Each day, Halton
and the Rodale staff members visited a different village, working directly
with the African people so that they could try to implement the new
farming methods themselves.
Overall, Halton was quite impressed by how friendly the people were.
"For the first time in my life, to be a minority was sort of strange
but the people welcomed me," he says. "They had no problem,
for example, inviting me to a Muslim wedding even though I wasn't Muslim."
The people frequently asked him to dinner and engaged him in many thoughtful
conversations. He was surprised at the degree to which the natives of
Senegal were totally self-sufficient Ñ almost entirely reliant
upon themselves for survival [as opposed to having governmental programs
and aid]. "They appreciate everything; the smallest gesture gets
the same degree of appreciation - the people are appreciative of the
littlest things that we would consider dispensable," he says.
Considering this, Halton admits that he thought he would feel sorry
for the people, but found them to be a lot happier than many Americans.
"Their lives were so much simpler," he says. "They were
able to focus a lot more on each other, their families and their friends."
Adam Deising '01 was the first Muhlenberg student to go to Africa through
the Rodale Institute's internship program in the summer of 2000. Now
in medical school, Deising says he would like to go back to Africa to
use his skills
as a physician to help people in the way he helped people agriculturally
during his trip
He also believes that this overseas experience set him apart from other
applicants to med school, adding that this experience was a good fit
with what he is doing now, since during the internship he was indirectly
helping people to survive by teaching them the new agricultural methods.
Deising says he would recommend the Senegal experience to any Muhlenberg
student looking to do something a little different than his or her peers,
but cautions that the trip to Africa is "for people who want a
challenge. We're used to our western ways of living and in Africa it's
completely different. You have to not mind, for example, sleeping on
a hard floor and you have to be dedicated to the hard work involved."
Rodale's Michael Bassey, Halton's internship supervisor, says, "Rodale
has been very pleased with the two Muhlenberg students who have so far
participated in the program. They have been very willing to learn about
rural development and to work closely with Rodale staff under difficult
Bassey adds that since Halton and Deising were only able to spend a
month each in Senegal, it was difficult to establish a program to which
the students can contribute significantly. He hopes to lengthen the
internship, matching students with specific projects in Senegal.
Perfetti would like to foster the relationship Muhlenberg has with Rodale,
hoping to establish a regular source of funding to cover the considerable
costs of the experience.
Halton, who has applied to graduate school and would someday like to
earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and contribute to development of gene therapy,
says this internship experience will benefit him following his Muhlenberg
graduation. Aside from the agricultural knowledge he gained and actively
acquainting himself with the Senegalese, Halton says he realized that
"in whatever arena I choose to pursue, I can help people - even
simple things can help
other people immensely."