Contributed by Noah Johnson, VOICES 2018 Spring Marketing Intern
Back in January of 2017, during the spring semester of my junior year at Arizona State University, I was looking for volunteer opportunities to fulfill a class related community service requirement. Coming from out-of-state (Minnesota), I was less familiar with local organizations to volunteer with, so I started out on volunteermatch.org—a trusted online source for aggregating multitudes of volunteer opportunities across a myriad of categories. I specifically chose to search for organizations dedicated to human rights and advocacy for children and youth, which led me to Voices for CASA Children.
Being a product of foreign adoption from South Korea, as an infant with minor unmet medical complications, I’ve always had a personal connection to anything related to foster care and child welfare. Although my circumstances were slightly different than the children who VOICES works with, specifically, I see myself as having similar, less fortunate beginnings. More importantly, now especially as I’m a week away from graduating from college, I continue to recognize and appreciate the blessings that are manifested when we make the wellbeing of our children a priority. As an abandoned baby, found at a bus station in a rural agricultural town, history would suggest that the trajectory of my life would be miles different than it is today. Thanks to the courage of my birth parents, the hard work and dedication of adoption agencies and social workers, and, most importantly, the last 21-years of love and support from my parents, Eric and Deb, I am now in a position where I can proudly start to do my part in paying their efforts forward. Not only does that mean the world to me as a form of thanks, but I feel as though it is my obligation to the next child whose bright and successful future is not always as readily accessible to them as it is to others.
In being able to work with VOICES over the last year and a half, nearly, I’ve learned so much about child welfare advocacy and just how important (and sadly often under executed) it is. VOICES has given me the opportunity to learn from some amazing mentors, namely, Christine Slomski, Karyn MacAlphin, Adrian Jameson, Robin Pearson, and others. Together, they’ve taught me skills that I will be able to take into any career path in the future, as well as multitudes of life skills, moreover—and for that, I am incredibly thankful.
Non-profit and volunteer work can be difficult at times; anyone whose experienced these can attest to the fact that the environments are often understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated. One thing I can tell you, however, is that being able to see firsthand the impact that that work can have on the life of a child is never not profoundly rewarding. Despite the hectic lives that we all live today, I challenge you to find an organization dedicated to children and find out how or where you can give just a few hours of your time on a weekly or even monthly basis towards joining that effort. I promise it will not only change your life; it will change lives for generations to come.