|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
The Social Network That Changes Lives
Can you imagine explaining Facebook to an alien from outerspace? Or your grandmother? "It's, you know, you put...pictures...you share whatever little thought you have...to like 900 people..." "But why?" the alien grandma would ask, and you would have to shake your head and admit that you just didn't know. Then there's the brand-new Camellia Network. This site, founded by a business strategist and a bestselling author, is designed to help kids aging out of foster care. It's a social network that provides a tangible good, the kind of thing that makes you think, "Oh THAT'S why the Internet exists."
You may have never given much thought to what happens to foster kids when they turn 18, but consider this: According to the Camellia Network, "For youth who age out of the [foster care] system without a permanent family to support them, life is often tough. 25% of these youth become homeless by the time they turn twenty. 25% become incarcerated. 60% have children of their own within four years, and those kids are twice as likely to be placed in foster care themselves - continuing the cycle for a future generation." Kind of makes your veins go cold for a minute, doesn't it? I know when I was 18 I was completely ready to be out on my own. By which I mean, in a dorm room where all my meals were provided at a college my parents were paying for, on a clearly defined path to an adult life I'd grown up studying. Imagine trying to find your way without any guidance. Or dorm-meal-plan-provided cereal.
So what can you do to help? Well, thanks to the Camellia Network, you can post a job or internship opportunity, let the Camellia youth know about your healthcare, education, transportation, etc, service, or even just buy a kid a toaster. Browsing the profiles is its own kind of education, and reveals the genius of Camellia Network's premise: when you see a name and a hopeful face, when you read about each person's goals and how they are working toward them, you are suddenly invested. It's not an "issue," it's a person, a young person setting out into adult life without a safety net.
Learn more about Camellia Network's co-founder Vanessa Diffenbaugh's bestselling and widely acclaimed novel, The Language of Flowers (which is about a foster child aging out of the system), at her website here. Speaking of which, in the language of flowers, "camellia" means "My destiny is in your hands." How's that for a poetic call to action?
Visit the Camellia Network to find out how you can get involved.
The Baby You Give Back: Fostering Infants
A Summer Camp That Connects Siblings
Please note that Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities have no affiliation with and do not endorse those entities, projects, or websites referenced above, which are provided solely as a courtesy. You should conduct your own independent investigation before using the services of any such entities, projects, or websites. Information is provided for your reference only.