Dianna Casto
Dianna Casto

Dianna K. Casto
Local charities assist Entebbe children

November 26, 2013

Putnam Rotarians today heard from Dianna Casto how their club had worked through an international network to serve scores of children in two African orphanages.

It all started nearly nine years ago when Chet Marshall participated in a motivational economic seminar in the Republic of Uganda.

Marshall, known affectionately as "Papa Chet," had visited the Divine Secondary School and Orphanage near Entebbe where meals were cooked over fire pits for 80 boys and girls.

Books for the school were in short supply. Students sat three to a desk, and some sat on the floor. There was no potable water on site, and no electricity.

Marshall paid over 500,000 Uganda shillings (about $300 in United States money) for math and science books. And he challenged Putnam Rotarians to match his support.

A few months later, he returned to Entebbe with $2,700 for books and desks donated through matching gifts from the local Rotary club and individuals who had heard about the need.

When Dianna Casto took the Rotary pledge of service in 2008, a plan had been crafted and to do more for the children. The Putnam club began working through Smile Uganda, a missional group headed by Cross Lanes Minister Ron Thaxton, and Jeff Kayongo, a Rotarian in Entebbe.

Working with support from Poca Baptist Church and the Vandalia Rotary Club of Charleston, construction began at the Divine Secondary School of a unique facility to provide food, shelter and ready cash.

The building would serve as a home for 1,000 baby chicks. When the chicks matured, they would be moved to a pen, and the shelter would be converted into a boys' dormitory.

Then came the recession in 2008. The American dollar dropped in value as did the Uganda shilling, and only 700 baby chicks could be purchased.

Jon Miller
Rotary President Steve Patrick (right) greets guest Jon Miller. Miller is marketing rep for Servpro of Teays Valley (7 Poverty Lane, Nitro; 304-755-9510)

But the children nurtured them, and soon had adult chickens which supplied the orphanage with a daily harvest of fresh eggs.

Sale of chickens and eggs also brought cash into the operation. And the droppings were a source of fertilizer for a garden to grow grains and vegetables for the children.

During visits to West Virginia in 2009 and 2010, school director Mollie Tabaro thanked Putnam Rotarians for their help with the water supply. Children had been bringing water over three miles.

With donations -- again from Vandalia Rotary and Poca Baptist -- the Putnam club had installed a 10,000 litre water tank for the school.

Three years ago, Dianna Casto visited the Divine Secondary School and met with Jeff Kayongo, an Entebbe Rotarian and liaison for Smile Uganda.

Kayongo, now President of Entebbe Rotary, suggested that Putnam join with London's Westminster West Rotary to bring safe drinking water to the SOS Children's Village and medical center.

Then, last April, Steve Patrick won the $1,000 grand prize in the Putnam Charity Raffle, and promptly donated his winnings to "Papa Chet " Marshall's favorite charity.

And that's how a second water project was completed for Uganda children.

The second water project in Uganda was named in honor of "Papa Chet" Marshall.

And that's another example of how a few people in Putnam County were able to join hands with 1.2 million other Rotarians in 34,000 clubs to make the world a better place --- one step at a time.

Papa Chet, who started the Uganda projects, died last February. But his legacy is still making a difference.

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