#1: Dr Tererai Trent (Part 1) – The Power of Dreaming Big

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In our very first Dream Life podcast, Kristina speaks with Dr Tererai Trent, one of the most internationally-recognised voices for quality education and women’s empowerment – and Oprah Winfrey’s all-time favourite guest!

Born into poverty, uneducated and married, Tererai was already a mother of four by the age of 18. Little did she know that a chance visit by an American woman, who inspired her to dream would lead to her mother encouraging her to write her seemingly unachievable dreams down on paper. This became the starting point for an inspirational journey to making her dreams a reality.

Dr Tererai Trent is living proof of the power of dreaming, and that no matter where you start in life, your dreams are achievable. In fact, her story is so powerful, we had to create a two-part podcast in order to share it all with you.

In this episode - part 1 of 2 - you will discover…

  • How Tererai overcame a difficult childhood in rural Zimbabwe and how you can apply her simple approach to your own challenges
  • How a chance visit from a stranger sparked her incredible dreaming journey, inspiring her to dream big – and how that can work for you
  • The power of writing your dreams on paper
  • How you can start from anywhere and achieve your own dreams
  • How you can overcome obstacles and barriers as you chase your dreams, including how to deal with self-doubt
  • How, no matter the circumstances you’re coming from, you can achieve everything you dream, and so much more!

When you've finished listening to part 1, be sure to continue listening to part 2 of this inspiring conversation here>


EPISODE OVERVIEW ‘Dr Tererai Trent’s story of dreaming and chasing dreams is, without doubt, the most amazing I have ever come across. Chosen by Oprah Winfrey, from the tens of thousands of guests she has ever interviewed, as her all-time favourite guest EVER. Tererai truly is one of my heroes.’  Kristina Karlsson.

Born into poverty, uneducated and married, Tererai was already a mother of four by the age of 18. Little did she know that a chance visit by an American woman, who inspired her to dream would lead to her mother encouraging her to write her seemingly unachievable dreams down on paper. This became the starting point for an inspirational journey to making her dreams a reality.

Tererai’s approach to writing down her dream and visualising herself making them happen, combined with her steadfast determination, hard work and belief in her dreams would eventually earn her multiple degrees, and a prominent global platform with world leaders and international businesses and audiences where she advocates for universal access to quality education.

Now a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator and founder of Tererai Trent International, Tererai has also released her first book, An Awakened Woman and a wonderful children’s book, The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Tin Can: A True Story.

Her story is a triumph of the human spirit and the incredible power of dreaming. Hearing her wisdom and tips in this podcast are sure to inspire you to consider your own dreams, write them on paper and then set out to achieve them.

 ‘Tererai’s story shows that you can have nothing, come from nothing and still achieve everything you dream.’ Oprah Winfrey


If you loved this episode and found it useful, please rate, review and subscribe, and help us spread this inspiring message by sharing our Dream Life podcast with the hashtag #101milliondreamers.

Our dream is to inspire and empower 101 million people around the world, just like you, to write down 3 dreams, and go chase them.



Kristina: 00:04 When was the last time you had a dream written on paper and really believed in that? I’m Kristina Karlsson, founder of global Swedish design and stationery brand kikki.K, and author of the book Your Dream Life Starts Here. I’m on a mission to start a global dream life movement. I’ve set myself a huge goal of inspiring 101 million people to dream big and make it happen. I want to inspire you to be one of those 101 million dreamers. In this podcast series, we’ll be going on a dreaming journey with some of the world’s most inspiring and interesting people. Join us as they share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. We’ll be talking to incredible people from all walks of life. The one thing they all have in common is they all started with a dream.

Welcome to the very first Dream Life Podcast. We have got an incredible episode coming up. Dr. Tererai Trent’s story of dreaming and chasing dreams is without doubt the most amazing I have ever come across, and I cannot wait to share it with you. Tererai was chosen by Oprah Winfrey from the tens of thousands of guests she’s ever interviewed as her all time favorite guest ever. In Oprah’s words, Tererai’s story shows that you can have nothing, come from nothing, and still achieve everything you dream.

