Ginny and Ken Jascot
Virginia I. "Ginny" Jaskot and spouse, former District Governor, Ken Jaskot. Note the Rotary motif in Ginny's dress, a garment made in Accra, Ghana.

Virginia 'Ginny' Jaskot
Rotarians on Mission to Ghana

September 30, 2014

Few people recognize the local helping hands that extend to people in need around the world.

But Virginia Jaskot, a Barboursville Rotarian and the spouse of former District Governor Ken Jaskot, belongs to a growing number from this area who have witnessed Rotary in action.

Putnam County and Rotary District 7550, southern West Virginia, join with some 1.2 million Rotarians in 32,000 local clubs for promoting health and humanitarian services.

Last February, Jaskot joined Walter Hughes who took eighteen people on a tour of Ghana.

Five eastern states from New Hampshire to South Carolina were represented. District Governor Herb McClaugherty was among the three other Rotarians from southern West Virginia traveling with Ginny Jaskot.

The group landed in Accra on the southern coast and traveled to Bolgatanga, about 20 miles from the northern border of Ghana.

"The northern part of the country is really, really poor," Jaskot told Putnam Rotarians today. "It's the 'forgotten' part of the country.

"We visited a school where children had been told to bring buckets, pans from home for the corn we distributed for their families.

"We met with the village chief in every village, and they thanked us for the well or latrine or whatever project Rotary had there.

"Walter would pray with the group. As you may know, he is a minister. By day he does Rotary. By night he does pastoring.

"In the north, they are predominately Muslim, so they would each exchange a prayer from their own religion. That was an interesting experience," said the West Virginia traveler.

"The principal of one school we visited was a Muslim. And she is also the president of the local Rotary club.

"The Rotary meetings opened with a prayer -- Muslim or Christian -- and concluded with a prayer from the other faith tradition.

"Everywhere we went, the people would dance. Mostly the women. They had no instruments. Mostly they would clap and sing, and then they would ask us to join them."

Ginny Jaskot noticed that local Rotary groups had formed in many of the towns and villages they visited.

Not only were the clubs in Ghana partners with other Rotarians in promoting good health and quality of life, but they were partners in "vocational training teams."

A well in one village had once provided potable water. But the people had been without water for years because no one could fix a broken pump.

The vocational training team provides local people with the skills and means to repair the broken pump and to sustain the benefits of a project once the team has departed.

Widows and orphans who often have no other means of support have learned to produce shea butter from the nut of the indigenous shea tree. In high demand as an emollient in soap and cosmetics, the product sells for five times its cost, even in the south of Ghana.

A process has been developed, with some advice from MIT engineers, to provide safe water. The filters are formed with indigenous clay which is granulated, mixed with rice husks, and tested for porosity. The water is safe to drink. And the cost per unit is about $25.

East African areas are plagued with Buruli ulcer disease, a flesh-eating type of leprosy. Most of its victims are children. And most of the cases can be cured with antibiotics if diagnosed in the innocuous early stages. Over 11,000 cases in Ghana were reported to the World Health Organization in a recent year.

Rotary today is training local health care providers, Jaskot reported, to recognize the disease in time to save its youthful victims from permanent disfigurement and disability.

The Rotary district for southern West Virginia has funded safe water projects in Ghana to fight the Guinea worm parasite, another crippling disease in eastern Africa.

The efforts which started with former District Governor Tom Greenstreet may be realizing some success.

Ghana is now "Guinea worm free," Ginny Jaskot announced. Not a single case has been reported there in three years.

More Putnam Rotary News? Click HERE.