Friday, January 18, 2013

E what? E mentoring

You may already know that January is national mentoring month, but did you know you can mentor children as far away as Africa and as close as Philadelphia without ever leaving your home? Or that you can become a buddy to someone with intellectual and developmental disabilities from your computer?

It’s called E mentoring.

There are many different ways of doing it, from video conversations to email pen pal programs.

Infinite Family matches children in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty with adults around the world, who through weekly half hour video conversations, improve the life and future of these children.

E-Buddies pairs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in one-to-one e-mail friendships with peer volunteers who do not have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Matched pairs exchange emails once a week. E-Buddies provides people with IDD an opportunity to develop new friendships and acquire much needed computer skills.

The Philadelphia Youth Network recently launched Project Mastery, a program in which volunteers help students with their writing through a digital portal. Students submit work to their tutors through the portal and tutors send back comments the same way. Volunteers can work on their own schedule. The next six week mentoring period goes from March to April and focuses on science narratives in journalism and creative nonfiction.

One program in New York blends e-mentoring with traditional mentoring. iMentor NYC is a school-based mentoring program matching public high school students in New York City in one-to-one relationships with college-educated mentors. Mentor-mentee pairs are matched for three to four years and exchange weekly emails and meet monthly in person.

Sure, you’ve probably thought about doing something to help youth or maybe you’ve been asked to mentor a child, but honestly when you thought about adding something more to your busy week, maybe you shuddered and thought, How can I do it?

Now there’s a way. E mentoring can make what seems like an impossible addition to your schedule a more manageable task. You can help others in your own city, somewhere else in America, or around the world from you without begrudging yourself or your family too much time away from them because of the convenience of doing it from your own computer.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, you will have to go through some checks and probably some training for most programs. They don’t want to match perverts up with kids and they want to make sure you have something to talk about with your child. But you can handle this. You chat on Facebook and Skype your family members in other states and I’m sure you send emails about every day.

So think about it, think about helping a child who needs it. It's not for everyone, but it just might be for you.

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