Children's choir spreads message of hope
Watoto Children's Choir shares music and stories of Africa
Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 06:00 am
Kevin Aagek, 10, is soft-spoken; a little Ugandan girl who has faced more tragedy in the first decade of her life than most people in our culture can comprehend.
Abandoned by her parents, the hungry little girl and her two sisters were sent to stay with a grandmother. But the grandmother became too old and sickly to provide for the sisters.
The trio was eventually surrendered to Watoto Children’s Villages, a centre that cares and nurtures Uganda’s abandoned and orphaned children.
Kevin is in Canada as part of the Watoto Children’s Choir, which is scheduled for a full-costume concert at Victory Life Church on Wednesday, March 6.
The 22 choristers aged seven to 13 hit the road six weeks ago for a scheduled six-month, west-to-east coast tour that started in Vancouver and ends in Newfoundland.
Despite the misfortunes in her life, Kevin is quite curious and in awe of this new country filled with ice and snow.
When asked what she likes the most, Kevin shyly replies, “I like the mountains. It’s beautiful.”
And somewhere along the trip she gleefully hopes to see bears and lions.
At the moment Watoto villages have rescued and are raising 2,700 destitute children from crib to university, children who would otherwise be on the streets where they would be vulnerable to predators.
But Watoto’s efforts are only a drop in the bucket. In sub-Saharan Africa, 14 million children have been orphaned from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By 2023, Watoto envisions caring for 10,000 children if it can garner enough support from the more affluent, developed Western nations.
Watoto villages consist of homes for children, a school, a medical clinic, a community centre and an agricultural project.
Each home accommodates eight children and a housemother. Father figures play sports with the children and act as mentors.
“We would like to see organizations take up the model and work with us to take it across Africa,” says Duncan Kyaterekera, team leader for the Canadian choir tour.
At this time, five Watoto children’s choirs are travelling internationally as ambassadors for the millions of displaced children.
However, the tours are more than just a clever way to raise personal awareness of Africa’s need. The basic goal of Watoto is to rescue children, raise them as leaders and rebuild a nation.
“It is important to expose the children to the beauty of different countries. They grow up with the mentality to make their own country beautiful. At the same time, this is a training ground for the new leaders of Africa,” Kyaterekera says.
On a more immediate level, he describes the concert as an affirmation of African culture.
“Our culture is vast. It’s about tradition, but it also picks up ideas from Western cultures. The African tradition, our way of living is to grow a garden, live in small huts, have a bicycle and fetch water from a well. It is simple, basic.
“But now modern things bring changes. People construct brick homes. People buy cars and TVs. The music also changes, but we don’t want to lose the life of Africa. We still have African rhythms.”
Along with pre-recorded music tracks on a laptop, the choir will be playing traditional djembes and long drums. Decked out in brilliant linen costumes, grass skirts, cowhide sandals, feathers and jewelry, the choristers present a swirl of pulse-pounding colour.
The concert starts with a short prayer followed by seven songs interspersed with children’s stories. A short documentary film on Watoto is also presented followed by a “love offering.” The concert finishes with two more celebratory songs.
“The bottom line is we are looking for more sponsors,” Kyaterekera says. “The more sponsors we have, the more children we can bring into the program. And we want to let people know what God has done for the children.”