emails. They see the cracks in the case and fill it. Kids don’t even know that there is something they should appreciate but their lives are better for it.”
For all the large and small things you do to make children’s lives better, thank you. We appreciate you more than you could ever know.
Advocacy April 2017