An Unlikely Young Leader Who Survived the Slums in Tanzania

I have a story to tell you about a young man who inspires me to continue my work with students. I invite you to relax for a moment and fasten your seatbelt for a short biography of an unlikely young leader, surviving in the slums of Tanzania, Africa. As you may already know, incredible young people live everywhere in the world, and many of the best leaders live in unpredictable places.

Their difficult life actually summons them to lead.

Stephen has lived in the slum area of Arusha, as long as he can remember. Tanzania (much like in Kenya or Uganda) contains some of the most impoverished areas of the world. Like thousands of others, Stephen earns less than $1.50 a day. Most who live in this kind of scarcity don’t see any way out of the poverty cycle. They’re just doing time.

Stephen, however, is different.

It began when Robert, and his “LEAD Tanzania” team began to cast vision to Stephen and other teens like him that they are leaders and have great potential to influence their community, beginning by changing the trajectory of their own personal lives. Even though life is tough, these kids began to adopt hope instead of despair—and it all started by seeing themselves differently. Rather than being victims of their circumstances, they could be drivers of positive change.

Picture Yourself as a Leader

The “LEAD Tanzania” team has been teaching Habitudes® (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes) in this Arusha slum. Young Stephen decided to attend the course after one of the trainers gave him a shirt and a pair of shoes to wear. These items were, in themselves, offerings of hope.

Slowly the trainers began to see Stephen’s face light up as he associated the images with leadership principles that enabled him to live a different way.

According to “LEAD Tanzania,” Stephen’s life was dramatically impacted when they discussed the image called, “Opportunity Statue.” It’s all about the ancient statue in Greece called, Opportunity. The statue looked like a normal human up to the neck, but the head was quite unique. It had long, flowing hair coming down in front of the face, but was completely bald in the back. The statue served as a reminder to Athenians that opportunity was something you could grab hold of when it was coming at you—but you could never get hold of it once it had passed.

Stephen suddenly saw some of the local challenges as opportunities to grab.

When he examined the community around him, he saw many young children on the streets with no place to go. Their parent was out looking for work or trying to find water or something to eat. Stephen then discovered an empty room that no one was using. To make a long story short, this poor teen took that empty room and those empty children and created a Day Care Center for them, with programs much like what he had gone through himself as a young teen.

The parents in the community were so impressed with what he’d done, they lobbied the local government to offer Stephen more. He now has an entire house with five rooms, and provisional permission from the local government to start a school.

Young Stephen was transformed from a teen who needed help to a leader who had much to offer serving others. What’s most exciting to me is—stories like his take place thousands of times around the world every week.

This is why I say: Leadership matters—and it matters disproportionately.

May I Invite You into These Stories?

So, I have an invitation for you. While you may not feel you have much to offer, I’d love for you to join me as I donate to places like these around the world. I have traveled to fifty countries globally to teach young leaders—and I can tell you one fact for sure: young people are stunningly receptive to the training. In fact, Generation Z (the youngest generation being measured globally) is more interested in leadership development than the previous three generations before them.

As 2017 comes to an end, will you join me in giving to The Growing Leaders Initiative which is the philanthropic arm of our work? Every dime you give goes straight to programs in developing nations or underserved schools here in the U.S.

With your help, we can resource more stories like Stephen’s.


Support Students Like Stephen


You can help bring Habitudes to students, just like Stephen, in disadvantaged environments both domestically and around the world. Many who believe in Habitudes have already joined as supporters.

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An Unlikely Young Leader Who Survived the Slums in Tanzania