Kristina: 01:43 Born into poverty in a war-torn rural Zimbabwe, married off at the age of 11, denied an education, a mother of four by 18, stuck in an abusive marriage, Tererai was prompted by a stranger to consider and write down her seemingly unachievable dreams on paper, which was a starting point for an incredible journey to making them happen. Her story is a triumph of the human spirit and the incredible power of dreaming, and hearing first-hand her wisdom and tips will without doubt inspire and move you to consider and write your own dreams on paper, and then set out to achieve them. So let’s get started.

Kristina: 02:28 A very warm welcome Tererai. I’m so excited to have you on our podcast. Thank you so much for taking time to be part of this today.

Tererai: 02:36 Thank you Kristina for having me. Thank you.

Kristina: 02:39 I am absolutely in awe of your incredible story, and I’d love you to talk through your story and really get us to understand how it all started.

Tererai: 02:53 I was born in a country that was known as Rhodesia and today we are known as Zimbabwe. I was born during the colonial era when we were ruled by the British turned to be the Rhodesians, and born in a very small rural area where there was no electricity or running water. Even up to today we don’t have electricity and running water. Very, very poor, born during the war, grew up during the war, the war that liberated my country. Many kids had no opportunity to go to school mainly because of poverty, and unfortunately as though I was following the same pathway as my great grandmother, my grandmother and my mother, I was married when I was very young.

Tererai: 03:49 I was already a mother at 14 years of age and all these women had been exchanged for a cow. So I was also exchanged for a cow. Sometimes I hate to call it marriage because when you are exchanged for a cow, that’s no marriage at all. But anyway, by the time I was 18 I was a mother of four children and one of the babies died as an infant because I failed to produce enough milk. It was a very difficult time for me, but I was very fortunate in many ways that despite the challenges that I was facing, I was always surrounded by these great women — my grandmother, my mother, and women in the community who supported me. So it was like a cadre of women helping one another.

Tererai: 05:06 Unfortunately, I was married to a very abusive husband, and during that time, and even up to now, there is always a societal agreement, I don’t know whether to call it an agreement, that women, for you to survive and for you to thrive, you have to be married. So many women we would find ourselves in these abusive relationships uneducated. So you remain in this marriage even if you know it’s an abusive relationship.

Tererai: 05:28 I survived in that abusive relationship. It was horrible. The worst thing was my husband was a very jealous man. He didn’t want me to have an education even though I wanted so badly to have an education, because I had not received enough education. I thought after seeing when we gained our independence and I would see other women and I would see Americans coming in, carrying their books and talking as though they’re educated and talking about the importance of education … when I was young I never had a chance to go to school, never went to the kindergarten. So I would spend most of my times either collecting firewood, carrying water, or going to the fields to chase the baboons or birds that were eating our crops. Most of the time because this was during the war, men, most of the men and younger men would leave the village running away from the war, either joining the war or finding employment in urban areas.

Tererai: 06:42 We would remain home as women and children and what was interesting was these men, when they left, they would only come home once a year, like during Christmas time. The only means of communication were letters, letters that would come to women, women who could not even read those letters. So the young men who were attending school would be the ones that would help the women to read those letters, and I hated it, with all passion, I never liked that. My aunt, her husband had left and he would write letters home, and my aunt did not know how to read those letters, and she would ask me, I think I was around six or seven years of age. She would say, “Can you accompany me to get my letter read?” I was excited to accompany my aunt because I was curious to know what my uncle had written as well, though we would find a young man to read the letter and my aunt would say, “I don’t believe what this man has read. Let’s go find someone else.”

Tererai: 07:55 So we would go to a different direction and find someone to read. My aunt would still say, “Yeah, there are some things that are similar, but I don’t totally believe. Let’s find someone else,” up until we found a third person to read my aunt’s letter. By the time we went back to the village, I tell you, every Jack and Jill in the community knew the contents of those letters. I could feel myself boiling because I could watch my own aunt crying emotionally because people are now talking about the intimate details of your own personal life. I would go to my grandmother and my mother and cry and say, “I don’t want anyone to read my letters. I want to be able to read and write so no one can read those letters.” That began the journey for me to desire education. That began my hunger for an education because I wanted to read and write. I wanted to be someone.

Tererai: 09:15 I come from a long line of generations of women, women who had been married very young but also had their own dreams. So, I have my great-grandmother, she was married off when she was very young and my grandmother would go through the same thing as well as my mother, but all I wanted was an education. When I reflect on these women, all of them, they were very smart women. My grandmother was actually a traditional healer. She would deliver babies in the community. So here I was 18 years of age without a high school education, and I wanted an education and I knew that my kids were also going to go through what I had gone through, and I didn’t want that.

Tererai: 10:24 A woman from the United States of America, she came to the village, because all of a sudden when we gained our independence, many from foreign countries were now coming into Zimbabwe. She found me sitting in a circle with other women. Her name is Jo Luck, but I didn’t even know her name that time. So Jo Luck came to the village and found me sitting in a circle with other women. I think there were about 12 or 15 women, and we were just discussing our normal chores and just talking about what we can do. So she comes in and she joined us and she sat there and I’m just looking at this woman fascinated because I had never seen a white woman coming into the village and sitting with us. Especially the way she sat, she sat on the ground and then she asked us, “What are your dreams?”

Kristina: 11:40 Wow.

Tererai: 11:42 I had never had anyone ask me my dreams before and I am thinking, “Me, a poor black woman who had been oppressed living in an abusive relationship, what kind of dreams and hopes do I have?” She kept on asking, “What are your dreams?” The other women had talked about their own dreams. They wanted to make sure that their kids are educated, their kids they have school uniforms, they have shoes, and I’m thinking, “I don’t want to talk about the education of my children. I want to talk about my own education.” She looked at me and she said, “You have been quiet. What are your dreams?”

Tererai: 12:37 When I opened my mouth, I said, “I want to have an education.”

Tererai: 12:42 She said, “What kind of an education?”

Tererai: 12:45 I said, “I want to have an undergraduate degree, and I want to have a master’s and a PhD.”

Kristina: 12:53 Wow.

Tererai: 12:54 She looked at me and she said, “If you desire those dreams, they are achievable.”

Tererai: 13:01 I am thinking, “Really?” Because at that time I did not have a high school education, and I am thinking, “How in the world am I going to have a PhD?” I think she saw doubt in my eyes, she said, “Yes, it is achievable,” and she kept on using the word ‘Tinogona’, in my language it means it is achievable. She actually said, “If you make mental notes in your mind and you believe in your dreams, they are achievable.”

Tererai: 13:40 So the other women who were sitting in the circle they were looking at me and thinking, “Oh my goodness. How can she say that?” Because they knew my husband was very abusive and they knew I didn’t have a high school diploma and Jo Luck confirmed in a way that inspired me that I can have my dreams.

Tererai: 14:06 So I ran to my mother, and I said, “Mother, I met this woman. She made me believe in my dreams.”

Tererai: 14:14 My mother said, “Write down your dreams on paper, and if you believe in your dreams, you will see them grow and grow.”

Tererai: 14:24 I come from a culture where when a child is born, the elders of the village, and usually the female elders, they would snip of the child umbilical cord, or the birth cord, and they would tie that birth cord in a small cloth and bury the umbilical cord deep down into the ground. With the belief that when the child grows, wherever they go, whatever happens in their life, the umbilical cord will always remind them of their birthplace. So my mother said, “The same way we bury the umbilical cord, write down your dreams and bury them deep down in the ground. Wherever you go, despite the abuse in your life, the dreams that you would have buried would always remind you of their importance.”

Tererai: 15:28 So, I was ready to go and bury my dreams. At that time I had only written my four dreams: to go to America, to have an undergraduate, to have a master’s, and then a PhD. As I was about to bury those dreams, my mother said, “Would you mind reading back your dreams?” When I did, she said something so profound and I think that changed my whole life in many ways. She said, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community,” and I had no idea what my mother was saying. So I looked at my mother.

Tererai: 16:14 My mother was a very quiet woman, and she repeated the same thing, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community.” So I would end up writing my fifth dream, and I said, “When I am done with my education, I want to come back and improve the lives of girls and women, so the girls, they don’t have to go through what I had gone through as a child.”

Tererai: 16:51 I would go and bury my dreams, including that fifth dream, and my mother would say, ” If you achieve these dreams, not only are you defining who you are as a woman, but you’re also defining every life that comes out of your womb and generations to come.” So I realized in that moment that my mother was handing me an inheritance, and I also realized in that moment that my mother was helping me to see my past, but also to see a better future for myself to believe in my dreams. Also to realize that I needed to break this cycle of poverty in my family as well as in the community.

