1. Last Year's Show
Oprah's ChristmasKindness journey to South Africa in 2002 was what Oprah calls "one of the greatest experiences of my life." Oprah and her staff of volunteers traveled to South Africa to bring Christmas joy to 50,000 schoolchildren and orphans devastated by the AIDS epidemic. She wanted them to know that somebody remembered them, somebody cared.
In 2003, we shared Oprah's ChristmasKindness journey with our viewers and after the show aired, thousands opened their hearts wider than ever. Donations ranging from 50 cents to $100,000 came streaming in from all around the world. In total, viewers donated more than $7 million to the Angel Network!
2. Uniforms at Phumza
At the Phumza primary school in the KwaZulu-Natal province, which has the highest rate of HIV in South Africa, nearly all children live in poverty. Despite the obstacles these young children face every day at home, they have a fierce determination to get an education.
A major hurdle in getting an education, however, is a requirement that all students have a proper uniform. The cost of each uniform is completely out of reach for most kids: at approximately $60 each, two uniforms cost more than many families make in a month. Even more heartbreaking is that these children will do just about anything to fashion a makeshift uniform so they can go to school. Most uniforms have been repaired more than twice, and some have been used for more than 10 years.
To combat this, the Angel Network is launching a $1 million school uniform program. Children all over South Africa will now feel a sense of pride when they go to school. Over the next few months, the Angel Network will give more than 16,000 uniforms to children in need all over South Africa thanks to your donations.
3. Sewing Circles
"When I got the phone call from the Angel Network, that was probably my wildest dream," says Dorothy Nairne, the founder of Africa Loves Babies, a children's clothing company that employs South African women. That call from the Angel Network was to ask if Africa Loves Babies would make school uniforms for kids in South Africa.
Thanks to the Angel Network's volunteers, hundreds of poor South African women now have jobs for the first time. Norah, one of the women who works for Africa Loves Babies, says, "The sewing circle is a miracle to us. This job, it gives me an independence for the first time."
"It's so much more than uniforms," Dorothy says. "It's uniforms that children will put on and wear and be able to go to school so they can pursue their education and change their own lives."
Photo credit: J. Tayloe Emery
4. Brad Pitt
The ChristmasKindness show inspired thousands to take action, including Brad Pitt, who recently went to Africa to see what he could do to help. "Six-thousand people are dying [from AIDS] a day, needlessly, because they don't have access to the drugs that we have," Brad says. "I feel that it is our responsibility to make those available. I had a woman who just heard about the drugs last week. She grabbed my hand. She said, 'Please. Please help us get the drugs.' ... I think about it every day since and I can't wait to get back.
"I feel like I witnessed the best and the worst of the human condition," Brad explains. "Physically, the worst, but the greatest spirit. We can do something really exciting, and we could help change a nation. And I want to help."
Brad has teamed up with the DATA Foundation, started by U2's front man Bono, www.data.org.
5. Alicia Keys
Another who made the journey to Africa, five-time Grammy® winner Alicia Keys, says that she also feels changed. When she first arrived, Alica says, "I felt kind of powerless. What can I possibly do? And so I just asked, 'What is needed?' And one of the main things, that was needed was access to medication so that they can save the children."
Through her involvement with the organization Keep A Child Alive
, Alicia learned that a child's life can be saved with as little as $1 a day. With treatment, HIV-positive mothers live longer and fewer children are orphaned by AIDS. "They need it now," she says. "It can't be tomorrow and it can't be three years from now when there's going to be 9 million more people dead. It has to be now."
Alicia even personally supports a group of HIV-positive mothers and children in Kenya. In honor of the great work that the organization Keep a Child Alive is doing, the Angel Network presented Alicia with a check for $250,000.
When Heidi, a 33-year-old film producer who works in Los Angeles, saw the ChristmasKindness show, she was spurred into action. "When Oprah stood there and said, 'We are all human beings, we all must do something,' I totally felt like she was talking to me. I thought, 'She is saying: You, Heidi, need to get off your couch. This is the time. You have got to give back. You've been given and given and given. So what are you going to do? What's your gift going to be?'"
