I would not be here without my CASA volunteer’s help

Apr 04 2013

By Suamhirs Rivera, Originally written for and published on the National CASA blog

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. But I was born in Honduras, and no one was there to prevent what I endured at the hands of my father.

He was a doctor with a good job. He also was often drunk and abusive. By the time I was 9, he had left 57 scars on my body. He came home drunk one night and began beating my mother. I jumped in to defend her, and he attacked me too.

After that he was gone. But as the oldest in the family, I had to work. By age 16, I had come to America to support my family. I went to live with my godmother, but she began selling me to whoever paid the most. It would be six months until the police rescued me.

I went into foster care at 16 and was promised that my life would be better in every way. But it wasn’t. In two years, I lived in 17 different foster and group homes. And I was put on more than a dozen medications because they were afraid I would abuse other children. Everything became just another trauma.

Finally I met someone who would show me the America I wanted to see: my CASA volunteer, Marcos. He introduced me to a world that was full of joy, free of pain, free of failure. He refined my English and helped me with my education. He also helped me get my green card before I turned 18, so I wouldn’t be deported. Marcos wasn’t just a mentor — he reformed my life and turned it around 180 degrees.

Unfortunately, funding is being cut for programs like CASA. I know that I would not be here today without CASA’s help. I work full time, and I’m a part-time student at UC San Diego, with a double major in political science and international studies.

I also teach people how to talk with abused kids in foster care. People need to understand childhood trauma so they can avoid stigmatizing, discriminating against and labeling abused kids. And maybe these kids will learn — like I did — that human beings have the ability to stand up, clean themselves off and become productive members of society. All we need is people who care, who understand and who can help.

People like CASA volunteers and donors. People like you.

Please help CASA for Children reach every child who needs one. Learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer.

Learn more about helping raise awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month and becoming a CASA volunteer in Austin.