On Tuesday at a benefit night for Lila Fischer and Hannah Kahl’s coming trip to Africa to work for Earth Birth, Ms. Fischer held up a jar she planned to pass around throughout the evening for contributions. There would be a prize each hour, she said to the packed house at Flatbread/Nectar’s, for the largest contribution.

Seven-year-old Adam Miller of Chilmark hadn’t heard there was going to be a prize, nor did he give the most money during that first round. But he did win a prize, a giant pumpkin, for quality of donation over quantity. When the jar came to his table, he said to his mother, “Hey we have some leftover toll money in the car [from a recent trip to Vermont].” Then he ran out to the parking lot and came back with every dollar he could find.

This was the spirit of community surrounding the two local women as they prepare to embark this coming January on what is essentially a humanitarian endeavor. Ms. Fischer is a midwife by training and Ms. Kahl a community organizer. They are headed off together to a small village in northern Uganda called Atiak. There they will serve both the rural population and the nearly 20,000 Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp, populated mostly by war refugees.

BW Doug Brush nightclub guitar
Doug Brush adds a backbeat to the evening. — Matt Nichols

According to Ms. Kahl, whose mother, Robin, teaches kindergarten at the Chilmark School, she was drawn to Earth Birth, a relatively new organization, because “the model, for me, makes sense because it is culturally competent.”

Earth Birth looks to find solutions to problems by partnering with local people and organizations rather than implementing something with just an outsider’s perspective. One of the ways they do this is by promoting traditional medical practices. Far too often, under the best intentions, Western medicine is presented as the only way to go, she said.

“That’s great if you have the resources, staff and buildings, the sterile tools,” said Ms. Kahl. Oftentimes, though, in small villages located far from the city, a solely Western solution is not only impossible but also denigrates the local traditions leaving villagers with nowhere to turn.

“One of the ways Earth Birth trains is by role-playing and discussions,” said Ms. Kahl. “What would a locally-trained person do and here’s what Lila would do [as a Western-trained midwife].” Then they can begin to come to a middle ground based on what is actually possible, she said.

At the fundraiser on Tuesday, those in attendance were also being educated. In addition to material about Earth Birth, there was a large map of Africa displayed. Next to it were slips of paper delineating the 53 current nations of the continent. There was a contest to see who could accurately fit the names to the countries. Boaz Kirschenbaum won with a score of 23.

There will be at least two more fund-raisers, one in Boston and one on the Island, before the women leave for Africa. Keep on the lookout for ways to help.