CASA training

You may have seen billboards with a photo of a large-eyed toddler: “Be the difference;” “Help an abused or neglected child;” “Be a CASA volunteer.” To be honest, I probably would never have signed up for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) training based on these billboards alone; heartstring appeals aren’t my thing. However, becoming a CASA is one of the best and most exciting choices I’ve ever made.

As a CASA, I spend two to 15 hours per week on many self-directed tasks, including visiting foster children, attending court, interviewing families and service providers, connecting parties to each other and writing reports on case progress. I am the advocate — the voice — for the child; this means getting to know the child, but also knowing their family’s case deeply so that I can speak with confidence about what I believe best for the child’s long-term good. Because my position is appointed by the court, I am a direct conduit to the judge and my informed opinion carries significant weight in court. Because I am a volunteer and do not have a large case load, I can become the expert on each family’s situation. And because I have access to nearly unlimited training and support, I can help solve issues that could cripple the case (and the child’s wellbeing) otherwise. My favorite part of this work is when my actions directly dissolve barriers to the progress of the case, helping the child and easing the stress of everyone involved. I love seeing anxiety leave faces and peace come in its place.

Consider becoming a CASA if you love children. Or, even if you’re not particularly drawn to children, you love furthering justice and peace. Or if you simply want to challenge yourself and broaden your understanding of your community. You don’t have to be retired (many CASAs have full-time jobs) or have any background in legal matters. All you have to have is the willingness to step in, to learn, and to act.

Fall CASA training begins Sept. 26. Call Columbia Gorge CASA at 541-386-3468 to learn more or apply.

Rebekah Fisher

The Dalles

Preserve parks

It seems like the language of hate has been broadcast worldwide. Christians vs. Muslims, White vs. Black, American citizens vs. Immigrants, and so on. Such feelings become so strong that people lose their ability to converse, to listen and even be rational. Their voices and actions become aggressive and hurtful — emotionally or even physically.

 Why is that? People are easily controlled by fear and anger. This is how healthy communities are disrupted. In Hood River the discussions surrounding the rezoning, selling and development of a local park have progressed to a sad level of divisiveness and hatred.

 It’s also not rational. Nobody should have to choose between getting their arms or legs chopped off. Just like we should not have to choose between parks and housing. We can have both, but only if we come together as a community to discuss and solve these issues.

 It is very upsetting to see a group of people trying to paint the image that park lovers are selfish, bad people, when in fact it is exactly because I care about people that I want to keep our parks! And I care about housing too! Can we please work together to have both?

Have you ever lived in a city with scarce parks? I have. It is hot, has flash floods, droughts, poor air quality and is violent. Children become involved in drug trafficking, gangs and other crimes, as they lack any other activities. Many successful social projects consist of providing children with after school activities that will connect them with sports, arts and nature, preventing them from falling into the path of crime.

People in vulnerable conditions are the ones who depend the most on safe, free and accessible places to recreate, exercise, decompress, be in touch with nature and stay healthy. Accessible for some might be buying a pass at the ski resort, or driving to a waterfall hike. But for most it means walking to their local park.

 I hope you care about those who depend on our local parks. A lost park is lost forever.

Gabriela Jorge

Hood River

‘Old Yeller’

President Trump continues to demonstrate his range as a reality TV actor. Unfortunately, he seems unaware that edits are not possible during a live shoot.

First, we had a remake of the Apprentice in which he got to say “You’re Fired” to several people hired by him directly. Alternately, many others just said, “I resign to be with my family, but the president is amazing.” Next, he ventured into make-believe featuring a scene from the Wizard of Oz. Several economic experts not employed by either the President or Fox News currently say our economy is not doing well because of the failing trade policy with China. Hiding behind the curtain, the president yells out, “We have the strongest economy in the world by far,” followed by, “Don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Last week, the president made a cameo appearance as the Dog Whisperer. At a rally in New Hampshire, President Trump called out a supporter wearing a Trump 2020 shirt. He told the whole crowd the man was overweight and had a problem and proceeded to recommend that he go home and exercise.

As a liberal snowflake, I would have been offended by those statements, and certainly think every gun-toting, screw-the-government, grown man would be as well. In response, however, the man rolled over to have his belly scratched while saying “(Trump’s) a great guy. He is the best thing that has ever happened to this country.” Who’s a good boy?

Steve Kaplan

Hood River

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