Mollie Tabaro
Mollie Tabaro
Mollie Tabaro (2nd from left) chats with Putnam Rotary friends. Left to right are Chet Marshall (Putnam Rotary President), Tabaro, Mary Keely (District Governor Elect) and Bob Keely (Putnam Rotary President Nominee). Tabaro is Director of the Divine Secondary School near Entebbe, Uganda.
Uganda residential school provides home and livelihood

May 18, 2010

"I can see the heart of this person," Chet Marshall told Putnam Rotarians today. He was introducing Mollie Tabaro, the founder of the Divine Secondary School in Entebbe, Uganda. "She asked her boss for a five-month advance on her salary," said Marshall. "She gave it to a man who needed the money to finish college.

"He did (finish college), and now he is teaching science at the Divine Secondary School."

Tabaro took in three orphans in 1973. She continued caring for needy children among the two million in Uganda orphaned by an HIV epidemic that once infected two-thirds of the adult population. She opened the residential school in 2003. She met Chet Marshall in 2005 during his visit to the east African republic for a business leadership seminar.

By then the school's numbers had grown to more than 80 children, Tabaro told Rotarians in her heavily-accented English.

"We didn't have desks or seats," she said. "The children were not sitting anywhere. When 'Papa Chet' came back, he contributed about 1,000 (dollars) , and we bought the desks where the children are sitting.

"In 2006, we didn't have textbooks. We again told him about it and the money was contributed. And we bought most of the textbooks and lab equipment."

Mollie Tabaro (right) and District Governor Elect Mary Keely.
Putnam Rotary initiated a partnership with a Rotary Club in Entebbe and adopted the residential school as an "international project."

Joining with other groups -- Poca Baptist Church and Smile Uganda -- the club undertook a unique program to provide food, independent income, and dormitory space for the Entebbe children -- all in a single project.

The local groups sponsored a new brick structure for the school which served as a temporary home for 1,000 vaccinated baby chicks. When the chicks matured, the school moved them into a chicken house, and the new brick building was converted into dormitory space.

Now, Mollie told her benefactors, the chickens provide meat and eggs for food and sale. "We use the droppings for manure for our garden," she added.

"The children are learning how to make income-generating projects so they can start their own business and get an income.

"Later we had trouble with a drought," she continued. "We were fetching water from five kilometers (over three miles). They woke up at five (in the morning) to fetch water from the hole.

"When you get up at seven or eight," she explained, "the water is gone." The trip was made with boys in front and behind protecting the girls in the middle from adult water thieves.

"Most of the children would not wash," she said, "because they would have to go and fetch water."

Putnam Rotary -- with a donation from Vandalia Rotary -- last year installed a 10,000-litre water tank for the school, coordinating the project through the club in Entebbe.

"The water is coming when it rains," Tabaro reported. "The tank is full. The children use whatever they want to use because they know the water is coming and it's enough for them."

The school population has grown to 105 children, and Tabaro is looking to expand their vocational training programs.

"We have four sewing machines," she said, "but three of them are electric. Electricity is off for two weeks, sometimes four weeks."

"Could you use a generator?" someone asked.

"Yes," she replied. "We could get one that runs on oil. Oil is cheap in Uganda."

You can support a student in Uganda at
the Divne Secondary School and Orphanage
for $300 per year.
This provides for their education,
food and lodging and some personal needs.
To support a student,
contact Chet Marshall,,
or 304-545-5510.

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