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September 21, 2018

Former AmeriCorps Member Serving In Africa


Recess at Ben Boltz's preschool with his two tanties, female co-teachers, and tonton, male co-teacher. The preschool can be seen in the background. This day has an attendance of about 50 children.

Recess at Ben Boltz’s preschool with his two tanties, female co-teachers, and tonton, male co-teacher. The preschool can be seen in the background. This day has an attendance of about 50 children.

OSWEGO, NY – A former Oswego County AmeriCorps member has taken it to the next level.

He has joined the Peace Corps and is currently serving in Africa.

“I submitted my application to serve in Peace Corps in the spring of 2014,” Ben Boltz told Oswego County Today. “Throughout my education at Fordham University, I had spoken with several of my friends, as well as attended several career fairs, about my post-graduation life. One topic that seemed to come up continually was serving with the Peace Corps.”

Unlike most of his friends, Boltz said he was never really familiar with Peace Corps, its work or what serving with Peace Corps would actually be like.

Christmas Day in church with one of my best friends, and student, Aristide. He's not very happy because on Christmas everyone visits each other's houses and shares food. Aristide would much rather be eating than being in church.

Christmas Day in church with one of my best friends, and student, Aristide. He’s not very happy because on Christmas everyone visits each other’s houses and shares food. Aristide would much rather be eating than being in church.

So, during his last semester of undergraduate study, when he was really thinking and researching what he wanted to do with his life, “Peace Corps just seemed to fit perfectly.”

“I knew I wanted to gain some knowledge working in an international experience, become more proficient at speaking French and I knew that I eventually wanted to transition into graduate school once I had a firmer idea of my ideal career,” he explained.

The Peace Corps allowed Boltz to accomplish each of these objectives as well as serve in a manner reminiscent of his service with AmeriCorps.

So one application followed by an interview and six months of waiting resulted in an invitation to teach preschool in Burkina Faso.

“In the time between my application and the start of my service with Peace Corps, I served twice more with AmeriCorps in a youth development role and a community economic development role,” he said.

A baobab tree in my back yard during my first rainy season in village. All of the greenery and clouds disappear as the rainy season only lasts about 5 months a year in my region followed by the dry and hot seasons.

A baobab tree in my back yard during my first rainy season in village. All of the greenery and clouds disappear as the rainy season only lasts about 5 months a year in my region followed by the dry and hot seasons.

His service in Burkina Faso with Peace Corps mainly filters down into three main objectives and side projects.

The three main objectives of Peace Corps are:

1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained volunteers.

2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

“Essentially, I work towards these three goals by helping my co-teachers at my preschool become more efficient and effective teachers and I engage in cultural exchange with people in my village,” Boltz said.

At his preschool, Boltz is one of three teachers that teach a total of more than 80 children a year.

This picture shows a training Ben did with a friend on the consequences of teenage pregnancy. It shows a typical junior high classroom albeit one filled with two classes. However, normal class size can vary between 70, 80, 90, or even over 100 students. There simply aren't enough teachers in Burkina Faso to have smaller classes.

This picture shows a training Ben did with a friend on the consequences of teenage pregnancy. It shows a typical junior high classroom albeit one filled with two classes. However, normal class size can vary between 70, 80, 90, or even over 100 students. There simply aren’t enough teachers in Burkina Faso to have smaller classes.

“Side projects then are ways for me to help improve a certain aspect of my village. For example, this fall I’ll be starting a moringa garden for village to help improve the food security of the students at the elementary school,” he said.

Moringa is a very versatile and drought resistant tree that is extremely nutritious, easy to grow, and can be used in many different ways. By starting a moringa garden there will be more diversity in the food served at lunch for the primary school and more nutritious lunches can be served year round as well, according to Boltz.

As such, students will have better access to nutritious food year round which is exactly what food security means.

“Other side projects I have planned or have helped other volunteers implement are beekeeping, a bike tour to raise awareness about gender inequality, a Let Girls Learn Camp also known as Camp GLOW, and a boys camp as well,” he said.

He will conclude his service in 2017.

When he comes home for Christmas, he will visit the AmeriCorps team meeting to talk to the current members. This will be on Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. at the Oswego AmeriCorps office, 70 Bunner St.

The evening of the end of the year party at Ben's preschool with most of the village attending. The village's Catholic Church can be seen off to the left side with a white cross on the door.

The evening of the end of the year party at Ben’s preschool with most of the village attending. The village’s Catholic Church can be seen off to the left side with a white cross on the door.

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