Four years after graduating from college, Jen Harding founded a nonprofit agency in Newala, a Tanzanian town which she considers a second home, having served there in the Peace Corps. Named the Jiamini Scholarship Fund, her agency currently enables more than 60 vulnerable children to attend secondary school. “Jiamini,” which means “believe in yourself” in Kiswahili, has also helped street children find homes with families. Harding’s interest in public health developed during her Peace Corps stint from 2005 to 2008, when she was assigned to teach young people about infectious diseases. Referred to as “JenQuest” by her friends (because they can depend on her to give good directions), Harding says her passion is helping vulnerable children find a good direction in life. “I love the challenge of running programs on the ground, so I’ll always do my best to remain working in the field,” she says. Harding ran a research trial for Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute, exploring improved surgical options for trichiasis—a condition involving abnormally positioned eyelashes that can cause blindness. The disease afflicts more than 10 million people worldwide, mostly poor residents of hot, dry areas. Hoping to manage more projects like the eye surgery trial, Harding foresees returning to Africa after completing her MPH. “I enjoy exploring important research questions while simultaneously being able to improve individual patients’ lives,” she says.
Country Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Helen Keller International - Tanzania Office