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January 18th, 2011
08:04 PM ET

CNN Heroes: South African teens get virtual mentoring from all over the world

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) - 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.

Read more on this story here.


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