Tererai: 17:50 It would take me almost eight years from the day I buried my dreams to the day I then achieved my high school diploma. It took me eight years and I call those my eight years of failing. But also eight years of never giving up because I didn’t have to go to a normal school because I was an adult, and I needed to do correspondence. To do correspondence, you have to get your own textbooks and study. That time, because we were still under the British rule, our education system was under the British system in many ways. So I had to write my exams and send them to a place called Cambridge, and then wait three, four months to get my results.

Tererai: 19:00 Many times I would find I have a U which is ungraded. Sometimes I have a D or an F, failure, and I would go back, try to find more money. My mother was a subsistence farmer. So she would sell her maize and groundnut and help me with my tuition, and I would write again and send my paperwork to Britain and wait up until eight years and I had now achieved my high school diploma or a high school education. And I would find myself after completing my high school education in a very difficult position. I wanted to take my children with me to the United States. I didn’t want to leave my children behind. But my husband was very abusive. So he said, “You’re not going with my children. If you want to go to America, you go by yourself.” But I wanted to change the lives of my children. So I begged him and after about a year of waiting he finally agreed but on the condition that he would come with me to the United States. And I said, “Well, okay.”

Tererai: 20:34 So I ended up being short of money to come to the US. So I needed about $640 for my airfare. I had managed to buy tickets for the kids and I was short. So I went back to my community and my mother talked to the village head and everybody in the community. They contributed some money by selling goats and mangoes and any fruits that they could find, chickens, and raised the money that I needed. And so I found myself at Oklahoma State University in 1998. And I accomplished in my undergraduate.

Tererai: 21:34 But it was tough because here I was without any scholarship at all. I was an international student and I didn’t qualify for scholarships because I was an undergraduate student. Usually scholarships are given to graduate students. And so I would end up working three jobs to maintain the kids as well as pay for my tuition and my accommodation. It was tough because I was taking 16 to 17 hours of coursework and taking care of the children. There was a time when I realized my kids when they were brushing their teeth their gums were bleeding, oh, gosh, and I went back to the university because I realized that they were bleeding because they were missing fruits and vegetables, and I knew I was overfeeding kids with french fries and hamburgers in America. That’s the cheapest food. I couldn’t find fruits and vegetables. They were a little bit expensive.

Tererai: 22:57 So the university said … there was this guy at the university. He was the vice president of student affairs, Dr Ron Beer. And he said to me, “You can go to the local store. They will probably give you some leftover fruits and vegetables, and I hope you don’t mind feeding your kids these fruits and vegetables that usually at the end of the day, they throw them away because they are no longer fresh.” And I said, “No, I don’t mind.” So we went to the store and the store manager says, “No, we’re not going to give you the fruits and vegetables because if you feed your kids and if anything happens you might end up suing us.” And I said, “No, I have no money to sue anyone. Please help me so I can feed the kids.” So he would say to me, “Okay. Here’s what we’re going to put the fruits and vegetables in a cardboard box and I’ll place that cardboard box outside near the trash can, and make sure that 4 o’clock you come and pick your fruits and go and feed the kids.”

Tererai: 24:07 But anyway, I had 16 hours of coursework, three jobs. 99% of the time I was late to that cardboard box and I would find the cardboard box into the trash can and I would retrieve the fruits and vegetables from the trash can, wash them, and feed my kids. And I think what grounded me most was just to think that who I’m I to complain that I am feeding my kids from trash can when I knew there were probably thousands, if not hundreds of, children in Sub-Saharan Africa who live on the streets without any food at all and sometimes eating from dirty trash cans. And I would also say who am I to complain that I live in a trailer house because we didn’t have a proper accommodation? And in Oklahoma they have these trailer houses, and ours was dilapidated. The rain would come in and I’d find myself with the kids in one corner until the rain was over. But those were, for me, things that I realized the pain was worth it because I could see the end of the tunnel. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So when I finished my undergraduate I went on to do my graduate. My undergraduate was in agriculture and I did my graduate in plant pathology, which is the same field as agriculture. I come from subsistence farmers. I wanted to do agriculture. Plus I grew up with my grandmother who was a traditional healer. She would take me to the forest to look at all these medicinal plants.

