This week I had the opportunity to “speak” to an unsung hero from a wonderful organization – Voz de Ninos – via e-mail. “Voz de Niños advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the court system through the training and support of community volunteers.” Instead of me saying any more, here is what Stephanie said:
How did you find out about Voz de Ninos?
I was assigned to do an article on Voz de Ninos in early 2012 as part of my then-job as a reporter for the local newspaper.
What convinced you to choose this organization to dedicate your time to?
I had been looking for an organization to volunteer with for some time since moving back to Laredo in 2011. The interviews with volunteers for the article really opened my eyes to Voz de Nino’s cause and need for volunteers to represent (and help) these children. The number of children needing CASAs and the number of available CASAs is ridiculously disproportionate.
What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer job?
The children are hands down the most rewarding aspect of volunteering with Voz. It can be easy to get discouraged by all the legal nuances. But at the end of the day, seeing their faces, hearing them gush about their days (or problems), makes it feel worth all the effort. One child told me I’m the only person in her life she feels she can “trust.” When you think about all the people we’re blessed to be able to turn to as adults and remember what it was like being a child, you realize just how much of a difference you can make as one person to one child.
Can you share a story about a child that you know was impacted by a VDN volunteer?
A foster child of mine was placed in an emergency youth shelter during the holidays. I went to go visit her on Christmas day (in between my own family commitments). She had only known me for two weeks at the time, and her eyes just lit up. It really cemented our relationship, I think. From that point on, she’s been nothing but phenomenal with me. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she had received Christmas presents, and proceeded to open up just how difficult her upbringing had been – including how few people had been there for her when she needed it. And, here I was, a complete stranger, being there for her. It was also the first time she hugged me. Fast forward about five months later, her plans for makeup and hair had fallen through about two hours before prom, and I was the first person she called. I came over to her foster home with about two bags filled with every beauty product I owned. Her six foster sisters and I made it work. There were tears – but ones of gratitude and excitement.
What would you say with someone considering volunteering for Voz de Ninos?
If you’re considering it, take this as a sign to do it. Just do it! Chances are you do have the time. We have so many wonderful volunteers: from single parents to full-time workers with major family commitments. I’m single with no children, and I’m in my mid-twenties. For me, volunteering has cut into time I would otherwise be using to watch television, be at the gym, or be on Facebook – so it’s well worth it. I wish there were more young people volunteering with Voz! Most of us have no excuse not to. Excluding court hearings (which occur once every few months), everything you do is done around your existing commitments.
Anything else you would like to add?
More often than not, these children in foster care come from such sad circumstances. They’re dealing with issues adults would struggle with. It’s not just about representing their needs in court in front of a judge; it’s about being there for these children, and being apart of some kind of normalcy for them – whether they’re 5 years old or 15 years old. Also, Voz de Ninos is great about matching cases to the volunteers – both in terms of compatibility and comfort. These children need adult role-models, and many of them haven’t had the best adult figures. Joining Voz de Nino’s is an opportunity to become that role-model for a child in our community.
Stephanie is 24-year-old Laredo native. Sadly, (after one year with Voz) she’ll be leaving later this month to go to law school. She hopes to join the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) chapter in her new town. “One of the most difficult parts about leaving has been saying goodbye to my kids – not just the ones I’ve been assigned to but their foster “siblings” as well. While I’d like to believe I made some kind of an impact on their lives, I know they’ve most definitely made one on mine.”
Thank you, Stephanie for all that you do for our kids! If you would like more information on Voz de Ninos, go here: http://vozdeninos.org/
To support them in their upcoming fund raiser: http://vozdeninos.org/?id=13&/Pulling-for-Kids-2013-
Please take the time to look into this very worthwhile organization and pass this information on to anyone you can think of. Our kids’ futures depend on it!