Back to Volunteering 101

Oct 11 2012

By Sonia Kotecha

We often hear the expression ‘preaching to the choir’ when we are trying to inspire or influence someone to believe in something that they already may agree with. Well, a teacher once told me that the choir needs practice from time to time. It is in this spirit that I made the conscious choice after many years working at CASA of Travis County to re-experience “CASA 101: Introducing the CASA Volunteer Role.” I joined a dozen new enthusiastic volunteers as they embarked on their first training session to become a trained advocate for a child who has been abused or neglected.  

Having worked at CASA of Travis County for over six years it’s often easy to take for granted what it might feel like for our new volunteers as they begin their journey as advocates for children. Sitting in CASA 101 yesterday took me back to my earlier days at CASA as an employee learning how to navigate the system, decoding new acronyms and understanding the different roles people play on a case. Here I am in a class of volunteers who are not being paid to be there yet are so willing and eager to take on this awesome responsibility of being a court appointed special advocate. I was inspired by watching these selfless volunteers ask questions and bring up concerns and by their fearless determination to fill out their training planners so they can complete the nine other required training sessions as soon as possible!

Our newest group of volunteers ranged from recent college graduates exploring a career in Social Work to a retired probation officer, a high tech consultant, and a stay-at-home mom.   One trainee wished she had a CASA volunteer when she was a child, while another heard a news story about the great number of children that need someone to speak up for them. A few volunteers had previous experience working as an attorney or a child welfare worker, while others were eager to learn more about the system and how they can apply their unique set of skills and knowledge to be an effective advocate for a child who needs one.

So even though I’ve spent years learning about the role of a CASA volunteer, it didn’t hurt to go all the way back to 101 to deepen my appreciation for our 550 plus CASA volunteers. I am newly inspired by their relentless commitment and dedication to voluntarily undergo 33 hours of intense training, so that a child has an adult to speak up for them.