Tin Can Dreams

Tererai Trent was born in1965 in a village in Zimbabwe. As a child she was not allowed to go to school because of her gender. Her brother wasn’t interested in school, but was forced to attend. Tererai learned how to read from her brother’s books and started doing his homework for him.

When her brother’s teacher discovered that she was doing him homework, she begged Tererai’s father to allow her to attend school. He relented and Tererai attended for a short time period. But when her father was offered a cow if Terari would be married, he sent her off to a new life.

Tererai had three children by the age of 18. When she asked to be able to continue her education, her husband beat her. She never gave up and when the president of an international foundation visited her village, she was asked what her greatest dream was. Tererai answered that she wanted to come to America and eventually earn a PhD. Tererai’s mother encouraged her to record her dream and place it in a tin box and bury it.

Seven years later she and her husband moved to Oklahoma with their children, now numbering five. Within three years, Tererai had a Bachelor’s degree. She returned home and dug up the tin box to check off the degree she just earned.

Tererai completed her Master’s degree two years later, no longer with a husband. He had been deported for abusing her. She again returned home to check off her next degree. She remarried, and six years later earned her PhD.

Tererai came to the attention of authors who were capturing the stories of those who were achieving something in their lives despite insurmountable obstacles. Oprah Winfrey learned about Tererai and asked her to come on her show. Later, Oprah reflected that Tererai was her all-time favorite guest and donated $1.5 million so that Tererai could build a school in her village.

Tererai has subsequently built several schools in Zimbabwe. She has also written children’s books and a self-help book for women who have dreams of a better life.

Tererai’s story is one of hope and fulfillment. It’s hard to imagine what drives a person to hope when there is nothing giving them hope. What Tererai has done is to inspire others who have also been given no hope to rise up and fulfill their dreams.

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“Education is a birthright, not a privilege.”  – Dr. Tererai Trent

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