Marius de Waal

Meet Marius.

In 2012, Marius de Waal first made the life-changing decision to follow a girl from his home in South Africa to Northwest Arkansas.

Later that year, Marius once again followed that same girl, Elise, on the path to becoming a CASA volunteer.

It’s a decision that has allowed Marius to help children in the area for over a decade as well as provide insight into the socio-economic makeup of his new home.

“CASA training is a bit intimidating and overwhelming at first because your eyes are opened to things that you are not really aware of,” he said. “Especially in Northwest Arkansas, it’s so easy to turn a blind eye to suffering. I grew up in a country where you can’t miss it.”

Marius’ path to CASA advocacy only began because of the initial interest of Elise, who had seen a bumper sticker while driving that read, “I help neglected children in my spare time. What do you do?” Even after beginning his training, Marius admitted to uncertainty about whether to continue – largely because he was often the only male in rooms where he felt intimidated by the amount of negative talk about fathers.

“That’s the whole point, right,” Elise said to her now husband, who is currently one of 59 male advocates with CASA of Northwest Arkansas. “There are no men in this field, and that’s the problem. It’s great that women volunteer, but there are no men here.” Despite his initial apprehension, the need for male advocates helped Marius continue through training with the support of Elise. Together, they joined the nearly 400 other volunteers with CASA of NWA.

Marius and Elise didn’t have children when they first became volunteers, but in 2020 they had their first child and today have three beautiful daughters. Parenthood has provided a changed perspective on how to best approach cases for Marius, who continued as a volunteer even after Elise left her advocate position in 2022 to become a board member with CASA of NWA.

“Being a CASA, you have a chance to just speak a little bit into that kid’s life,” Marius says. “And maybe, just maybe, change the trajectory of their life.… It’s just trying to be a little bit of hope in a very hopeless world.”

During his ten years of service, Marius has spoken into the lives of 12 children in Northwest Arkansas. Marius’ advocacy journey began with new love in South Africa and that brought him to CASA of NWA. His dedication to this work reminds us that advocacy matters, that advocacy changes lives, and that whether it’s one child or 12 children, if they have a different life because of our advocacy efforts, then it’s worth it.