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Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success

by Infinite Family
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Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Mentoring African Teens to School and Life Success
Thokozani outside IF's LaunchPad computer lab
Thokozani outside IF's LaunchPad computer lab

 

"If any of you educators would like an English lesson, I would be happy to give it to you!" That's how Thokozani ended his short presentation on the difference his Video Mentor, Sharon, had made in his life in the year and a half they had been connected. 

He started his presentation by saying that in 8th grade, before starting video conversations (VCs) with Sharon through Infinite Family, he had been a shy and uncertain English speaker. He added that English had been one of his worst subjects and that he also struggled with all subjects that were taught in English, including math and science. Since meeting Sharon, he was proud to report that he was doing better in school overall, especially in English.

To Thokozani's surprise, his self-confidence had also increased dramatically, so much so, that he had begun to want to lead by example and be a role model for the younger students who were also struggling. Despite recently losing his father, he is always at the LaunchPad computer lab helping the Net Fundi lab managers and coaching the new Net Buddies as they learn the system.

Thokozani’s newfound skills will help him excel for the rest of his life.For starters, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been studying the performance of 15 year olds worldwide in reading, math and science since 2000, including over 10 million students in 2018 alone! What have they found to be the most important indicators of student success? Confidence and self-motivation - both traits that Thokozani enthusiastically demonstrates now. 

In addition, in a country with 11 official languages, the ability to communicate well in English is absolutely critical in getting that important first job in South Africa and in earning promotions for the rest of our Net Buddies’ lives. The skills that you have helped Thokazani develop while working with his Video Mentor have put him on the path to earning more than five times what his non-mentored peers will earn – for the rest of his life. We thank all of you who have supported Infinite Family through GlobalGiving for investing in Thokozani and inspiring him to begin a life of leadership as a role model for success.

Now back to that English lesson – who wants to be first?

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Zethu Completing her Teaching Degree
Zethu Completing her Teaching Degree

By the time Zethu was in the tenth grade, five and a half years ago, she’d given up on life. “I didn’t think anyone was there for me,” says the 23-year-old, who grew up in a group home on the outskirts of Johannesburg. “I never dreamed of going to university—I thought that was a place for kids who were smart.” Grade ten was also the year that Zethu met her mentor, Paula. “She made me see how school would benefit me in the long run, so instead of dropping out, I decided to take one last set of tests, only to discover that I’d passed! So I decided to carry on with school.”

Being a Net Buddy mentee changed Zethu’s life in other ways, too. “It improved my English, and my writing skills, which helped me with my final exams.” Indeed, Zethu now has a coveted teaching internship and is in her third year in university, studying to get a degree in education. “I never thought I could get into university, but my Video mentor taught me that if I work very hard, I can do anything.”

Zethu has left the group home where she grew up and now lives on her own. She navigates the difficult and long daily travel across Johannesburg back and forth to college and has learned how to prioritize and organize her schedule to make the best use possible of her time waiting when buses are late or broken. It is an added disadvantage to live in a city and country where public transportation was never created in order to better control the 85% black population during apartheid.

 But Zethu carries on and coaches her younger sister on how to prepare for the next phase of her life as they both strive to succeed in school and obtain jobs that will allow them to build better, self-reliant lives. While most other First Generation college students in South Africa struggle to accomplish their first year of college, Zethu has almost finished her degree. Knowing she has overcome so many obstacles along the way, one after the other, with Paula’s support and encouragement continuing long after their formal mentoring days were past, Zethu is proud and confident that she will continue to move forward and achieve her ambition to prepare the next generation.

Thank you for making it possible for Zethu and hundreds of other South African students’ to have the one supportive adult they needed to create new life-long opportunities through good decisions, future-forward actions and hard work throughout their teen years.

Please visit Infinite Family’s new website at infinitefamily.org to read more success stories as they are published, and please follow us on social media @infinitefamily.

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Relebohile has always considered himself a shy person—and it didn’t help that he struggled with English. “I had difficulties reading and speaking out,” says the 20 year old, who began as a Net Buddy with Infinite Family eight years ago. “I was always the one hiding in the back of the room.” 

That changed when Relebohile met his Video Mentor, Dennis. “I was used to speaking my own language, but being a Net Buddy introduced me to English. I had to learn to speak it thoroughly so my Video Mentor and I could communicate.” Now a Net Blazer, he says, “My English has improved, both written and verbal.”

