By Scott Bolin
Guest Blogger, Freelance Writer
When you are born as a middle child in a family of 12, you find a unique role helping to align the family– or as Stephen puts it– “being the center of gravity”. And as that family grew up - enveloped in the war, corruption and injustices in Liberia - Stephen found a larger calling in helping to heal the world through human rights advocacy, and cross cultural communications. Those efforts shuttled him between educational opportunities in the U.S. and grass roots program implementation in his homeland. Eventually Stephen’s journey led him to Minnesota, where he helped develop and implement minority-focused financial assistance programs for homeownership in small towns across Minnesota.Stephen’s passion is not to change the world for other people, but to show others ways to make the positive changes they seek in their own world. That is what makes him a perfect fit to be a Financial Empowerment Coach at Habitat for Humanity.
Typically, one thinks of a coach as someone who leads a team towards a goal. Steve looks at the role more as a facilitator. Pointing out resources. Uncovering opportunities. Finding ways to navigate new customs, culture and financial systems. And ultimately, helping families discover new financial tools and skills to build enduring success on their own. For Stephen, it’s not just about putting a family in a home. It’s about building a foundation and framework for making sound financial decisions that will carry through from one generation to the next.
Leah Lehner, Homeowner Development Manager at Twin Cities Habitat, gave insight into Stephen’s value as the Habitat staff:
“Stephen’s motivation to empower participants to create lasting change in their lives is inspirational. His insights on cross cultural and racial barriers contributes to the ongoing development of a quality financial coaching program with unique approaches to support people from many cultures in reaching their goals.”
In a perfect world, of course, there would be enough resources, sponsors, money and volunteers to put every deserving applicant into Habitat home right away. But in reality, Stephen knows hard choices must be made, and oftentimes, it is not the candidates that look best on paper that make the most enduring success stories.
“Sometimes it’s those with the most obstacles to overcome,” Stephen said. "Those are the warriors. The ones with the commitment and zeal to make a real change for themselves, their family, and their community. Those are the ones most likely to sustain the gain, and carry that success well into their future and all areas of their life.”
Outside of his role at Twin Cities Habitat, Stephen is pursuing a second Master’s Degree, and is actively involved with area youth development programs. He also plays a mean Scrabble game (on and offline), and enjoys spending time with his family. Stephen is also quick to point out that feels he has found a new caring and giving family at Habitat for Humanity. One that provides a stage for his passion of helping people looking for a better life . . . to find just that.