“I help abused and neglected children in my spare time, what do you do?” A bumper sticker with those very words made a big impression on Elise de Waal back in 2010. It was a question she carried with her for many years, across an ocean and back. When she and her then fiancé, Marius, returned to the United States from South Africa in 2012, she knew she had to answer that call for help. Lucky for us, she sold Marius on the idea as well.
When Elise and Marius began training to become CASA advocates, Marius began to wonder if he had made a mistake. He was not a “kid person”, he was intimidated by the stories he heard, and frankly, he wanted out. Elise understood as she was scared too. But, she kept asking the question, “If we don’t do it, who will?” Knowing they would be working together as partners, with the support of a CASA supervisor, relieved a lot of their fears. And, after taking their first case that involved three teenage boys, it was easy for Marius to see how important it was for these young men to have a positive, male role model in the their lives.
Nearly five years later, this power couple has worked four cases and made a real difference in the lives of 10 children. They’ve done everything from retrieve a child’s old clothes from a former foster home to fight for new treatment for an overmedicated child to reunite three brothers after months of separation.
As they work full-time (Elise, VP of Finance for Bedford Camera, and Marius, Account Executive for Team Unilever Shopper), serving as partners means they can share the burden in time commitment and court appearances. By sharing the emotional burden as well, they were surprised at how easy it was for them to serve.
Elise and Marius are willing to share their story as they realize there are people out there who might be asking themselves the same questions they did back in 2012. Could I really make a difference? Do you really need men to serve? What if I mess up? Do I have enough time?
In response, they’d simply ask you, “If you don’t do it, who will?”