I’m a big Oprah fan. She is just inspiring. And if you didn’t see her very last show, I suggest you find a friend that might have taped it because it is a master class in life. Her insights, wisdom and advice were fantastic. I had also heard that she was going to announce her favorite guest of all time and I had my thoughts as to who it might be. My guess was John Travolta, whom I also adore. But I was wrong. Oprah’s favorite guest of all time was a woman named Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean woman who, in Oprah’s words, was “not allowed to have an education,” was married at 11, had three children by 18, and whose husband beat her every day. Trent wrote down her dreams: to move to America and earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, as well as a PhD. She did every one of those things, and first appeared on Oprah’s show in 2009. As Oprah welcomed her back, she exclaimed, “my favorite! Of all time!”
It is a remarkable story and as I listened to it, I could not help but be struck by the parallels that Tererai’s story has to Anne Okelo, the subject of the documentary “Well of Dreams.” Anne was also not supposed to have an education and it was her culture to be married at age 14. But Anne was determined to have her education and she refused forced marriage at age 14. Because of that she was shunned from her village. Anne moved to a neighboring village and while there, a man taught her to make candles. Anne made candles and she sold them along the road to earn money for her education.
Also like Tererai, Anne had a dream to move to America. She did that and in May of 2010 she earned a masters degree in non profit administration. Anne is now back in Kenya working with her people to help educate them and advise community leaders of the need to better the lives of women and children who are very oppressed even now.
I talked with Anne the other day and she is anticipating my travel to Kenya in just a few weeks. As we conversed I learned that many are approaching Anne for advice and guidance because of all that she has accomplished for her village. One example is a group of 14 or so young women who want to better themselves. They asked Anne for help and she said she would help them. So, Anne gathered a group of 15 or so older women of that village and she put the two groups together so that the older women can teach the younger women to make pottery and other things. The plan is working famously and Anne tells me that the young women are so excited because they are now selling some of the things they make at market and earning money for the first time in their lives.
I applaud both Anne and Tererai. They are role models and women of great faith and courage. And they are an inspiration to all of us.
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