World Wide Familyby Amy Conrad Stokes, Executive Director, Infinite Family
oved by the orphan crisis in Africa, my husband and I decided to adopt a baby from South Africa in 2001. During our 2003 journey to South Africa to finalize the adoption of our son, Calder Qhawe, it became clear to me that there simply are not enough adults remaining to nurture Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable children. The entrenched reasons for this are many: drought, racial segregation, transitory labor, lack of access to medical care, and poverty, all of which have been made exponentially worse by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
It is very unusual for a disaster to exclusively remove the most productive and essential segment of a population, namely young adults who provide for and raise their children, the next generation. Yet, this is exactly what has happened in Africa. A couple of years ago Catholic Relief Services, reported that one in eight households in Sub-Saharan Africa was led by a child under age 18. And the orphaning is projected to continue for at least another three decades. Children on the Brink, 2004, researched and written by UNAIDS, UNICEF and USAID, projects 50 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa will be orphaned by 2010.
These children are left with insurmountable barriers to becoming economically independent adults. Children are frequently forced to leave school because they cannot afford the school fees or uniforms and are needed to care for sick family members. Family savings are extinguished trying to keep parents alive. Without other means to provide for themselves and their siblings, children are extremely vulnerable and ripe for exploitation via gangs or “sugar daddies”, drugs, and prostitution.
Knowing the challenges these children face just to survive, how can we expect them to become the effective and productive adults they need to be to advance their communities’ and countries’ future without the attention of a caring adult?
Mass adoption is not the best answer, or even a viable option, for changing the situations of most African orphaned and vulnerable children. But, communications technologies available today allow each of us to be part of the worldwide virtual village that embraces the lives of these children via Infinite Family.
- What IF, you could help a child stay and succeed in school?
- What IF you could make a child know they are not alone and bring a smile?
- What IF you could help a child believe in the future and prepare for it!
Using Infinite Family’s secure internet platform for email, video conferencing and other tools, each of us can have a direct impact on the daily life and well-being of an African child thousands of miles away. American adult volunteers, called “Net Families,” are partnered with African orphans and vulnerable children, called “Net Buddies,” to build relationships, share their lives and prepare the children to fulfill their dreams. Net Families and Net Buddies are linked by shared interests and concern for each other rather than geographic proximity or cultural definitions.
Kids need so much more than money – they need time and attention. Infinite Family allows us to share what we know, to show who we are, and to help orphaned youth access worldwide opportunities. If children know that someone cares, they start making “smart” decisions about their health and school; they start planning for the future – one they couldn’t imagine before. Today’s technology offers each of us the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to really help a child build a life they didn’t know they could have. We will all benefit from the realization of their potential.For more information about Infinite Family, please contact:
Amy Conrad Stokes