This is a new series from Bloomerang called Why I Volunteered. In each post, one volunteer will share what inspired them to volunteer their time and why they volunteered for that specific nonprofit. Our hope is that this series will provide your team with an even better understanding of what motivates people to volunteer for the causes they care about.
The Volunteer: She is a woman in her thirties who completed her local CASA’s 36-hour volunteer training program.
The Volunteer Opportunity: She trained to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
The Nonprofit: CASA | The volunteer requested that we direct people to the national organization’s website so you can learn more about their work and the multiple ways to get involved with their mission.
In general, what inspires you to volunteer your time?
I don’t always have the money to make a donation that feels meaningful to me. If I have the time, I try to do work in person because it’s so rewarding to feel like I’m part of something. I want to feel like I’m making an impact.
It also builds my trust in the organization; I love learning more so I can tell other people about it and have real anecdotes to share.
How did you learn about the nonprofit? What made you want to volunteer for them?
When I moved to a new city, I wanted to volunteer for an organization that supported women and children in crisis situations. I Googled local organizations, reviewed my options, and reached out to CASA. I wasn’t familiar with them before I landed on their website.
I’m still surprised I ended up choosing the volunteer program with the biggest time commitment to reach out to first, but I was so moved by CASA’s mission. I wanted to meet their team. And even if I couldn’t have served as a CASA, I wanted to learn more about other opportunities to support them.
What was the introduction or training process like? How did you become a CASA?
At first, I reached out through their website. They replied with a form to fill out and asked for three references who could speak to characteristics that were important in a volunteer.
The last round was a pretty intense and thorough interview where they asked questions about my life, my previous volunteer experience, my feelings on certain social and political factors affecting the justice system, and more. It was really interesting to be on the other side of that, and it gave me more insight into the work I’d be doing.
I also appreciated that they left time for my questions and answered honestly. I’ll never forget asking about what volunteers struggled with the most, and they told me it was realizing how bad the system was and how hard it was to navigate. I remember laughing and thinking that I already knew that. Guess what I struggled with the most? LOL.
In order to become a CASA, you have to complete a 30-hour education course where you meet twice per week, as well as a court observation where you’d see other CASAs at work.
Can you tell us about that experience?
I’m still amazed by what we learned (the volume) and how confident we were at the end. We asked ten questions at the beginning—ten questions we expected to have the answers to at the end of the program. We did, of course.
That first night, I realized just how important this work is and how big of an emotional commitment it is (in addition to the time commitment). I’m so glad I stayed through training, but I was really intimidated. Our trainer was fantastic. We had the same woman every week, and she made sure we had every answer to every question we could think of in addition to building our confidence.
My favorite part of the program was meeting the other people applying to be CASAs. I consider this experience one of the most meaningful of my life, and it was because of the time I spent with those women and what they taught me about the issues we covered. We watched, read, and listened to material that was objectively hard to take in. It also often touched on a personal experience one of us had. Navigating that while also applying those lessons to the work we’d be doing was a profound experience.
We completed the 6-hour court observation at the end of the program. Again, I was shocked by how confident I felt that I could be an advocate for a child in need. I was really glad we saw them in action before we got sworn in.
We also were each assigned a current CASA volunteer who we could talk to. I went on a home visit with my mentor, and it was an invaluable experience that complemented the information we learned during those 30 hours.
How did the nonprofit team members communicate with you and other volunteers?
We communicated over email. They sent regular emails to all CASAs and separate ones to our group.
Is there anything that would have made your experience as a volunteer better?
I really don’t think there was. We were all sad when the classroom portion of the program ended because we wouldn’t see each other each week or learn more in that setting.
Will you volunteer with a local CASA again?
Yes, I’d love to do so in the future. I wasn’t able to work as one in my county because I unexpectedly had to move, but I’m excited to go through the training again one day and do that work.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
One thing I was really impressed with was how CASA supported the requirement to achieve continuing education hours (a certain number per year that you managed at your convenience). We had a lot of freedom. The coolest thing to me was that they had a page on their website with tons of resources we could explore and count toward those hours with descriptions and links. They made it as easy as possible for us, and it was more proof how much they cared about making sure we would be informed advocates.
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