Amy Stokes, woman behind a virtual global village, nominated as 2011 CNN Hero
Amy Stokes understands the important role a caring adult can play in a child's life. Two of her siblings were adopted, and she herself became an adoptive parent in 2003. Stokes' charitable passion goes far beyond her own family however. She is the woman behind a program known as Infinite Family, which connects children in South Africa who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS with caring adults all over the world through the power of the internet, according to CNN.
This program is what led Stokes to a nomination as one of CNN's 2011 Heroes. Nearly 300 African teens have been comforted and guided by adults who may live on the other side of the globe. Young people can visit a computer lab where they will have everything they need to chat with their counterparts as well as participate in a number of other activities. The computers even have web cam capabilities, so that teens and their mentors can address each other face to face.
"Whatever the cause may be, these children are severely lacking adult attention and guidance," Stokes told the news source. "Kids come into the computer lab because they want this special someone in their lives… they want to connect with that special someone."
Technology like the internet has been integral to helping maintain bonds with loved ones across borders. Using the web, family members who have emigrated to the U.S. can chat with loved ones or even send money online.
The internet technology at Infinite Family is known as the Ezomndeni-net, a term which translates to "everything related to family." Teens can get help with homework, play games or simply ask for advice from loving adults.
Ayanda Buthelezi knows how useful this service can be first hand. After his parents both passed away from HIV/AIDS when he was in his teens, the South African resident found himself struggling in school. However, after connecting with a couple living in Pennsylvania, he soon began to turn his life around, and is now working as an IT professional.
According to the organization's website, adult mentors who participate in the program undergo training before they are able to connect with a "Net Buddy." The website reports that approximately 55.3 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS.