LONDON, United Kingdom — Oprah Winfrey is a household name in the realm of media and celebrity. People best know her for her extensive philanthropic work to help others and combat global poverty and as the host of her hit talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which ran for 25 years. She created a vast multimedia and business empire, launching successful cable channels, participating in the production of movies and even investing stakes in a diverse range of businesses, such as Weight Watchers, in 2015.
Particularly salient about Winfrey’s journey is the fact that she hails from a tough upbringing. Raised in rural Kosciusko, Mississippi, U. S., she experienced periods of living without indoor plumbing, moved between the care of different adults and at times endured child abuse. These experiences have directly influenced the ways Winfrey is working to combat global poverty.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation
In 2002, the then President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, hosted Winfrey. In discussions about initiatives to combat poverty, Winfrey revealed her intention to provide schooling in South Africa, to which the president gladly responded and worked immediately to be able to implement these initiatives. Established in 2007, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls remains operational to this day. The academy admits students who have endured childhood poverty and confronted traumatic life experiences.
Education forms a central part of the ways Winfrey is working to combat global poverty. This academy, furnished by Winfrey’s choosing, hosts modern equipment and fittings, fostering great learning environments and even boosts a 600-seat theater. About 528 girls have graduated from the academy, with 90% of the students attending high-ranking foreign universities, such as Oxford and Stanford Medical School. The initiative’s continuing impact on poverty alleviation in South Africa is particularly acute when considering that the college attendance rate for students in the country is 20%.
Oprah’s Angel Network
The Angel Network formed in 1998 to engage individuals to mobilize in improving the lives of others and to help “create opportunities that enable underserved women and children to rise to their potential.” The organization makes a difference through direct action by supporting charitable projects and providing grants to NGOs, enabling them to achieve their missions. In its efforts to combat global poverty, it has partnered with “Free The Children” to construct schools in impoverished areas, addressing the fact that millions of children, mainly girls, in rural Africa “do not have an opportunity to go to school.” The collaboration resulted in:
- The construction of numerous schools in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a country where children are enlisted as soldiers and warring militant groups mutilate them.
- The establishment of seven schools in Managua, Nicaragua, enabling 350 previously unable children to attend school for the first time.
- The opening of a school in Dos Palais, Haiti, where hundreds of children, previously affected by political unrest, eagerly queued to access education.
- The building of 10 schools in India, including in Calcutta, with the help of volunteers. This initiative aimed to combat the fact that tens of millions of children were working on the streets and factories instead of receiving education, in some instances earning less than $0.50 a day.
The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation
Winfrey founded her umbrella organization in 2010 to engage in poverty alleviation efforts and contribute to organizations pursuing humanitarian goals. She has personally added $36 million towards this charity and stated that education is key to leveling the economic playing field and providing opportunities for everyone. In terms of impact, this organization has donated $400 million, contributed to the education of 72,000 people and served 75 million meals.
Personal Volunteering and Granting
Furthermore, Winfrey has actively engaged in personal fundraising pursuits, including auctioning a portion of her car collection to generate funds. Additionally, she has participated in unique initiatives like signing a wooden dog bone, with the proceeds earmarked for charity. Over the course of her career, Winfrey has donated millions of dollars through various foundations she established. She has also advocated for the passing of bills, such as the National Child Protection Act, which established a registry of child abusers and came to be known as the “Oprah Bill.”
The above shows the extent to which Winfrey is working to help improve the living conditions of the world’s most vulnerable.
– Tevin Muendo