Monday, 22 October 2007

Oprah's Pay It Forward

True joy comes with giving.

Oprah Winfrey liaised with Bank of America to give $1,000 to each person in her audience BUT...they had to give it away to someone they did not know within seven days and report back, preferably with a short film.

The results were amazing. Perfect strangers reached out to others as some gave away the money in a random way whilst others gave themselves a challenging project which stretched far into the community.

Some of the ways people translated $1,000 into giving:
Coffee gift cards in Seattle
$500 gift card to a single mum to shop for her kids' Christmas presents at Toys r Us.
Huge tips given to pizza delivery men.
Four strangers chosen in the street to receive $250.
Money given to children who had just lost their father to cancer.
A picnic treating an entire community to a day of fun.
Basketball shoes for a boys team.

They changed the quality of life for individuals:
Four women combined their $1,000 to buy a car for a single mother, turning her four hours a day commuting by bus into 30 minutes by car.

For a single mother with five children, living with cockroaches and very little furniture, one woman arranged for exterminators, new beds, sheets, clothes, furniture, books so that their place felt more like home. She also started a college fund for the woman's kids to which she will contribute each year and is helping the mother gain her college diploma, also paying for her childcare. She said, "Whatever we’re doing for this family, we hope it will change their lives" to which the recipient replied, "It has made me feel like a brand new person."

One woman asked the community via the local paper for people to nominate individuals to receive the gift. She chose a 68 year old man who had never learned to read as he had to work to support his family. Recently he had started learning to read with a class of small schoolchildren who were learning. Their teacher nominated the man. His gift was his own books. With tears in his eyes, he said that God answered his mother’s prayer.

One woman had been attacked years ago in Denver and helped to recover with the Denver centre for attack victims. She asked them to nominate a worthy recipient and chose a woman who had been shot in the face by her boyfriend. He was sentenced to 48 years. The giver wanted to pay for reconstructive surgery but first she had to go back and face the ghosts of the attack. She raised $1,600. The woman felt blessed she had been chosen to receive the gift She said it made her feel whole again, gave her a little hope and encouraged her that strangers helped her to heal.

Some of the most challenging projects:
2 women decided to buy shoes for a whole school. The shoe shop matched their $2,000 and gave 425 pairs for free.

There was a Walkathon for a school to buy books for the local hospital - $63,000 total.

A family with 9 children whose father has a deadly brain tumour - friends and neighbours were enlisted to raise $7,500. It went further. The whole town joined in the appeal to raise a total of $71,400 in groceries, a college scholarship for son and to pay the man's hospital bils. His wife said it had saved their house from being sold to pay back taxes. This was all achieved in a town of just 14,000 people. They just started calling.

For a Hawaii home for sick children, one woman wanted to buy four round airfares for parents to visit their children. When she went to collect the tickets from the airport, the airline gave a further 40 round trips. One kid who had been fighting her lumps since March 2006, said it meant so much to have family visit.

Two sisters adopted a refuge for women, “my sister’s house”. To their $ 2,000 they added gifts of diapers, blankets, bibs, school supplies using the radio airwaves to raise the stake. Stores including Home Depot, Ikea and the Grocery Store also gave. Total value raised = $200,000.

“When you give, it comes back to you in ways you cannot imagine”. Oprah

In total 314 people passed on the gift.

"This is what being a star human being is about". – Oprah

Visit for more stories of how strangers helped to Pay It Forward.

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