This information was published originally on November 1, 1999; some of the URLs are no longer functional. You can still find the information though -- simply type in the URL that isn't working into archive.org.
by Jayne Cravens
"We have touched the lives of thousands of mothers, babies and their families -- online."
So proudly states Annie Douglas, who coordinates the online volunteer program for Sidelines National Support Network, a pregnancy-support group with more than 5,000 volunteers, of which about 250 provide online service.
Sidelines volunteers provide emotional support to pregnant women coping with long term hospitalization or home bedrest, pregnancy complications, leaving a job or "normal" life due to pregnancy complications, etc.
The online version of Sidelines volunteer program began in 1997 with just 20 trained volunteers. "Since then we have grown exponentially, and currently have over 250 trained online volunteers who are managed by six online coordinators and help more than 150 families a month from all over the world to cope with a high-risk pregnancy" says Douglas.
Sidelines is so named because "women with pregnancy complications can feel stuck on the sidelines of life," says Douglas. Online communications have provided many of these women with much needed support.
Sidelines volunteers come from many walks of life, races, religions and backgrounds. Douglas says, "The one common trait that brings them together is the desire to give hope and encouragement to other high-risk moms."
"Sidelines receives about 25 requests a month from moms to become online volunteers for us." All of Sidelines volunteers have experienced high-risk pregnancies themselves, and some would not be able to provide support to others were it not the Internet. "Some of these women live in remote areas of the US, and other parts of the world, and would have never heard of Sidelines had they not surfed into our website. They want to give back, they want to help others that were in the same situation. E-mail volunteers help bring Sidelines and its support into their communities."
"I don't think people go out less because of the Internet. A large percent our e-mail volunteers also volunteer locally (face-to-face), in their own town, for Sidelines."
Testimonials from those served by Sidelines online volunteers testify to the power and importance of e-mail support:
Another person helped by a Sidelines online volunteer told the organization:
Sidelines is yet another perfect illustration of how cyberspace brings people together, and how the Internet is not only NOT closing us off to each other, but giving people human connections and support they might not receive otherwise.
The Virtual Volunteering Project features additional information about Sidelines, detailing how the program was started, how volunteers are recruited and matched, and how Annie Douglas has managed the online volunteering program.
For complete information about Sidelines, visit:
These resources were developed originally for The Virtual Volunteering Project and were written and compiled by Jayne Cravens, unless noted otherwise.
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