Friday, March 02, 2007

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, South Africa

I've been wanting to post about this since the special aired on TV on Monday, but this week at work has been crazy and I'm finally getting around to it. I tell you what, I'm not a huge fan of Oprah herself - her show is entertaining, but all the weird spiritual stuff she does is over the top to me. But have you heard about this school she built in South Africa? To me, it seems like a very, very good thing.
It's called the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, South Africa. Here's the website. It seems like Oprah, who has vast financial resources beyond measure, just wanted to give back in a meaningful way, something that would have a huge impact for the better. So she decided to go to Africa and build a school for girls ages 12-18, rescuing them from the deepest poverty and from the bleak future that awaited them. Out of the thousands of applicants, she and her team chose the 150 that had the most potential as far as academics, leadership skills, and personality. These 150 young ladies will live at the school (with running water and everyone has their own bed to sleep in - most of them have never had these luxuries), attend classes, and graduate with a world of resources available to them. (In fact, Oprah promised the entire first graduating class that she would make sure they ALL were able to go to the college of their choice, anywhere in the world. How much money does this woman have?!)

The neatest thing about the TV special was that most of it was just spent meeting the girls - learning their stories, seeing how they've been living and the hard work they're used to. Most of them have been raised by a grandparent because their parents are either dead or can't afford to take care of them. These girls have been through a lot. They are STRONG, and their stories will make you bawl. I was crying as I watched it!

If you missed it the first time, it's coming on again! Tomorrow (Saturday, March 3) on ABC at 7 EST/8 CST. Watch it or TIVO it to watch later. It's definitely worth seeing.

For me, I think it was so meaningful because I've lived in Africa. I've seen the poverty, the lack of education, the lack of opportunity. I know those girls, and I know what their futures look like. I could put names of my girls in Niger to go with all those South African girls you saw on that TV show. And Oprah, to quote what they said on the show, just "drastically altered the course of their future." She may not be the greatest, but she just made a HUGE difference in the life of 150 girls. Even if that's all this school is, it will have been worth it. I believe it will turn into more than that, because these girls are going to change their families, their communities, their nation, maybe even their continent! (One of them insists she's going to be the first woman president of South Africa!) I really hope they let us keep track of these girls, to see how they do and what becomes of them. I do have to say that this is an admirable thing Oprah is doing, she's making a difference the best way she knows how. Do it, girl.

1 comment:

Mrs.Waters said...

I thought it was interesting that when people criticized Oprah about not giving things like that to poor kids in the U.S., she said that American kids would not appreciate it and would not work hard to achieve like these girls would. Interesting! I agree that this is an awesome thing and a great way to use the ridiculous amounts of money she has.