AnonyMouse Mentors Youth Anonymously

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An exciting new program for internet users is planned for launch this coming Fall. “AnonyMouse” is  designed to connect LGBT youth who have questions, need to talk to someone a bit wiser, or need reassurance that “it gets better.” In short, a mentor.

Fifty engineers and designers from the U.S. and Canada competed during a weekend in June in the first ever “Hack for Change” contest, a 24-hour hackathon at the San Francisco headquarters of Change.org. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.org, worked with a panel of judges to award ten thousand dollars in seed funding to the top three finalists.

Anonymouse got a big checkThe first runner up at “Hack for Change” was “Project AnonyMouse,” a platform developed by Aaron Moy (a New Jersey native now transplanted to the West coast) and Aashay Desai that connects LGBT people in need with mentors. Aaron Moy said the inspiration for the project was his own coming out experience. “It was a special problem for me because I had a long-term girlfriend at the time. I really needed someone to talk to, to vent. Friends or family often don’t work in that kind of situation. I resorted to Craigslist. That can be really dangerous but I was lucky. I found someone to talk to but it made me realize there was a need for this kind of a program. Everyone I talked to about this agreed.”
Many LGBT youth advocates say that it’s hard enough for a person to find someone to talk to about issues such as sexual or gender identity, coming out, or being gay in the city, but that in rural environments, it can be even harder.

“In Alabama or Mississippi or in the Midwest there might be no one at all a kid can talk to about such things,” said Aaron Moy.

AnonyMouse is designed to be used as an internet program. Plans call for eventual development of a mobile phone app. Mentor volunteers will be interviewed, subject to background checks and familiarized with the program’s policies. Users – young people who come seeking some guidance – will be identified by number only. Their names, locations and email addresses will remain confidential and cannot be accessed by mentors. Further, a feedback system for users to send messages direct to the site’s administrators will be in place, allowing users to alert administrators to a mentor who may be a problem as well as to one who has been especially helpful.

The program will be wide open for any questions the user wants to talk about, whether it is dating, sexuality, religion or just plain growing up. Aaron said he and his associate Aashay have been in contact with organizations who already provide mentoring services and have security systems in place. Partnering with these organizations is a definite possibility. Aaron pointed out that the program can have many other eventual uses, including help for people needing addiction counseling, in abusive relationships, that are rape victims,  and more.

So far, the cost of development has been covered by the program’s two founders. The $3,000 award they won at Hack For Change is expected to carry the project while such avenues as grants and corporate sponsorships are being explored. Use of the program will be free when it launches.

For now you may visit http://anonymouse.com  for more information. Volunteers to help with development of the website and program are welcome and needed. Contact Aaron at: anonymouseapp@gmail.com

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An exciting new program for internet users is planned for launch this coming Fall. “AnonyMouse” is  designed to connect LGBT youth who have questions, need to talk to someone a bit wiser, or need reassurance that “it gets better.” In short, a mentor.

Fifty engineers and designers from the U.S. and Canada competed during a weekend in June in the first ever “Hack for Change” contest, a 24-hour hackathon at the San Francisco headquarters of Change.org. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.org, worked with a panel of judges to award ten thousand dollars in seed funding to the top three finalists.