Tererai: 26:07 So I was so much in tune with agriculture and with plants, with medicinal plants in general, and so I wanted to focus my life on agriculture. And so when I was done with my masters it was just too much. The kids did not have the things that they wanted. So I thought, “Well, let me take a breath and look for a job.” And I did. And I applied and got accepted in a small city, Little Rock Arkansas, and I realized the organization was Heifer International. One day I was just walking into this passageway and I see this woman. She looked at me and she said, “I know you.” And I am thinking, “Oh, my goodness. Yeah.” And I realized it was Jo Luck, the same woman that I had met some 14, 15 years ago.

Kristina: 27:25 Wow! That is just incredible.

Tererai: 27:27 And she said, “Yeah. You are from Zimbabwe.” And I said, “Yes.” And said, “Yeah. I know you buried your dreams.” And I said, “Yeah. I wrote down my dreams,” because she had inspired me also to think about my dreams. And so my first trip to Zimbabwe with my job I went to that place where I had buried my dreams and dug them up and checked going to America, attaining my undergraduate, my masters. And I had to rebury my dreams because I realized there was the PhD as well as the giving back to my community. So I came back to the United States and I enrolled myself at Western Michigan University where I then I achieved my PhD.

I realized it had taken me 20 years from the day that I buried my dreams to the day that I was now walking to that podium to receive my PhD paper.

Tererai: 28:45 And it was such an incredible feeling because I felt like a lawyer, that I had rested my case to the world to say that if we only believe in our dreams they are achievable. And if we only believe in the dreams of women and believe in their education and believe in giving women an opportunity to achieve their education, it is the best investment that any country or any society or any individual could do, because I truly believe that women have been left out, women have been silenced, and we have a moral obligation to help women.

Kristina: 29:54 So when I set myself impossible dreams I remind myself what you have done is just so incredible that I think any dream is possible after hearing your story. But I’m assuming… and I meet a lot of people out and about and they often tell me that they have self doubt.  So I’d love you to talk about how did you do… because I’m assuming you would have had some self doubt because your dreams would have seemed absolutely impossible. How did you deal with self doubt?

Tererai: 30:29 I always talk about a sport that they call relay where you have a team of four or six runners, and they are running in this relay in they’re holding the baton. The aim is to pass on this baton to the next set of runners, and they run and they pass it on to the next, up until they finish the race. So for me, when I think about fear I’d always think about this race. My great-grandmother was born into this race, this relay. And she was born holding what I call the baton, the baton of poverty, and the baton of illiteracy, the baton of early marriage. And she’s running so fast in this race and she hands this baton to my grandmother, the baton of oppression, the baton of poverty, and she runs with that baton she hands that baton to my mother, the baton of illiteracy, the baton of early marriage. And my mother runs and she hands over the baton to me. I never wanted to be part of that baton.

Tererai: 31:59 So when I think about fear, whenever I wanted to give up, I’d always think about this relay, this race. It would help me to talk to my fear and say, “I don’t want to pass this baton to my baby girls.” That helped me. I think the way to deal with fear is to face your fear and be able to talk to that fear and be able to be reminded of what that fear has done to you, what it has done to generations before you. When we avoid fear then we are playing right into fear, increasing our own vulnerability. I talk about my own vulnerability because I realize it is my source of strength. And so I have to really confront my fear and write down what I am afraid of and what that fear has done to my life. So that helped me in many ways for me to move forward with my dreams because I knew where I was coming from.

Kristina: 33:24 Given your own children have gone to university now, how does it feel to know that you broke the cycle of poverty and lack of access to education for your family?

Tererai: 33:35 It’s an incredible feeling that I have broken the baton. I am a very visual person. So when I see my kids excelling doing the academic work or attending universities and what have you, I always I see them holding a different baton, a baton that I helped redefine, reshaped, and I see them as they hold that baton they are running with a baton of artists, business women, engineers and they’re passing that baton to my grandkids and to my great-grandkids, but also passing the wisdom to other women.

