NEW YORK (December 31, 2006) — Frustrated with just donating money to charities, Oprah Winfrey says she built a school for poor girls in South Africa because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.
“I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write check after check,” she told Newsweek magazine. “At a certain point, you want to feel that connection.”
Winfrey spent five years and $40 million to build the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg.
The school for 12- and 13-year-old girls has 28 buildings on 22 lush acres. The school includes huge fireplaces in every building, a yoga studio, indoor and outdoor theaters and a beauty salon.
People criticized her, saying the school is too lavish for such an impoverished country.
“These girls deserve to be surrounded by beauty, and beauty does inspire,” she told the magazine. “I wanted this to be a place of honor for them because these girls have never been treated with kindness. They’ve never been told they are pretty or have wonderful dimples. I wanted to hear those things as a child.”