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12/24/2013 10:33 pm ET

From The 'Oprah Show' Vault: Nelson Mandela's Christmas Surprise (VIDEO)

In 2002, Oprah and her staff of volunteers traveled to South Africa to bring Christmas joy to 50,000 unsuspecting schoolchildren and orphans devastated by the AIDS epidemic. Many of those children walked miles -- in tattered shoes or no shoes at all -- to meet up with the staff. When the children arrived, Oprah said, their joy was contagious.

Believing they were there to simply attend "a party," the children smiled, danced and laughed with the volunteers -- and got their feet measured. Without explaining why, Oprah's volunteers measured the size of each child's feet so they could later be sent home with a brand new pair of shoes. It was a surprise to many, who didn't realize there would be any gifts at the event.

But that wasn't even the biggest surprise.

As a helicopter descended toward a field near the tents, Oprah's own excitement was noticeable. "There's our 'Wizard of Oz' moment," she said, watching the helicopter. "Here comes the Wizard!"

The helicopter doors opened and out stepped former South African President Nelson Mandela. "To the world, the people of South Africa and to me, he is a beloved and inspiring hero," Oprah said.

Watch the video above to see the crowd's reaction to Mandela's arrival and hear how the late revered leader makes Oprah feel connected to the country.

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