When the young filmmakers returned home with hours and hours of unedited footage, Charlie called on his mom's friend, Gayle King, for advice. Gayle, who also happens to be Oprah's best friend, watched a rough cut of Ithuteng and offered Charlie some valuable tips.
Finally, Ithuteng was ready, and Gayle passed Mama Jackey's story on to Oprah. After seeing the film, Oprah decided she needed to meet Mama Jackey in person.
While Oprah was in South Africa overseeing construction of her own school, she made a special trip to Soweto to meet Mama Jackey and speak with some of her students.
The girls Oprah met shared heartbreaking stories of rape and incest. One of Mama Jackey's students told Oprah she was raped by her father when she was only 15 years old. Another girl says that her brother raped her when she was 5 years old. Both girls believe that they are to blame for their sexual assaults. "This is not your fault," Oprah assures the girls.
Then, Oprah offers words of hope. "You can take that pain, and you can turn it into power," she tells one young victim. "You can be one of the most powerful girls Africa has ever known because of your pain."
While many of Mama Jackey's students have experienced unimaginable pain, they have also found great power through the recovery process.
"They use [pain] as fuel," Kip says. "They used what they went through as their inspiration—as what gave them their strength. Sharing that struggle together is what brought them sort of joy...and it was what helped them move forward."
By sharing personal struggles with their classmates, many of Mama Jackey's students are able to move on and mend their spirits. Oprah says she's still amazed how African children can live through such painful experiences and "still have a vibrancy and a love and a spirit that transcends all of that."
"A determined fight," Charlie says. "That's what we called it."
After producing this powerful documentary about forgotten children and dealing with the death of his younger brother, Charlie says he's learned to be thankful for every day that he talks to his mom and dad. Now, he says he knows the value of "absolute love."
After the crash that killed Teddy, Charlie says he won't go a day without telling his family, "I love you." This, he says, Mama Jackey taught him. "She says to [her students], 'You tell each other you love each other—and you believe it.' It's not just words. It's this sense of community that has to happen."
Ithuteng is scheduled to air on HBO this fall.
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