30 Years of CASA Highlights: Klara Vajda
2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, we are highlighting staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. This week we spoke with volunteer Klara Vajda.
What is your role at CASA?
I am a court appointed special advocate volunteer.
How long have you been with the program?
I began working with CASA in 2017, after I retired from my full-time job. I have been on board ever since.
What led you to become involved with CASA?
Two significant memories from my life in Hungary motivated me to become a CASA volunteer.
The first one is memories of my father; He was an orphan. His mother died of complications of the Spanish flu, and his father died as a prisoner of war after World War I ended. He constantly spoke about the neglect that he and his sister endured in foster homes. Thinking of how that experience, even at an older age, negatively affected my father encouraged me to get involved.
The second memory is of when I was a manager at a computer bureau and had an employee in her early 20s going through divorce. She always looked incredibly sad, but I could never figure out why. One day she shared with me that when she was younger she was sexually abused by her father, who was then sentenced to 10 years in prison. At that point in time, he was being released and she no longer felt safe.
Her story impacted me deeply. I made a promise to myself that I would always protect children, in any way I could, for the rest of my life. I signed up for a CASA training almost 27 years ago, but in the middle of training funding was no longer available so it was stopped. After that life took me on a different path, but I continued to advocate and help protect children with other organizations. The day I retired at the age of 74, I knew it was time to uphold my promise.
What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
The most rewarding thing is seeing the outcome of the work we do. Working with children who have gone through rough and painful times at such a young age and seeing them start to heal and flourish is an amazing sight. They stop being angry and start to look forward to all the good things happening in their life.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I cherish my time with friends and family and cook for them. In Hungary I grew up working hard from a young age. I always prayed to one day find work that I enjoyed so much that it would not feel like work. I am passionate about social justice and I’m involved in different ways to do just that. There is nothing more rewarding than helping those who are in need spiritually emotionally, physically, and financially.