March 1, 2006

 
 
My experience as an online volunteer blog mentor
for the Young Caucasus Women Project - February 2006
 
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In addition to researching and compiling information online mentoring (the most comprehensive information on such, in fact), and helping to create numerous online mentor programs, including this one for an Austin, Texas elementary school, I have also had the pleasure of serving as an online volunteer mentor on several occasions. In 2005 and 2006, I was an online volunteer blog mentor for the Young Caucasus Women Project. Recruited from current Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program students, young women from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia currently living in the USA are being trained in citizen journalism, and part of the training includes learning to publish their own blogs. Once they learned the basics of blogging, then the student's own blogging bagan. Now, at the start of the week, an online volunteer mentor posts a suggestion for the week's blog topic, and each student posts a blog of her own on that topic, as well as comments on each other's blogs. The students may post on other topics throughout the week as well. This continues until the student leaves the USA. After the students return to their home countries, they will receive a monthly blog assignment, but they may post to their blogs as often as they like. The volunteer mentors are experienced adult bloggers from around the world, with a particular focus on bloggers from developing countries who are having an impact on the dissemination of news from their countries.

The purpose of this Project is to:

Mentor's suggested topics that students have been asked to write blogs on include:

I can't speak to how well the program will meet its stated goals -- that's for someone else to measure and report on. But I can speak to what it's been like to be an online mentor. In this most recent experience, from my point of view, what's been important to remember as a volunteer for this project is:

As with all online mentor experiences, the hardest part is when my role is over, and the young person moves on -- I will wonder what different I made, if any, if the young people are doing well, how their interests and planned activities have manifested, and if there is more I could do. But various issues -- most especially safety and logistics -- keep such continued relationships from happening.

If you are interested in creating an online mentoring program, for young people or adults, see the Virtual Volunteering Project's information online mentoring -- still the most comprehensive information available.

 
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