Leadership Trainer  Builds International Youth Activist Movement

American Marshall Bailly, 27, is the founder of an organization that empowers university students in Africa and Asia to create sustainable community service projects.

As VOA's Michael Lipin reports, Bailly is making a difference through development projects in Namibia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Marshall Bailly went to Namibia in 2003 with a mission - to help university students like him improve their societies.

At the age of 20, he developed a leadership program with the University of Namibia to teach social activists skills such as fundraising and accounting.

Bailly's trip to Namibia marked the birth of "Leadership Initiatives," or L.I. - an international development organization he founded while he was a student at American University here in Washington.

Bailly came to the nation's capital to fulfill his ambition to travel abroad - something he had never done while growing up in a small town in the Midwestern U.S. state of Michigan.

"They have all of these programs where you can actually go study abroad," Bailly said.  "So throughout college, I had gone, through American University, to China, Japan, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, and actually seen how these countries were developing and how maybe I could partake in their development."

Marshall Bailly realized he could use his studies to set up a course for students in Africa.

"I built a coalition of professors to go to the Dean of Students [at American University] to say, 'We need to sponsor Leadership Initiatives,' and 'We need to give them a chance to work in Namibia,' and 'Yes, you can trust a 20-year old sophomore with this idea of how to develop a program in another country,'" he explained.

One student who completed Bailly's leadership course in Namibia launched her own program in the capital of Windhoek to help people living in squatter camps find work.

Bailly says his development program differs from others because it trains social activists to make projects sustainable by working with community leaders.

"The biggest difference about L.I. is that we ask people to use their own resources," said Bailly.  "We don't have micro loans; we don't give different [types of] aid.  We build coalitions in communities."

Sarah Stiles was Bailly's professor at American University.  She says her energetic former student is an inspiration to others.

"I know from the experience that I have with my students now who are working with him, they admire him and say, 'How is that Marshall could have done so much, and he's just a little bit older than we are?'  And I say, 'Yes, yes!  You can do it too!'"  said Stiles.

From Namibia, Marshall Bailly has taken his program to Nigeria and the Philippines.  Since 2005, his group has trained 140 students to bring change to their societies.  He says his Leadership Initiatives projects have benefited at least 22,000 people.  And other countries are taking notice.  Rwandan officials want Bailly to bring his program to their universities.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin
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