Chilmark School fundraiser to benefit Ugandan school

Chilmark School students are raising funds to help build a permanent and weather-proof building for the students of the Blessed Watoto Community School in Atiak, Uganda. — Photo courtesy of Hannah Kahl

In keeping with an annual tradition of community service, this year fourth- and fifth-graders at the Chilmark School are raising money to help build a permanent structure for the Blessed Watoto Community School in Atiak, Uganda. The current school can only operate during good weather, because the structure is basically a wood frame with a roof that is not waterproof over a dirt floor.

“The Island community has an opportunity to support our initiative in a variety of ways during the month of October,” head of school Susan Stevens said in an email about the fundraising project to The Times.

Students will be collecting change outside of school, and cash donations also will be welcomed and accepted at the school throughout the month.

In addition, the fourth- and fifth-graders will host an Atiak Fair at the Chilmark Community Center on October 25, from 1:15 to 2:15 pm.

“At that event, you can donate change to play games that the students created, including the famous fifth-grade, student-designed haunted house,” Ms. Stevens said.

The Chilmark grade 4/5 students learned about the school they will be helping from Hannah Kahl and Lila Fischer, who lived in Atiak for an extended period of time.

Ms. Kahl and Ms. Fischer spent a day with the fourth- and fifth-graders and taught them about Uganda’s geography, history, and culture, and school life in Atiak.

In addition, the students watched a movie produced by the Africa Channel that

documented Ms. Kahl’s and Ms. Fischer’s work and experiences in Atiak. On Tuesday the fourth- and fifth-graders shared their new knowledge with their younger peers in a school-wide presentation. Ms. Kahl and Ms. Fischer gave a presentation for parents and the community at Chilmark School that night.

Ms. Kahl’s mother, Robin Smith, a Chilmark School teacher, visited them in Uganda. The two women, friends since age 5, grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and attended school together, starting in sixth grade at West Tisbury School, Ms. Smith told The Times in a phone call. Ms. Fischer went to Antiak to continue her education in midwifery at a clinic there. Ms. Kahl joined her in Atiak and worked with the Women’s Micro Initiative to help set up a women’s microfinance initiative and some programs for girls, Ms. Smith said.