Heidi joined a group that went to Nigeria to train women to administer a drug that dramatically reduces HIV transmission from mother to child. Heidi says she still holds the lessons of her experience. "If everyone committed one week, the world would change," she says. "In a year it would be a different place."
7. Chris Hani School
At the Chris Hani Independent School
in Cape Town, South Africa, almost 700 students pile into shipping containers that have been converted into a makeshift school. This is the only place these children can go to get an education. The Chris Hani School gets no government funding, so teachers rely on donations for their salaries. But with or without salaries, the dedicated teachers come to school every single day.
Thanks to your Angel Network donations, for the very first time in their lives, all of the children received books of their very own.
8. Kids Haven
is a shelter for street children like Kadi, whose own mother allowed men to rape her for money. Director Moira Simpson says, "All of our children have been abused. In fact, I think 95 percent have been sexually abused. We're trying to make a difference in their lives."
In addition to food and clothing, they receive something much more important and rare: therapy. "Most of the programs [at Kids Haven] are geared towards the children's self-esteem," Moira says. "Once their self-esteem is improved and they believe in themselves, they can become somebody."
And thanks to your generous donations, the Angel Network will be helping hundreds of children reclaim their lives and their spirits at Kids Haven.
9. Carl Sithole Centre
Angel Network donations are also helping the Salvation Army-Carl Sithole Centre
give comfort to those who are hit hardest by the AIDS pandemic and by poverty.
10. Masea Training Camp
Another Angel Network donation recipient is a remarkable camp in western Zimbabwe that focuses on kids orphaned by AIDS. The Masiye training camp (part of the Salvation Army) takes these kids whose parents died from AIDS and, with therapy, helps them work through their pain. Many of these orphaned children return home to raise their brothers and sisters. While the Masiye camp teaches them how to take care of their families, they most of all learn to believe in themselves. Now, thousands more orphan children will be able to attend this program. The Masiye program has inspired the Tshepo Ithemba Hope (Children of Hope) Camp in South Africa
After losing her beloved husband and her oldest son, Bhukani, a mother of seven, was heart-broken and devastated. To keep herself busy, Bhukani looked to the hundreds of children living in danger in her neighborhood. "These children need food," Bhukani says. "They need clothes, they need an older person who can come here and actually look after them."
Bhukani was inspired to start Ukukhula
, an after-school program that offers exactly the kind of nurturing they so desperately need: a safe place, something to eat and loving support.
When we visited Bhukani, the new clothes and school supplies from the Angel Network had just arrived. Bhukani expected to help 100 children, but more and more began showing up every day. With the Angel Network's contribution, Bhukani will now be able to start a much-needed second program, and more than 500 children will get the care they so deserve.
12. Mark Brown
Mark is a 39-year-old children's photographer. "When I saw the ChristmasKindness show, it really moved me," Mark says. "I wanted to do something. When I saw the faces of the kids, I knew that deep in my heart, as a photographer, I wanted to go to South Africa. I wanted to make a difference."
When he got to South Africa, Mark found a school and knew what he wanted to do. "When I told the teacher that I wanted to take class photos, the kids were amazed," he says. "They giggled. They laughed. They all cheered and screamed. They had never seen a camera in their life. Their expressions were priceless. Seeing the reactions was the most joyful experience. I see inspiration. I see that there can be change in this world. I see hope. My plan now is to go back and deliver these photos. For me, this is just the beginning."
13. Madison and Haley
The spirit of ChristmasKindness has even extended to the next generation. Sisters Madison and Haley braved a snowy winter day selling hot chocolate to raise money to help the children of South Africa...and made a donation to the Angel Network.
14. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
For more than 25 years, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu has fought tirelessly to turn a country in the throes of racial violence into a democracy for all. He's a living example of how bravery and kindness can change the world. Now, the Nobel Peace Prize winner hopes that the triumphs of his homeland can serve as an inspiration to world.
Oprah: In your book, you say that in order for there to be real peace in the world, women...
Archbishop Tutu: Women must take over. Women have a way of reaching out to others. I want to suggest that women start a revolution. God depends on you that you are going to turn this world into the kind of place you want. It should be a place of compassion, of gentleness, of sharing, of caring. Ultimately, God won't fail. The story is beautiful and we live happily ever after.
Published on December 23, 2004