For Su-Su Sawyer, volunteerism has always been a fact of life and source of enrichment.
Su-Su grew up in a small town in Oklahoma where her community was a constant source of support, and neighbors always helped one another. That experience left her with the indelible lesson that giving back to others around you is simply what you do.
Su-Su first came to CASA as an advocate, and since her first case has gone on to serve as a peer coordinator and with the Life Long Links program.
“Each of the three cases I have worked on were very different,” she said. “One was a success story, one was not, and the last has been deeply complicated. I’ve taken different lessons from each, but one constant has been an appreciation for how important the role of a CASA is in such a large and complicated system.”
Channeling her passion for being the voice of objectivity and holding the needs of the children as the number one priority, Su-Su has transferred the skills set to advocating for fellow volunteers.
“I really enjoy working hard to put the advocates in the best situation possible for their cases. I always tell volunteers that even if they can’t relate to every story, coming alongside kids and their parents through hardship builds empathy, and empathy is the key to success in this role. It’s not all beautiful, but the work we do at CASA is beautiful in and of itself.”
Su-Su brings that empathy to the Lifelong Links program, where she does research on foster children’s situations and conducts interviews with their family members and other people in their lives to set up a network of support beyond the child’s time in the system.
“Lifelong Links has been a hugely rewarding experience for me. I’ve always had a knack for being direct with people and getting to the heart of a situation, and putting those abilities to work for creating a healthier environment for kids in the system to transfer into adult life has been a pleasure.”
While Su-Su may not have gone through the foster system herself, she has overcome medical circumstances that have left her in debilitating pain at times. Rather than viewing this experience as an impediment to her life, Su-Su sees this struggle as an essential part of her life story and a source of learning.
“Everyone has hard in their life. My philosophy has always been that you need to help people through their hard, but not necessarily over it. The hard is what makes each person’s story so impactful, and I don’t think we should ever forget about those things.”
Without dedicated volunteers like Su-Su, we would not be able to make such a profound impact on the lives of youth afflicted by abuse and neglect. Thank you, Su-Su!