Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oprah embraces 'mother role' as she watches first class graduate from school she founded in South Africa

After handpicking 72 underprivileged girls from South African shantytowns five years ago, giving them the opportunity to leave their homes for higher education, the 58-year-old said she has been able to experience all the ups and downs of motherhood.
Oprah Winfrey is not mother herself, but thanks to the first graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, she said that she now 'gets it'.
'We're texting all the time, she told Nightline. 'I was on the phone last night for an hour with one of them.'

Now, five years later, after implementing the idea inspired by Nelson Mandela, the girls are in American colleges.
Ms Winfrey said: 'What is the single, life-changing, trajectory-changing moment for me was being exposed to a world of education that offered me insight into how I saw the world, and I just wanted to do that for somebody else. That's all.'

According to Forbes, Winfrey has devoted $400million to the girls' education in the U.S. and abroad, building a school in Meyerton, South Africa.
Her journey is chronicled in a two-hour documentary called, The First Graduating Class: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which will air on the OWN, Sunday at 11pm ET.
Ms Winfrey said she wanted to make a point of donating her time and energy, not just money, to the cause.
While travelling back and forth to South Africa, she said she developed meaningful relationships with the girls, and was now facing something akin to Empty Nest syndrome, watching them get ready for college life.
'I can't believe I'm weeping over Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond,' Ms Winfrey said.
'The morning that we were all getting dressed to go shopping at BBB for their college dorms, I mean, it just [was] the moment it hit me that all the pain, really, and challenges, and difficult circumstances, and the crisis we went through in 2007, and all the questions and times I thought about, "Give them the money and step out of this and let them have it," it all came to a head, a joyous fruition.'
The crisis she is referring to happened shortly after the school opened in the small town outside of Johannesburg.

Pajama party: Oprah Winfrey is not mother herself, but thanks to the first graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, she said that she now 'gets it'

Virigina Tiny Makopo, a school matron, was charged with sexually molesting several girls.
Ms Winfrey flew to South Africa to personally apologise to the students and their families in 2007, and fired the school's headmistress, Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane.

Faced with the scandal, Ms Winfrey said: 'It takes a level of commitment and leadership, and a commitment to sustainability in the long term that makes all the difference.
'I'm in a really, really, really good space,' she added.
'I will tell you what has brought me the greatest happiness - so really, really unexpected. Being able to step into the mother role and be a real mother friend companion advisor, comforter to these girls has added another level to my life that really just came as a surprise to me.
'I didn't really know that I would love it so much.'

One of the most emotionally charged moments for Ms Winfrey was when the school was being built, and the girls realised they had plumbing for the first time.
'They were most excited about the plumbing, because it means, "I can take shower, I don't have to find buckets of water that are two kilometers away, I don't have to share a pump with 56 other people, I can have my own bed, I can flush the toilet"'.
And now, as the girls prepare to continue their under-graduate education, Ms Winfrey said she will still be providing support for them
'I knew from the moment that I met these girls that I was going to fall in love with them, and I did,' she said. 'When you change a girl's life, you change not just her -- you change the whole family.'

Five years later: The class is now preparing to go on to U.S. universities, and Ms Winfrey said she has been able to experience the trials, tribulations, and joys of motherhood

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