The Program for African Growth through Education, also known as PAGE Inc., is designed to enrich the experience of Francophone African youth and adults through two three-week exchanges
PLATTSBURGH — When it came time for laundry, one young woman from Sub-Saharan Africa told her Plattsburgh host hers is done by the maid.
Another asked for a bucket to clean her clothes, while some required basic instruction on indoor plumbing.
All of them are teachers and students who visited America to enhance their knowledge of leadership, civic involvement and academics. A second group of 30 will spend two weeks in Plattsburgh in mid-September and host families are still needed for at least 10 individuals.
“It gives you great perspective, and you make a change in the way they regard America,” said Theresa Bennett, home stay coordinator for the Youth Leadership Program at Plattsburgh State with Francophone Africa.
By Oct. 1, 60 youths and adults from Sub-Saharan Africa will have visited Plattsburgh as part of a new U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs $330,000 grant awarded to Plattsburgh State and the Program for African Growth through Education, also known as PAGE Inc.
The program is designed to enrich the experience of Francophone African youth and adults through two three-week exchanges. This past March, 30 individuals visited the area from Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, with another 30 coming in September from the Ivory Coast and Mauritania.
They will take part in lessons and activities that address youth leadership, culture, team-building, community mapping, civic responsibility, ethics, American government and community service. Field trips are planned to local schools, non-profits and government offices.
The experience further includes a bus trip to Albany and Washington, D.C.
Participants are required to develop six community service projects, which they will implement once they return to Africa.
“Because PAGE is fundamentally concerned with literacy, we are hopeful that most of the community service projects will focus on education,” said Marguerite Aldelman, curriculum consultant for the Youth Leadership Program.
Participants stay in homes throughout Plattsburgh.
“We need hosts,” Bennett said.
The students and teachers spend two weeks with hosts, who feed them and must get them to the university, though the visitors spend 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Plattsburgh State during the week.
“Any family or household is welcome,” Bennett said.
Many of the visitors and hosts remain in contact.
Bennett said it was amazing to watch the last group of visitors. Nearly 9 out of 10 had not seen a computer, yet they were very adaptable, she said.
Many of the individuals had never been in an arcade nor seen ice.
Hosts who had teenagers of their own said they appreciated the perspective the new member of their family offered.
One individual explained that April is the hottest month and with 22 people in the small house, it was her job to pour gasoline around it to ward off snakes.
The hosts tried their hands at new experiences too, with one downloading an application that enabled her to locate the direction of Mecca, the holiest city in the religion of Islam.
Dr. Jean Ouedraogo, board president of PAGE Inc., said he and Adelman applied for the grant because “of our belief that enriching the learning and teaching experiences of communities near and far can contribute to a better understanding of Plattsburgh’s connectedness to the world out there and our region’s role in shaping it.”
For more information about hosting, contact Bennett at 564-2160.