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Peace Corps experience provides perspective for 1L

January 27, 2014 | Students

He knows it sounds cliché, but Jeff Bartolozzi sticks to his words. Money isn’t necessary for happiness.

If it were, then how could a community of chicken farmers living off of about $1,300 a year have any joy?

But when Bartolozzi lived in that community, about a half a world away in the Republic of Mali in West Africa, he saw it firsthand.

“They are much happier than people in the United States,” he said. ““Everyone’s glad to be a part of the community and by being part of the community, more of your time is spent developing relationships with your family, your friends, and your peers, and less time is devoted to focusing on your career, your possessions, and your status.”

It’s been just over two years since Bartolozzi completed his time in the Peace Corps, working to enhance and modernize business practices in the poor community, but what he’s learned from the experience has stuck with him. It’s also helped shape his career goals.

Currently in his first year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Bartolozzi hopes to use his law degree to help children in foreign countries attain basic rights and receive adequate care.

He still remembers the large groups of orphans in Mali traveling from one location to the next, singing prayers or hymns, and asking for money. Often, he said, the children were mistreated, neglected, or abused.

“Many of the children are sick or are very neglected,” he said. “They have no rights even though they represent the majority of the community. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in that kind of branch of international law.”

Bartolozzi has known he wanted to be a lawyer since his days at John Carroll University. His dad was a lawyer before he died of brain cancer when Bartolozzi was 15. After working at his father’s old office while in high school, Bartolozzi knew a career in the legal field was for him.

But first, he wanted to join the Peace Corps, and after nine months of waiting to hear back, he finally got the news that he was going to Mali to work for the Chicken Farmers Association in 2011.

His village was miles from the closest road and more than 15 miles to the closest city. He also had to learn the Bambara language in order to communicate effectively with the community. No one spoke English.

The adjustment was not easy. When he left for Africa, he weighed 166 pounds, but quickly dropped down to 134 pounds. He also contracted malaria, which he recalled as ““a terribly frightening experience that I hope no one else ever needs to go through.”

Bartolozzi stayed there for about nine months, helping the community. His major project involved introducing a new species of chicken into the farming community that offered more food and could be sold for a higher profit.
“Either you’re going to sell it and keep the money, or you’re going to slaughter it and consume it for your family, adding more protein to their diets and combating the effects of marasmus,” he said.

Marasmus is a protein deficiency common in Mali that causes swollen stomachs, especially in children.

Bartolozzi left the Peace Corps for the birth of his daughter, Molly, whom he raises with his girlfriend, Joy Johnson. Though the family lived in Wyoming for about 18 months, they moved to Columbus once Bartolozzi, a Cleveland native, was accepted into Moritz.

“It was an easy choice once I got into Moritz with being close to family, the in-state tuition, being familiar with the area, and the quality of the school,” he said.