April 13, 2005 The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program on St. Croix will honor and offer encouragement to the island's young children in a special ceremony Thursday evening.
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month this April CASA will host Light of Hope, an event geared at bringing to light the lives of abused and neglected children in the territory.
According to a release issued from the program director Wednesday, the candlelight ceremony will take place from 5:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the CASA office located at 3012 Golden Rock. The event will feature poetry, song and steel pan music performed by children.
Gail Shearer, CASA executive director, said Wednesday afternoon this is the third time the agency is sponsoring the event, which takes place nationwide through similar agencies.
"It's an opportunity to raise some awareness in the community," Shearer said, of the abuse that children throughout the territory face. "The kids need hope; they need a light to show the way."
Shearer said last fall 15 schools participated in CASA's Pennies From Heaven program, collecting pennies, nickels and dimes to help support CASA. All the schools that participated will be recognized and be given appreciation certificates at Thursday's Light of Hope event.
"We decided to use Light of Hope as a way of encouraging children," Shearer said, adding that children should learn they are not too young to assist those with needs in the community. "We think this is a great time to get children involved with volunteering."
CASA of the Virgin Islands was founded in 1994 and is a private, not-for-profit organization established to help ensure that no abused or neglected children needing care slip through cracks in the social service and justice systems.
The local CASA program has about 30 volunteers who are assigned to cases. CASA volunteers are trained advocates appointed by judges to be a voice for neglected and abused children in court. They also help ensure that these children find foster homes where they can thrive.
"CASA volunteers have a profound impact on the lives of abused and neglected children," Aminah Saleem, CASA's volunteer coordinator, was quoted as saying in the release. "When you first meet the child, you have a very sad and confused little boy or girl, but if you are willing to do all the work it takes to get them into a safe, permanent home, you see that child begin to smile again and to have the childhood that each child deserves. I cannot think of a volunteer opportunity that is more rewarding."
For more information about CASA or the Light of Hope event, contact Shearer at 719-2272.
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