For many of us, Valentine’s Day is our chance to show our affection for the important people in our lives through cards, flowers, and other gifts. It’s a month to really show your special someone that you care and love them. For one special couple their demonstration of love and commitment extended further than they ever imagined. Meet Olivia Hernandez and Victor Garza, one of the many exceptional couples that advocate together as CASA Volunteers.
Most couples try and join a class together, or keep up with regular dates, but for Olivia and Victor advocating for the children in our community continues to strengthen their bond. They have seen the alarming rate of growth in confirmed cases of abuse and neglect in Bexar County, and how CASA strives to provide Advocates to the children who need it the most. CASA became a desire for them after seeing news coverage of new Advocates getting sworn in, and they state that was the moment that “we knew we wanted to work with kids as volunteers in some way.” It was in February of 2018 that they joined the CASA family and their passion became a reality.
While at CASA, their advocacy has been essential for two precious children here in San Antonio. For this couple, volunteering meant learning how to best advocate for children coming into CPS care while being sensitive to the effects of the children’s trauma. Victor and Olivia made regular visits and were the one constant in their lives; they advocated for them in court and ensured they had a voice that would be heard. Gaining their trust would be vital as one of the children was diagnosed with autism and the other had seen multiple individuals walk in and out of her life. Victor and Olivia can clearly recall their most memorable moment when the children both made a breakthrough. They had built a bond of trust and the child with autism asked for a hug from Victor. The other child let her guard down and told Olivia, “I know I can share anything with you, because no matter what, you’re always going to be there for me”.
For the couple, that was the moment they knew what they were doing was right, and for the children, that meant they knew they had someone on their side.
When you advocate individually, you’re limited in the information you share with the ones you love, due to confidentially. CASA provides a support system and a network and peers, but as a couple, you have one another to lean on. Olivia reports that she loves having a second person to bounce ideas off of and vent to, while Victor reports that he enjoys it because it provides the opportunity for the children “to get to know two different people and how we interact.” The couple unanimously believes that this experience has strengthened their relationship in ways that they did not even know they were missing. After knowing each other for 6 years, they knew things each other enjoyed doing, but after volunteering together, they learned how they could organize, communicate, and work on something together where other people truly depended on them.
The couple had nothing to say about themselves, but rather how proud of their partner they were. Victor bragged on how amazingly patient and observant his wife was with the children, remembering how well she interacted with them and how she knew exactly what to get them for their birthdays. Olivia was left in shock by how talkative her husband became when it came to the children, as she thought she would be the more outspoken of the two. This whole experience has strengthened not only themselves individually but also as a couple.
The hope they have been able to provide to the children in our community while being able to strengthen their own relationship in the process, is undoubtedly admirable. It is our volunteers that are the heart of our agency and the ones who make the difference in the lives of these children. Without them, our organization would fail. Couples bring a different type of advocacy for our children and provide an environment that these kids may have never seen before, a healthy and working adult relationship. Together they become the voice for the voiceless just as Victor and Olivia have for the two children on their case. By telling their story we hope to inspire other couples to branch outside of their comfort zone. It is said that a couple who volunteers together, stays together. Are you ready to embark in this journey during this month of love and friendship?