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Virtual relationships with kids in other countries

September 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a new trend in mentoring. Parents are now forming virtual relationships with children halfway around the world.

It all started with one mother who saw a need. She helped create a way for people to use computers to be present in a child's life.

Jenica Myszkowski sits down to visit 11-year-old Sarah, who is like family.

Sarah lives all the way in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their "net buddy" connection began in New York through an organization called Infinite Family.

"What a rewarding experience it has been," said Myszkowski. "I've had a chance to know Sarah over a year-and-a-half now."

Uniting children from Africa with mentors from 10 countries and 30 states is the creation of Amy Stokes.

"All of these children have been growing up in communities that have been severely affected by HIV and poverty," said Stokes.

Impossible to adopt them all, when Stokes adopted her son Calder, she said this was a way not to forget those left behind.

"We could use technology in a new way to create relationships that span the world and that can truly transform these children's lives," said Stokes.

The children log in at schools or youth centers in their villages. And the technology is interactive. The trained screened mentors can even help with homework, but mostly be there as a needed friend.

"If she is sad she doesn't hesitate to talk out those things," said Myszkowski.

Sarah gets something out of their weekly half-hour chats, and Myszkowski does too.

"She looks forward to seeing me on Sundays and comes prepared to tell me everything that happened that week," said Myszkowski.

Even if you don't think you have the time to be a mentor, you can still help. Sub-Saharan teenagers need everything from basic nutritional meals to equipment for their video chats.

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