‘Voices’ teaches kids to fish

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

Writing for a community newspaper, I’m privileged to learn about ways folks give back to society and tell others about them.

It would be a tough call to rank any volunteer or community activity above another. From finding homes for stray animals to fundraising for hearing- and speech-impaired children, they all play a part in improving the environment we live in.

But there are times when a particular effort, for some reason or another, strikes me as having particular significance.


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Often, it boils down to the old adage — Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

The proverb rings true for Voices for Kids and its judge-appointed volunteers, who represent the interests of children in court.

Last week, I attended a banquet in Suffolk to honor the group’s keen helpers. These people set children up for a lifetime of fishing, so to speak, by helping them overcome lives that are often difficult and to become productive and valuable citizens.

When you learn a new skill like fishing, an impulse to pass it on often follows. Thus it went with Allison Perry, a guest speaker at the banquet.

Perry described a difficult start to life, with alcohol and drug abuse in the home and an absent parent; but with the help of her own advocate, she was able to rise above those problems, and she now works at Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

In April 2011, she became a CASA for the city of Richmond. In that role as well as in her work, Perry is teaching many troubled children how to bait a hook and reel in a more promising life for themselves.

And while many folks out there like Perry are teaching others how to fish, there are organizations operating in Suffolk that are veritable universities of fishing.

One of those is the Obici Healthcare Foundation, whose grants have allowed Voices for Kids to expand, says Michele Jones, its executive director.

“If it wasn’t for the Obici Healthcare Foundation, we wouldn’t have been able to move into Suffolk,” Jones said.

According to the Voices for Kids website, CASA volunteers usually spend about 20 to 30 hours interviewing prior to a child’s first court appearance, and once initiated into the system, they devote 10 to 15 hours of their time a month.

You can learn more at www.vfkcasa.org.