From CNN website, January 14, 2011
When he lost his second parent to HIV/AIDS seven years ago, Ayanda Buthelezi's future seemed bleak.
"I thought maybe God hated us," said Buthelezi, now 22. "We were very scared. ... But I had to be strong for my brother because he was still young."
As orphans in Johannesburg, the Buthelezi brothers were moved to a home for families and children affected by HIV/AIDS. There, they were introduced to their first computer through Infinite Family, a nonprofit started by Amy Stokes. The group connects South African children with caring adults around the world via computer.
"Whatever the cause may be, these children are severely lacking adult attention and guidance," Stokes said. "Kids come into the computer lab because they want this special someone in their lives ... they want to connect with that special someone."
Using a custom, Web-based technology, Infinite Family has so far connected almost 300 South African teens -- called Net Buddies -- with nearly 200 volunteer mentors from around the world. For at least a half-hour each week, pairs meet face to face on what they call the Ezomndeni-net.
In Zulu, "Ezomndeni means 'everything related to family,'" said Stokes, 44. "Our platform is a virtual world where the mentors and the kids log in in different places, but then can interact and share information in many different ways. A relationship starts between one person here and one person there, and then that relationship expands."
It blows the mind, how a couple in Pennsylvania can be, and are succeeding as, surrogate parent mentors for a child in South Africa, without going through the full "adoption" process as we have thought of it for centuries.
Everyone wishes to make a difference in the life of someone who expresses a legitimate need. Who would have thought of a technological application that reaches across the globe for the purpose of providing authentic mentoring, through this digital medium.
And, for CNN to create a platform and a podium through which such innovative, imaginative and insightful proposals can have a public face is another sign of the changing role of the international media.