Real Housewife of D.C., Stacie Turner, is not all about the glitz and glamour of Washington, D.C. She focuses on giving back to the community with her organization, Extra-Ordinary Life (XOL), which works to enrich the lives of teenage girls in foster care.
Turner, who got her masters degree in business administration at Harvard’s business school, was born into foster care in Washington, D.C. and adopted as a baby. She explains that she was fortunate enough to be adopted by loving parents who helped her develop a positive image of self as well as the desire to succeed in life.
“My passion to start XOL stems from a recognition that I have been incredibly blessed and have an obligation to pay that forward,” she said.
Many foster children in the district do not have an adult figure to seek support from or a permanent home to live in. Turner says that the kids are living a lifestyle of constant trauma and change.
The purpose of XOL is to broaden the horizons and break the boundaries of the girls in foster care, as well as inspire them to dream big and see what is beyond their current circumstances.
“I want to influence the direction of their lives by providing meaningful experiences that shape their perception of the world and their lives,” Turner stated. “I want them to have the same things that I want for my own children—the “right” guidance, exposure and access that positions them to compete, thrive and matriculate to college.”
This past summer XOL partnered with DC Child and Family Services (CSFA) to take 8 girls to South Africa during the FIFA World Cup. Before the trip, the girls were matched with 8 South African orphan girls as pen pals. For a few months before the trip, the D.C. foster girls and the South African girls would write to each other on laptops donated by Microsoft.
When the girls arrived in South Africa, they met their pen pal friends.
“It was remarkable to watch kids from different worlds bond immediately…discovering and sharing their commonalities in life as foster children, or just as teenagers,” Turner said.
During their time in South Africa, the group visited cultural and historical sites, went on a safari, and traveled to Durban for a private Zulu theater performance, among many other activities. They even experienced the Indian Ocean, which for many of XOL’s girls, it was the first time they had even seen an ocean, says Turner.
In addition to the cultural festivities, the young ladies of XOL served kids at a school in Soweto and visited poor towns where children lived in homes without plumbing and electricity.
“One of the most important lessons learned by us all, especially the girls, is that total lack of material wealth does not necessarily make one miserable. This is a radical notion for most American teenagers. After the XOL trip, our girls now know it’s real,” Turner stated.
Turner believes that in order to better the lives of D.C.’s youth, more families need to be willing to participate in the lives of other youth in order to accelerate the process of change, whether it be through adoption or as a foster parent.
She explains that CSFA has been working with XOL to help D.C.’s youth and has been open to new ideas to facilitate change.
“Further, we need the District Government to continue its focus on education reform in our city, which encouragingly, seems to be happening,” Turner said.