Jared Stancombe believes our civic duty is to give back to our country and community. Motivated by his passion for public service, Jared pursued an opportunity to earn an officer commission with the United States Marine Corps but, unfortunately, was set back by a prolonged illness. Undeterred, Jared pursued another opportunity – a position in the City Year Corps, a program supported by the national AmeriCorps program, which unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service to keep students in school and on track to graduation. Over the course of 2,000 hours of service, Jared provided pre-algebra math tutoring, afterschool instruction, role modeling, and mentoring services to 140 at-risk youth at Kramer Middle School in Washington, DC. After his City Year service, Jared was competitively chosen for the prestigious Global Health Corps U.S. Fellowship, which places fellows in yearlong paid positions with organizations in the U.S. and Africa doing excellent work in improving healthcare access and health outcomes for the poor. Placement organizations range from small grassroots organizations to large global institutions. Intrigued by Jared’s passion for helping others, we asked him more about his experience with the Global Health Corps U.S. Fellowship program.
1. Why did you apply to the Global Health Corps?
I applied because after working in an inner-city Washington, DC, neighborhood as a corps member with City Year, I was exposed to how inequality perpetuates poverty, crime, and disease. I worked in an area of the United States that has higher HIV/AIDS prevalence rates than most sub-Saharan African countries and observed firsthand the devastating effects it can have upon children. I learned of the Global Health Corps through City Year and found it to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can provide the necessary professional experience and development to pursue a career in global health. I particularly like how it promotes global health equity and creates a close community of exceptional leaders and practitioners to solve complex global health problems. I applied to my particular position with a small NGO called Action Africa Help International because it combines my experience working in security, education, and nonprofit management.
2. What is the Global Health Corps experience like?
The experience is life-changing. I met the other fellows during our training at a highly prestigious school on the east coast, and my first impression was that I was completely outclassed. But over the course of two weeks, I became very close to many of the other fellows, and we developed a true sense of community before heading off to our placements. Even here in Zambia, we stick together and constantly bounce ideas off each other. This is my first time in Africa and exposure to African culture, so it was difficult making the transition in the first three months of my fellowship. Six months in, I feel that I know my place and where I can best serve within my organization.
I have learned an incredible amount about international development, refugee affairs, financial management, performance management, and financing, and I use it daily. A completely different perspective within an organization can create truly innovative solutions if implemented properly. Having ideas is easy; the implementation is the most difficult here, and my supervisor wants results. She is completely supportive and has placed me on several important projects, such as developing an organizational business model.
Besides working, vacations are definitely fun. Zambia is most known for Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. We went there with other fellows from other programs, and I went whitewater rafting in the most intense rapids in the world and went swimming in the “Devil’s Pool” along the edge of the falls.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; as with any experience, there are highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like I’m not making a difference here, but when I go out into the field and learn how much good Action Africa Help International is doing, it strengthens my commitment to do my share of the task. Also, I am amazed at some of the work other fellows are doing throughout Africa, and I feel honored to be a part of such a community of passionate young leaders. I can see, within a decade or two, some fellows taking senior cabinet-level positions in African countries such as Uganda, Zambia, and Rwanda.
3. What tips would you give others applying to the Global Health Corps program?
The Global Health Corps program is one of the most competitive fellowships in the world. I believe around 1% of all fellows who apply from the United States are offered fellowships. You don’t have to have a graduate degree in public health to apply. I don’t have a graduate degree, but I do have around five years of experience working in the public and nonprofit sectors. The current corps of fellows is incredibly diverse, and we have computer scientists, architects, medical researchers, teachers, consultants, and policy analysts, among others. My advice is to figure out how you can best leverage your education, experience, and skillset towards furthering the mission of the Global Health Corps of advancing global health equity. When you apply for the fellowship, you apply for a specific position. Read the job descriptions very carefully, and during the interviews, which are several, be prepared to answer questions on how your experience best relates to the needs of the placement.
The most important thing is to advertise yourself but be honest and humble. The amount of talent the Global Health Corps attracts is truly unique. The entire corps participates in recruitment, and the program is not for people who just want international experience or a year between undergrad and medical school. The Global Health Corps wants people who are absolutely committed and driven to make a difference through immense adversity.
Jared Stancombe is a 2012-2013 Global Health Corps fellow for Action Africa Help International–Zambia. He is a former analyst with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an alumnus of City Year Washington, DC, and a member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. He is a 2009 graduate of Indiana University, where he graduated with honors in Political Science, focusing on the influence of informal economies upon civil conflicts in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Jared is from Bedford, Indiana. After the Global Health Corps, he hopes to continue his career in public service through fellowships in social enterprise or enter a graduate program in business administration, policy analysis, or international relations.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.