Goals and Dreams Gain Meaning When Connected to the Greater Good: Tererai Trent Receives 2022 Hope Builder Award

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Tererai Trent, named Oprah’s “All-time Favorite Guest”, is an author of multiple books, including the children’s book based on a Tererai’s life, “The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can”. She is a scholar, humanitarian, speaker, educator and founder of Tererai Trent International

Tererai has been a longstanding, highly valued partner in our resilience work, having served as a Summit speaker and Resiliency Matters TV guest. We are thrilled to announce her selection  as Wordlmaker’s 2022 Hope Builder honoree and share her story as inspiration for others. The Hope Builder award is presented to a leader who responded to great adversity with courage and hope, showing us how to transform our own heartbreak into a better world for others.

Trusted Relationships with Supportive Adults Change Children’s Lives

From as early as she can remember, Tereai had dreams of an education. She was born and raised in rural Zimbabwe where the traditional and cultural norms dictated that, as a girl, she was not allowed to go to school. Despite this, when her brother’s teacher became aware of her self-taught academic skills, he persuaded her father to allow her to attend school in her earlier years. 

When eighteen-year-old Tererai crossed paths with Jo Luck, president and CEO of Heifer International, a whole new world of possibility opened up to her. Jo asked Tererai about the dreams she carried in her heart and then encouraged her to believe in these dreams, no matter what. Her message: if you believe in your dreams, they are achievable.

Traditions Hold Power to Root Your Dreams

Inspired by Jo Luck’s encouragement, Tererai shared four big dreams with her mother. “I want to go to America, get a Bachelor’s degree, get my Masters degree and earn a Phd.” Her mother challenged her to think about why she wanted to acheive these dreams. She explained, “Your dreams will have greater meaning if they are tied to the betterment of your community.”

Encouraged by her mother’s wisdom, Tererai  added a 5th dream to her list, “I want to improve the lives of girls and women in my own community.”

Following a local tradition of burying part of a baby’s umbilical cord in the soil near the birthplace to forever connect a child to their home, Tererai wrote down her five dreams, placed them in a tin can and buried the can under a nearby rock. As Tererai went on to accomplish each of her dreams, she returned home to dig up her tin can and check off the dream. Returning to her roots in this way infused Tererai with a renewed sense of purpose and belief in herself that helped carry her through the steep challenges and setbacks along the way.

Helping Others Gives Meaning to Your Dreams

Young, married, a mother to multiple children and with little financial funding, it took Tererai 10 years to complete her GED in Zimbabwe. Later, she applied for and was accepted as a student at Oklahoma State University. As she lived in Ameria, struggling with the impacts of discrimination, poverty, and the seeming insurmountable odds against her, she held tightly to a belief in her dreams and giving them meaning through connection to others.

Realizing that her dreams were not about her, but also about giving back to her community was a turning point that has shaped the rest of Tererai’s life. Keeping her sacred fifth dream in front of her, she has gone on to build more than 10 schools in Zimbabwe, improving education for over 5,000 children. She has written several books, guiding other women to dream big in service to others. And she has served as a hope builder for people around the globe, showing them how to persevere and transform their own heartbreak into a better world for others. 

Click here to learn about the other phenomenal 2022 Worldmaker Awardees. 

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