Kristina: 34:29 That is just such an amazing story. And I think this is a story that a lot of our listeners will have to relisten to over and over when they are feeling like giving up, because having that dream that you had or the dreams that you had and then 20 years later achieving them is so incredibly inspiring. So thank you so much for sharing that.

Tererai: 34:51 I’m so grateful. Thank you very much for that. So after I achieved my PhD, after I have walked to that podium, felt like a lawyer, I felt empty because I kept on hearing my mother’s voice, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they’re tied to the betterment of others.” I didn’t have any money. I had achieved my PhD and I was still struggling. And I am thinking how on earth was I going to achieve that fifth dream? How on earth was I going to a give back to my community?

Tererai: 35:35 Dear mother, why did you ask me to write about that fifth dream? Why do you keep in coming back? Then I realized, “My goodness, this is sacred. This has never been about me,” and I started thinking about what business can I put in place so I can go back and build schools, so I can do something and improve the lives of women and fulfill that fifth dream. And I remember Jo Luck when she was in the village when she said, “It is achievable.” She used the word Tinogona. And I said, “I’m going to design my T-shirts and I’m going to have the word Tinogona on my T-shirts and I am going to sell these T-shirts and make and sell millions and go back home with enough money to build schools.”

Tererai: 36:42 Well, I only sold 20 T-shirts and mostly to my American friends. And I realized that, well, I only have an agricultural degree. I don’t give a marketing degree. I was so devastated. I didn’t know what to. And I kept on thinking about my dreams that throbbing. They can’t be throbbing deep into the ground for nothing, and I kept on thinking and I’m just overwhelmed when one day I got a phone call from the Oprah Winfrey Show and she donated $1.5 million, named me her ‘all-time favourite guest.’ And I knew my mother was right, my grandmother was right, my ancestors were right to say if we plant our dreams we bury them with the belief that they will grow and grow. And if we create the fertile ground, not only for ourselves, not only for our dreams, but also fertile ground for other dreamers out there, that’s success.

Kristina: 38:01 Wow! What an incredible story.

Tererai: 38:04 So today we have 11 schools going on from ECD (Early Childhood Development) all the way to high school twelfth grade. And we have kids that are performing much better compared to their urban counterparts and some of our students are already in universities achieving their own dreams. And I look back and I realize, had I only thought about my own dreams, we would not probably seeing the results that we’re seeing. And I think the native Americans and all the indigenous people of this world – they have really taught us to believe in the greater good. Human kind has not woven the web of life, we are one thread within it. Whatever we do to the thread we do it to ourselves. All things are bound together, all things are connected. We are here for a purpose.

Kristina: 39:13 Wow, that is just so inspiring. I am sure that a lot of our listeners are super inspired to have heard that you’ve been on the Oprah show. So I’d love you to just talk through what that experience was like.

Tererai: 39:28 Oh, I think it was one of the most amazing experience in my life, even up to now` I can’t wrap my head and understand it. All I can think of is Oprah – she illuminated my dream, but in many ways she was helping me to create a bigger platform to reach to more women. But she was also illuminating the platform for women to say to women and men, girls and boys, you can dream big and you can believe in your dreams, they are achievable. And I think she echoed that, and I still feel that in my bones because I work with her and I’ve watched how she believe in humanity. It’s amazing to be in her presence, it is. And she invited me her show, she had heard about my dreams and she asked me about my next dream and so I shared with her my fifth dream and she donated 1.5 million towards that fifth dream which I am now calling The Sacred Dream.

Tererai: 41:22 Because I realized my mother knew all along that it’s not only about our personal dreams in life, it’s not only about our financial dreams in life, it’s not only about the monies that we have in our banks, but it is about how our financial dreams, personal financial dreams are connected to the greater good. That’s the recipe for success. All along she knew about it and I had no idea and now here I am a sitting and with Oprah and looking into her eyes and she’s looking into mine and she’s saying, “I’m going to donate $1.5 million so you could fulfill that dream and you could build schools and you could have girls also attending schools and you can also empower women.” And all kinds of things, and I was so happy. At that moment I felt whole because I knew the universe in many ways had responded to my dreams.

