Escar Kusema ’09 has received a MILEAD Fellowship from the Moremi Initiative in recognition of her “accomplishments as a leader and her passion for education, women, and development” in her country of origin, Zimbabwe.

Each year 25 young African women receive the highly competitive MILEAD Fellowships based on leadership promise, community service accomplishments, and commitment to the advancement of women in Africa. Fellows take part in training and mentoring programs, networking opportunities, and a three-week residential institute in Africa focused on developing career and service goals.

An honors biology major at Colby, Kusema has established two initiatives to help the people of Zimbabwe and Africa more broadly. As cofounder of Backpacks for Zimbabwe, Kusema works with individuals, churches, schools, and other organizations in the U.S. to collect items for donation to orphanages. Her more recent initiative, Dumela, is dedicated to working with internally displaced people in Africa to address and implement sustainable solutions related to access to educational resources, health care, and shelter.

These efforts come on top of a full-time job teaching sciences and global health and sustainability at the Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts. “For me it’s … what I experienced as a child,” she said. “Having come from Zimbabwe and having grown in high-density locations [and] having gone through what the typical Zimbabwean youth would have gone through—whether it’s sick relatives or having to support your family while you’re here [in the U.S.] … going through all of that and then figuring out, ‘Okay, how can I help—in a big way.'”

A graduate of the United World College prior to coming to Colby, Kusema was a recipient of the Harvard Silen Award for undergraduate research presentation. She has worked with organizations including U.S. Women Connect on the status of women and girls. She is currently helping USAP Cares (United States Achievers Program) provide a platform for community involvement by young adults in the diaspora.