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Mission - Infinite Family Project

Summer Travel to South Africa —Betsy Hohlfelder

I wanted to share with you a little bit about my summer “travel” to South Africa. Starting at the end of June, I began meeting with a 15-year old boy from Johannesburg named Lucky. No…I did not actually board a plane and fly to his native country to meet him. Rather, with the help of technology, we have been meeting 2-3 times a week via emails and videoconferencing on the Internet. Our relationship is part of a brand new program called Infinite Family. The mission of Infinity Family is to match volunteers from America with African orphans in a mentoring relationship. The needs in Africa are enormous. According to Catholic Relief Services, one out of every eight households in Sub-Saharan Africa is headed by a child under the age of 18. By 2010, 19% of children in South Africa are projected to be orphans.

Infinite Family is an innovative and cost effective way of using technology to enable volunteers to help make a difference to children who are far, far away. Lucky lives in a shelter called Nkosi’s Haven, along with over 50 other children. Most of the children are orphans, but about 10 of them live at the facility along with their mothers, who are HIV-positive. Before I was matched with Lucky, I went through an application process, which included references and an interview. In June, I participated in a two-day training process. The training was wonderful. In addition to learning about the technical aspects of the program (the website, how to conduct a videoconference, etc), we also learned about the country and culture of South Africa, the history and impact of HIV/AIDS on Africa, grief and mourning of youth who have experienced losses due to AIDS, and how to enter into an effective mentoring relationship.

Once training was over, I was officially matched with Lucky. It was so fun to receive an email from him the very next day. Over the last few months we have gradually gotten to know one another. Has it been a fun and interesting experience? Absolutely! Have there been some difficulties and frustrations along the way? Sure. But the positives have far outweighed the negatives in this exciting adventure. I mentioned to Lucky that I was going to write an article for our church newsletter and asked permission to tell you about him. He said to be sure to mention that he “loves Sponge Bob Squarepants, the rapper 50 Cent, and sweet-sour candies.” He wanted to know how many other people in our church were involved with Infinite Family, and I told him that I was the only one. I am hoping that sharing my experience might encourage a few others to get involved. There is a $40 monthly donation to be a volunteer. The money is used to support the technology, the kid’s programs and schooling and even to set up a small savings account for the child so that when they become an adult they have a little money to pursue their dreams/education.

At Bower Hill, thanks to the generosity of the Margaret McKee fund, I pay for just ¼ of the donation, and the fund picks up the balance as a way of supporting this mission work. If you are at all interested in becoming an Infinite Family volunteer, or just want to learn a bit more about the program, please give me a call…I would love to talk to you.

Betsy conversing with Lucky in Africa

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