Volunteer Stories: Stacey and Lisa
Thank you to CASA because in early in 2005, I began a deep search for meaning in my life. I contemplated long and hard about what would bring more aliveness and depth in my heart. Ultimately, I realized that an altruistic contribution to my community was what I needed to give. I thought about volunteering with senior citizens who often times are forgotten about yet they have much love and wisdom to give. Seniors have much pain and joy to share after a long life lived.;
But again, CASA found me! These miracle children are at the beginning of their journeys. I realized more specifically that my purpose during that time was to work closely with abused and neglected children held captive by the court systems. I have compassion and understanding on the deepest level of the arduous journey our children travel once in the system. It can be a capricious and nebulous path. What a tragedy. My goal as a CASA volunteer is to give what I missed as a child but later found. What I found, was unconditional love, guidance, self knowledge & the tools to retain a peaceful state of mind.
I spent the first five years of my life in the foster care system. I am thankful that I inherently possessed the strength to survive the turmoil. I have a very young son and I am thankful that he has a deep connection with both me and his father. For all of the CASA cases I gladly worked, each child taught me many precepts. The two main precepts are love and the gratifying duty of service.
Thank you CASA!
It was a warm, bright September afternoon and armed with directions, I headed off to meet my new CASA youth. I was excited and a little nervous. Though I had lived in Oakland for many years, I had never been in the neighborhood I found myself in that day. As I approached the house, two young men passed me and one of them said something complimentary to me; I smiled and headed for the group home door.
There, I was met by two group home staff members and my CASA supervisor. We all settled into a small but clean and comfortable living room and began talking about the young man who would soon become a very important person in my life. He had been in the group home for several years and was well thought of by my most everyone in his life. He was, however, within two years of his emancipation and had a long way to go before he earned enough credits to graduate high school. This is not an unusual situation for many foster youth. Due to several school changes, a lack of parental oversight, a general disinterest in the rigors of school or perhaps an incomplete understanding of the value and importance of education, many foster youth fall measurably behind in school and find graduation an out-of-reach quest. This—school and graduation—became a major focus for me and my foster youth. I met his teachers, talked to him incessantly about attendance at school, pushed him, nagged him and generally tried to remove the barriers to graduation.
But in the three years we have been together, our relationship has become so much more. We have truly shared our lives with each other. We are friends—good friends. He is a trustworthy, kind, good-natured and increasingly responsible. He works full time, shares an apartment with a roommate where he pays rent and is beginning to save money for the future.
Over the years, we have laughed, argued and eaten together more times than I can count. We’ve irritated and delighted each other, sometimes within minutes. I hope I’ve helped him with some of the difficulties one faces in reaching adulthood. I think I’ve helped him in reaching some of his goals. I try to be an available, sensitive listener when he chooses to discuss his concerns. But I know that my relationship with him has changed me and who I am in the world.
By the way, the young man I didn’t know who passed me on the street three years ago and paid me a compliment, turned out to be my CASA youth.
Read Tara’s story here.