When Dr. Marlon-Ralph Nyakabau received news of his selection as a 2014 Washington Fellow, part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders initiative, he was ecstatic but had to keep his celebration muted.
“I was in the back seat of a moving car at the time so my expressions could only be limited to repeatedly yelling “Yes, Yes!,” recalls Marlon who is also a poet and a blogger. “Anything more than that would have caused an accident.”
Since 2009, he has spent most of his time as a volunteer with the Champions for Life program, a calling born out of his religious convictions, as well as his faith in humanity. “I have been involved in volunteerism with a firm belief that life is essentially about Serving God and edifying my fellow man,” says Marlon. Champions for Life is a faith-based psycho-social support and leadership development program for children, adolescents and young adults living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to the program, Marlon has led several charity initiatives during his time as a medical student. His work has taken him to Chitungwiza, where he led Celebration Health’s initiatives during the 2008 cholera outbreak, Gokwe in Midlands province, Masvingo, and Mount Darwin in Mashonaland East.
Marlon will spend six weeks studying civic leadership at Wagner College in New York, where he also seeks to learn more about public health programs. “I’m also looking forward to experiencing the ‘Wagner Plan,’ a distinctive type of education that involves engaged, integrated and transformative learning,” says Marlon. To “learn how social programs are being designed and implemented to impact the lives of common individuals,” he is hoping to actively participate in community outreach projects in disadvantaged areas.
Upon return, he hopes to work in a rural district. “I will not just be a young medical doctor but a community asset,” he says. He aims to establish more local innovations that solve common challenges such as power, water access, unemployment, education and health care.
He believes programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative fosters development by its very ethos. “President Obama had the foresight to see that Africa’s young people in the near future will have a greater influence on the global economy than ever before,” he observes. “It is evident that a secure and prosperous Africa also translates to a more prosperous America and rest of the world at large.”
After graduating, Marlon took up a job as coordinator of the Champions program in Bulawayo where he has been a mentor and friend to young people living with HIV. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery from University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences. He has also served as the chair of the Christian Medical Fellowship of Zimbabwe Students Fellowship where he organized medical outreach programs that provided free medical and surgical care to people in rural communities.
BACKGROUND ON THE YALI WASHINGTON FELLOWSHIP
• Watch the video message from President Obama encouraging young African leaders to join the YALI Network.
• For more information on YALI go to http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/yali/
• For more information on the Washington Fellowship, including video of President Obama’s announcement of the program go to http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellows/