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Amy Stokes - Inspirational & Motivational Stories

Amy Stokes - Creating a global village through the internet

New Yorker Amy Stokes understood the role of a loving and caring parent on a child as she was raised with two adopted children. Her dream was to adopt as well. In 2003, that dream came true when she and her husband Chris visited South Africa and adopted their son Calder, who is now 7.

In South Africa, Stokes found that HIV/AIDS had made millions of children orphans. HIV/AIDS has created more devastation in African nations than anywhere else on the planet. It has resulted in millions of children being left without parents.

  Amy found her destiny in this crisis. She realized that she had to find a way to bring adult influence in the life of these children. She says, "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?" Now, she has devoted her life to bringing a world of possibilities into these children's lives.

With so few adults and lots of orphaned children, Amy knew she had to find an innovative solution to this problem. Amy Stokes started Infinite Family, a nonprofit organization, which connects orphans with video mentors in other countries. The group connects South African children with caring adults around the world via the internet. Before the mentor program kicks off, each mentor is subject to background checks, technological tutorials and cultural seminars covering mourning, HIV and developing relationships through e-mail. Generally, mentors sign up for one year, but most continue beyond that period. It's important as it gives them a sense of belonging and the comfort that there is an adult to look after their needs.  The foundation does not allow, however, gifts and other financial benefits to be given directly to the mentee. It must be routed through the partner organization. Amy's message to the mentors was that the greatest gift that they can offer to these children is themselves. As Stokes proudly says, "We like to say, 'The gift is you.'  

Using a custom, Web-based technology, Infinite Family took the lead on connecting nearly over 300 South African teens, called Net Buddies, with nearly 200 volunteer mentors from around the world. For nearly a half hour each day, the children and parents meet face to face on what they call the Ezomndeni-net. The word Ezomndeni means 'everything related to family', which made sense for the cause.  

Amy stokes has created a virtual world where the mentors and the children can build relationships by logging on in different cities around the world to share information as well as interact with each other. Ezomndeni-net goes a step further by offering a dozen interactive forums, including a live chat function, a virtual "wipeboard" where pairs can play games, and areas where pairs can do homework and surf the Web together.  

Infinite Family has built and operated five computer labs at partner organization sites across South Africa since 2006 to enable children to connect with their mentors. In addition to connecting children and parents, Ezomndeni-net also assists in developing their language and technology skills so they can compete in the global marketplace. 

The program has given immense hope to children who once thought their future was a blur. Take the case of Ayanda Buthelezi whose future seemed bleak after he lost his second parent to HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, they were introduced to their first computer at Infinite Family. Six months after Ayanda was connected with Betty and Dave Voigt of Sycamore, Pennsylvania by Infinite Family pushed him at the head of his class. Ayanda is also pursuing a degree in IT. Like Ayanda, many children benefit from Infinite Family.

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