Tererai: 42:40 I can share with you a story that I don’t normally tell people that years back I was in New York and Oprah had invited me to attend a women’s summit in New York, ‘Women in the World’. And she was introducing me as her hero and what have you. And then she asked me – because we were having our makeup done – and she asked me, “So what’s next Tererai for you? I see your schools have been built and all these things happening in your life, what’s next?” And I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, should I tell you what’s next?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m thinking of writing a book and I’ve already started writing, but I would love you to do the foreword for my book.” And Oprah looked at me and she said, “I don’t do forewords.” And I felt so bad because I thought, “Oh my goodness, here’s the woman who has done so much for me and I’m asking again for a foreword.”

Tererai: 44:02 And in that moment of my brokenness I looked into my bag and I saw a yellow notepad, you know those yellow stickers? And I just wrote on that yellow pad and I said, “Hey Tererai, this is Oprah Winfrey, I read your book. Oh my goodness, I love what you have written, I’m going to do your foreword.” And I folded that small note and I went home and I put it in my pillow, the part of the pillow that you don’t wash. I opened that and I sowed my pillow and I would have that note in that pillow for the next two years. And so when I finished my book, my publisher said, “Do you think you can find people who can do your foreword?” And I said, “Well, I’m thinking maybe Oprah might help.” And they said, “Oprah, she doesn’t do forewords. We only know of two, we don’t know if she’ll do it.” And I called and I said, “Hey, I have my book, can you do my foreword?” And said, “No, I don’t do forewords.”

Tererai: 45:35 And so she read the book – and I had given up on her – and it was six weeks before publishing the book and I was coming from, I think, from Jakarta. My flight arrived in Zimbabwe very late and by the time I went to bed it was past midnight and 2:30 AM the phone was ringing and I hesitated and I’m thinking, “Who is calling me?” And I looked at the phone and I went back to bed and the phone rang and I picked up the phone and the voice was, “Hey Tererai, this is Oprah Winfrey. I read your book and oh my goodness, ‘What breaks your heart?’ Where did you get that? I also read about the great hunger, I read about the invisible ladder.” And she’s saying all these things that were part of the manuscript and I couldn’t believe it and she said, “Girl, I’m going to do the foreword.”

Kristina: 46:47 That is just incredible.

Tererai: 46:49 I couldn’t believe it.

Kristina: 46:50 What did you do? Did you do a scream of excitement or you couldn’t believe it?

Tererai: 46:54 I was blubbering and I didn’t even know what to say and she said, “This message is so poignant, this message is needed by everyone in the world.” And I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness, yeah.” And three days after that she delivered the foreword.

Kristina: 47:20 Wow, thank you so much for sharing that story, it’s so inspiring and I really truly believe that dreaming comes first and not thinking about how it’s going to happen because obviously you didn’t know if she was going to do that foreword or not, but kept dreaming about it and thinking about it and writing about it and it came through. So wow, so inspiring. Both of you such powerhouses both together. How about Jo Luck? Do you have any contact with her now?

Tererai: 47:50 Yes, we do. In fact, we have shared one or two, I think two speaking platforms. We talk to each other all the time. She’s an amazing and incredible woman. I owe her my life because if I had not met Jo Luck, I think I’d still be back in my village and maybe by now I’d be dead from HIV and AIDS. I don’t know what would’ve happened to my life. She believed in me, it takes courage to find another woman or another individual believing in you and saying, “Yes, you can do this.”

Kristina: 48:39 Absolutely. Actually, in my book, I talk about having a list of 101 people that you want to meet. And I had put Jo Luck on my list, so one day I hope to meet with her.

Tererai: 48:53 Oh, she will be so thrilled. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Kristina: 49:01 I’m so curious about your kids now. How old are they and what are they doing now?

Tererai: 49:06 My kids are all grown up. The last born, she’s almost 22, she’s in college. Then I have another one, she’s 26, she’s at Western Michigan University, she’s doing biomedical sciences. And I have my son, he’s at Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s doing a biology with communication. And I have a daughter, she has a baby now, so I’m a grandma. She graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and I have gosh, another daughter, she’s in South Africa. My kids are everywhere, they’re all grown up.

Kristina: 50:00 Wow, you must be so proud and they must be so incredibly proud and grateful to what you have done to their life.

Tererai: 50:08 Oh no, I mean, they are the ones who give me hope because, gosh, I always say to my kids that I hope you not going to pass the baton or you’re going to pass the right baton to my grandkids. So if they can do that, oh, they’ve done a brilliant job.

