By Emily Witt
For Kimberlyn Barton, a Houston, TX native whose energy for our work radiates through the screen during our Zoom call, being a CASA volunteer “just feels natural, like breathing.”
"Being a CASA volunteer just feels natural, like breathing.”
It’s clear just five minutes into talking with Kimberlyn that volunteerism is a vital piece of her life.
Kimberlyn has been a CASA volunteer for one year and is currently still working her first case, but her desire to change our community for the better has been building for a long time on a more personal level.
“My brother is a foster parent. I can’t have children of my own, but I want to adopt one day. I wanted to learn more about the foster/adoption process, and a friend told me to look into CASA first,” Kimberlyn tells us.
Aside from dedicating her time to CASA, Kimberlyn also volunteers with Dell Children’s Hospital, Orange Santa, and Ronald McDonald House. And this same generosity overflows into her career.
Currently, Kimberlyn works with the Austin Housing Authority, where she helps bridge the often vast gap between technology and underserved communities—an ever-present issue during COVID-19.
“Especially in a pandemic, they’re not educated on how to go online, they don’t have the technology. So, what do we do? We’re supposed to keep a distance, but how can we still help?” she asks.
Kimberlyn has even dedicated her education to the same mission, as she works towards her Health and Society degree at the University of Texas. She’s currently in her senior year; however, it was not an easy journey to get here.
“I did a medical withdrawal because of a stroke and then re-enrolled two years ago,” says Kimberlyn. “I’m studying Health and Society after I had to switch from my original major in Biomedical Engineering. I’m also considering minoring in Social Work.”
And, of course, she’s got big plans for how she intends to give back with her education.
“I want to work with non-profit organizations that help lower-income communities who are lost in the system. My goal is to help bridge the gap between technology, the health field, and education. I want doctors to understand the community that they’re serving. They prescribe a certain medication to someone, but the patient isn’t always able to access it or afford it. It’s all about giving [our communities] that knowledge because no one is giving them that information.”
“I want to work with non-profit organizations that help lower-income communities who are lost in the system. My goal is to help bridge the gap between technology, the health field, and education."
“I’ve also been teaching those communities, for instance, how to write their checks. There’s a huge population that doesn’t know how to write checks. When I’m doing that, I also show them how to get debit cards,” she adds.
Even though being a CASA volunteer felt like a natural step for Kimberlyn, that doesn’t mean the new role didn’t offer some challenges at first.
She was nervous for the first time she’d meet the child on her case and worried about having the right impact on the lives of the children she’d serve while volunteering for CASA.
“I don’t want to traumatize them further—I didn’t want to be another person to come into their lives and tell them what they can’t do, what they have to do, and what I’m gonna do. Instead, I introduced myself as a resource, I said ‘I’m here if you want to use me, and I’m not going away. I’m still going to come whether you want me to or not. I’m still going to call you every week.’ It’s not about me, it’s about them.”
This kind of consistency can be life-changing for a child who might’ve had only a few dependable relationships with adults before CASA. In fact, the chance to offer a child this stability is one of Kimberlyn’s favorite parts of volunteering with CASA.
I know that my kiddo calls me if they need something. CASA is that person who routinely sees them and the person that they can always count on.”
"You know that saying, paying it forward? That's what it feels like: like I'm paying it forward."
Kimberlyn also recognizes that at CASA, when you do something for a child, you do something for yourself. “I think it makes me a better person. It makes me feel more at ease and like I’ve done something better in the world. You know that saying, paying it forward?” she asks.
"That's what it feels like: like I'm paying it forward."
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May 2020 Featured Volunteer Story Volunteer Profiles