The Ugandan Orphans Choir came to the United Churches of Olympia at five pm on February 24th. The performance included dancing and singing while combining modern Christian songs that spread the word of hope and traditional songs from the children’s Ugandan culture.
The choir consists of 10 children of ages 8-14. During the performance they wore colorful costumes of green and blue and yellow which was a more formal African style. While wearing these costumes the choir members sang modern Christian songs in English. These were mostly upbeat and uplifting songs that spoke of the glory of God.
- A captive audience listens as the choir’s voices ring throughout the church.
Later the choir came out with drums and a xylophone and the girls were brightly dressed in more traditional clothing. The Ugandan Choir was sharing their culture’s customary style of dancing and singing. The drums were loud and fast and energetic while the dancers had grass skirts tied around their waists that shimmied when they danced. The energetic songs had the whole crowd clapping and cheering the performers on.
- Dancing to the beat of the drum!
In between these changes of performance styles, the tour leader, Josh Almond, told the audience what the Ugandan Orphans Choir was all about.
The choir’s blog has more information on the individual members of the group and reports that the choir consists of five Ugandan girls; Gertrude, Jackline, Dianna, Cissy, and Joanita. As well as five boys; Allan, Joseph, Jafari, Charles, and Julius. Two women from Uganda, Alice and Phionah, also travel with the group to help teach the kids for school and help direct them in their singing. Along with the Ugandan women, there is Jessica Strauss, the assistant tour leader from Indiana, and Josh Almond, the head tour leader.
The Ugandan Orphans Choir is a ministry program of Childcare Worldwide, a non-profit child-sponsorship organization based out of Bellingham, Washington. Each child in the choir is part of the child sponsorship program and are helped spiritually and physically “through a ministry that emphasizes education and is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, according to the Childcare Worldwide website.
The Childcare Worldwide website says the choir group started in 2006 as a way to raise awareness in the USA about children in developing countries that need help. This choir performance is not focused on making the audience pity them, but for Americans to see how sponsoring kids like them can help them be happy and achieve their dreams of success.
The kids in this choir all came from the Ssese Islands on Uganda’s Lake Victoria. They are all orphans, but do not like to focus on their hardships of the past. Instead the youthful choir uses their singing to focus on the opportunities they have been given now and hope to receive in the future.
The choir members are very aware of why they are singing want to do everything they can to help other children get sponsors so they can have better opportunities just like them.
On the Choir’s blog, Almond and Strauss report of their journeys across America with the choir. So far they have had six performances in two different states in just a little over a week. This 2013 tour has the choir starting here in Washington State, traveling across the Midwest, and ending in West Virginia.
Strauss has also posted on the blog of the children’s “firsts” during their first trip to America. Strauss posted of the choir trying new foods for the first time, getting to use a washer and dryer, and some of their first performances starting in Washington State.
While the kids in the choir do not like to focus on how they became orphans, the ministry does want to spread awareness of orphans like them that need help. Sharye Cornmesser, choir ministry for Childcare Worldwide, told Avalanche Journal, that “each child has their own story and background, but a lot of them come from homes where there’s just too many kids and no food.” Cornmesser said the children’s performances help “put a face to Childcare Worldwide and the children it serves.”
Childcare Worldwide has “been serving children around the world since 1981 under the leadership of Dr. Max Lange and his wife, Marlies.” Lange came up with this idea as a way to spread awareness of “the needs of children living in poverty” as well as opening up Americans’ eyes to other cultures.
Before becoming members of the choir, these children were already part of the child sponsorship program and lived in orphanage provided by the Childcare Worldwide program, on one of the Ssese Islands. Auditions are then held on the islands by the ministry program.
Hundreds of kids come to try-out, but according to the Childcare Worldwide website, “abilities in dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments, as well as academic standing are all taken into consideration” when being selected for the choir.
The choir has been traveling all over the country performing at various schools and churches and one of their biggest audiences included Seattle Sounders fans at Century Link field last June.
In their spare time, the Ugandan kids, use the churches they perform in to also study and do schoolwork. Then in the evening, the host families that they stay with in the evening arrange various fun activities for the kids to do.
According to the ministry’s website, the choir’s tour is scheduled to end in November. After the tour, the children will go back to Uganda and continue to work with Childcare Worldwide with their schooling and goals of becoming leaders in their own communities.