Kristina: 50:36 Last question. So, as you know, both of us are so into the power of dreaming. So I love to ask you the last question now about your dream, your current dream, and what would you do if you knew you could not fail? What would you do if you had all the money, time and knowledge that you needed?

Tererai: 50:58 Create employment opportunities for rural women, because women are silenced in many ways, disempowered, forgotten and I wanted to create that platform so women can be employed. And I say that because the rural women that I work with, I live with, they also want to see their own children achieving their dreams for better education. So when we graduate our kids from high school, the mothers and grandmothers are finding themselves at a loss because they cannot send these kids for higher education. And the girls they normally get to stay at home because of the poverty of their mothers and grandmothers. So if I can create employment opportunities for women so we can all be in a position to educate more kids, I think that would be fantastic for me.

Kristina: 52:21 What a great dream, thank you for sharing. This is such an amazing story and it’s just so inspiring. So thank you so much for sharing with us and our listeners, but also for your wisdom and all the things that you do for the world. You are just so special and such a wonderful person and I’m so excited to be working with you to create a better world. So thank you so much for sharing and I cannot wait. One of my dreams, as you know, is to sell one million copies of my book because of each book, I will give you one US $1 per book sold. So my dream is to sell one million copies so I can hand over US $1 million  cheque. That will be an incredible dream come true. So I’m going to work very hard to make that dream come true. So thank you so much and thank you for being part of our podcast.

Tererai: 53:18 Thank you very much, I really appreciate and it’s women like you who make the world a better place to live and it’s just amazing to hear you say that you want to donate US $1 million to our cause.

Kristina: 53:36 I will definitely make it happen, I’m very excited. Thank you.

Tererai: 53:40 Me too, thank you very much.

Kristina: 53:45 Well, wasn’t that just amazing. What a story and what an amazing person. I am so inspired and I hope you got as much out of listening to her story as I did. I’m so proud to be donating a dollar for each book that I sell to Tererai’s foundation.

I particularly loved hearing her experience of how powerful it is to have your dreams written down on paper, something I have experienced myself and I would love you to experience that too. It’s something I believe in strongly and have focused on in my book Your Dream Life Starts Here. It’s well worth reading and exploring for yourself to help create your dream life, whatever that means to you. But overwhelmingly, the big message that I took from Tererai’s story is that no matter what your circumstances are, you can achieve everything you can dream. I really hope that our first episode has left you feeling inspired and excited to chase your own dreams.

Kristina: 54:45 If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, I encourage you to get hold of my book and the Dream Life Journal that I have created to go with it, which is the perfect place to start if you want guidance to help you on your journey of uncovering and chasing your dreams. And a great place for you to start now is to check out my 101 Dreams Audio Guide online at kikki-k.com/dreamlife. It’s a really powerful exercise from my book where I guide you through the process of opening your heart and dumping ideas for dreams on paper that you can sort through later. I’ve helped thousands of people around the world with this exercise and I think you’ll find it a great use of your time.

If you enjoyed this episode and found it useful, please help us spread this inspiring message to even more people by posting about it on social media with #101milliondreamers.

Kristina: 55:42 I would also love you to leave us a review which will help us inspire even more people. I would really appreciate your support with my big crazy dream to inspire 101 million people to write down three dreams on paper and go and chase them.

Finally, I am so excited to announce our upcoming dream live masterclasses in Melbourne in Sydney in late October. Join me live with Dr Tererai Trent and the remarkable Olympic gold medalist Alisa Camplin Warner for a magical three hour event where we will all share much of what we all learned about chasing and achieving dreams. Find out how to get your tickets via the podcast show notes. I’d love to see you there if you live nearby. Until next time, don’t forget to dream big and chase your dreams. Bye for now.


Please note: this is a full transcript of Kristina Karlsson’s conversation with Dr Tererai Trent.

1 comment

  • Fumi

    This is such a great podcast episode. Inspiring and as a woman born in Africa, this makes me proud and take all the limits of the table of what is achievable. As a podcast host myself, it is beautiful to hear the power of stories and the realization of dreams from someone relatable. There is nothing impossible with God . Thanks for this great interview Kristina and Dr Trent.

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