wearing a Ugandan shirt hand-crafted
by a new African friend
March 29, 2005
Returning to his West Virginia base after a "safari" to Uganda, motivational speaker and author Chet Marshall briefed Putnam Rotarians today on a business leadership seminar in the east African republic.
The visits to Kampala and Entebbe last month featured classes on successful business practices and leadership skills.
Jobs are few in Uganda, Marshall told the group. Unemployment is high, and people are desperate to crank up the economy.
He visited an orphanage for 70 to 80 boys and girls -- ages 13 to 23. One man cooked three meals a day for them over fire pits in the floor. His pay is $12 per month.
In the Entebbe orphanage school, three children are seated at each desk, and some sit on the floor. Books are in short supply, so Marshall made a visit to a book shop.
"They wanted books on math, physics, biology, and chemistry," said Marshall. The books cost 536,000 Ugandan shillings; about $312 in US money.
Marshall suggested that Putnam Rotarians consider a book fund as an "International Project." He pledged to match all funding provided by the local club.
Fifteen years ago, a third of the population of Uganda carried the AIDS virus, and while that number has been reduced dramatically to three percent at present the epidemic caused almost two million children to be orphans.
About 120 people attended the seminar lectures to pick up business skills.
"Every question from the audience touched on corruption, bribery, and graft," Marshall said. "The only way to be successful seems to be through influence.
"You can't undo what has been done," Marshall told the seminar participants, "but you can do what is undone."
English is widely spoken in Uganda, but Marshall also had use of an interpreter. "Cedar trees are old, but they continue to bear fruit," the linguist joked to Marshall. "You are a cedar tree."
The nine-day excursion included a visit with Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi in his Kampala office, and a safari into the countryside.
Driving is an adventure in Uganda. "They drive on the left side of the road, and if you are the nervous type, it's best not to look."
Compared to Uganda, the roads in West Virginia are truly "Almost Heaven."
"They have huge speed bumps," said Marshall. "It doesn't slow the traffic, but it may bring more business to the many roadside stands."
On the equator, he viewed a demonstration of the Coriolis effect -- water in the northern hemisphere spins counterclockwise as it drains; across the equator, no more than twenty feet away, the direction is reversed.
In the course of his travels, Marshall at one stop was asked to speak to a crowd of 2,000 without advance warning. "They found out how dangerous it was," he joked, "to hand a microphone to a professional speaker."
He quoted from the Gospel of Chet: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never get bent out of shape."
Marshall also found time to visit the Rotary Clubs in Entebbe and Kampala North.