Dennis helped Relebohile learn how managing difficult family situations was just as important as learning language skills. Growing up in Soweto, his family members struggled to find work and often resorted to violence. “There was a lot of tension at home, but Dennis told me to keep calm and be positive,” he says. “He taught me that violence is not a way to solve problems—that it just causes more problems.” Relebohile’s new attitude not only helped him but also had a profound effect on his entire family. “If it wasn’t for Dennis I would still be holding grudges and there would still be tension at home,” he says. “But now, all of us are getting along.” 

Another big shift: Relebohile went from being a mediocre student to one who earned high marks. “I was lazy, actually. Before I joined Infinite Family, I’d rather play or do anything other than schoolwork,” he admits. Dennis suggested that they do homework during their video conversations. “We discussed subjects I was having difficulty with, and my grades improved a lot.” So much so that Relebohile is now in his second year of college, earning a certificate in IT, his passion. “Infinite Family introduced me to computers, which made me realize that I wanted to work in the field someday,” he says. “Dennis told me to go for it.” 

These days, Relebohile and Dennis communicate on WhatsApp and Facebook—but their communication is no less essential. “I’m from Soweto, where so many teenagers and adults are on drugs,” he says. “Dennis encourages me to be independent, and not allow that negativity to affect me.” What helps is knowing that his Video Mentor has his back. “For me, Infinite Family is where it begins—it has made me courageous, it has made me confident,” he says. “I like that it’s not just about me, but about us.”

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Precious Getting Ready For A Video Conversation
Precious Getting Ready For A Video Conversation

When Precious’ mother fell sick while she was in 11th grade, she knew she would have to carry even more of the family’s concerns, including caring for her younger sister. “I couldn’t talk to my mother about a lot of things and didn’t want to subject her to stress,” she explained. She also felt her own stress affect her studies and, she feared, her future.

Her relationships with her Video Mentors, Sarah and Angela, helped her dig deeper to find the strength to keep her studies on track. “Both my mentors helped me to realize that the situation I was going through at the time was not the end of my world. They encouraged me to work hard and do more to create opportunities to further my education.” And Precious did – she held things together all the way through college to earn a degree in Sports Management. Today, she has a full-time job as a Sports Facilitator at Afrika Tikkun, a highly respected non-profit.

Precious helps run afternoon and weekend programs in the Apartheid-era Orange Farm township just outside of Johannesburg. And she coaches the young participants, and her younger sister, and share with them the lessons she learned. “I learned that hard work, perseverance and patience are very important ingredients of life. I could have easily given up on life because of my family situation but through mentoring, I could face life with renewed hope that things would work out for me if I stayed focused and put all my efforts to doing well.” We know she will!

Thank you to our global donors and mentors for your support! As Precious has shown, success is not achieved overnight and requires the long, life-changing relationship video mentoring brings. Your support motivates our South African students to persist in their mission to build better futures for themselves.

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Meet Khotso, a future doctor/engineer
Meet Khotso, a future doctor/engineer

Khotso is a young woman with big dreams. “I want to be a brain surgeon or a biomedical engineer,” she says, brimming with quiet pride. It wasn’t always this way. Before Khotso met her Video Mentor, Rachel who she has been working with since 2016, the young teen had her share of problems. “I needed help with a lot of things personally. I was fighting with people. I needed someone to talk to,” she recalls.

Khotso, now 18, found that listening ear in Rachel. “We came up with solutions together,” says Khotso. “No one had done that with me before.”

Khotso lives in a group home near Soweto, so she sorely needed an adult’s personal attention and guidance, in both social situations and in school. “Both of us really like school, and Rachel helps me with homework. I’ve always had good grades, but after I talk with her, my grades always go up,” she says. Even more, Khotso appreciates having a confidante, someone with whom she can share her fears and dreams. “I can tell Rachel everything,” she enthuses. “It can be hard talking to someone in person, but it’s easier to express yourself in VCs, when you’re looking at someone on a screen.”

Not that Khotso shies away from expressing herself. “Having a Video Mentor has helped my confidence,” she says. “As I think about which university to go to next year, and what to do, I know she is there to guide me.”

Thank you also to our wide network of donors who support video mentoring scholarships that make each and every mentorship possible throughout each teens' critical teen years.  No one can walk a teen's turbulent journey alone and just one caring adult half a world away can mean the difference between dropping out, or digging deep and working toward long-term success.

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Organization Information

Infinite Family

Location: Dunkeld West, Johannesburg - South Africa
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @infinitefamily
Project Leader:
Amy Stokes
Founder and CEO
Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, Gauteng South Africa
$3,545 raised of $15,000 goal
 
47 donations
$11,455 to go
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