Home Virtual Mentoring Lessens the Burden on Kids in South Africa

Virtual Mentoring Lessens the Burden on Kids in South Africa

Between the socially disorienting echo of apartheid, high crime rates and HIV/AIDS, South Africa is struggling under a lot of extra weight. The group that too often bears the brunt of it is kids. South Africa has a much higher number of orphans than it should. Adult guidance of kids is sometimes in short supply. To make up in part for that, Infinite Family has stepped up.

Infinite Family connects mentors anywhere in the world with South African teens in need of adult guidance, advice and support. These “net buddies” connect via weekly video conferences.

Amy Stokes and Dana Gould, two of the founders, and the rest of the Infinite Family crew, have created a virtual environment they call Ezomndeni Net. Ezomndeni is a Zulu for “all things pertaining to family.” This EZ Net is accessed by a secure dashboard.

Mentors sign up for at least a half-hour chat every week for a year. Additional online resources include interactive forums, live chat, an online game area and a “web link pod,” where a mentor and net buddy can do homework and explore the web together. The site also has an “SOS” button kids can use when they are having and emergency and need to talk. 400 volunteers and members of the board have helped connect around 300 teens, called with 200 mentors so far.

Any member of the EZ Net can become friends with any other member.

The need for an adult presence is not just practical, but elemental. As Stokes told CNN, who made her their first CNN Hero of 2011:

“If none of the adults you care about has ever lived past 35, then why would you think you can? Why would you stay in school; why would you learn skills?”

Anyone can sign up to be a mentor, though any applicant is thoroughly vetted and trained.

In addition to this example of the point of adulthood and guidance to help the kids succeed in their lives, the weekly talks build communications, English and technical skills that will help them as they grow up. Infinite Family has build five computer labs across South Africa that it operates for its net buddies.

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