Updated: April 14, 2013 at 12:00 am
With bright smiles and harmony, the 20 members of the African Children’s Choir are spreading a message of hope in Colorado Springs with traditional African worship music.
Boys drum as the rest of the choir jump, stomp, dance and sing.
Their costumes are as colorful as their performance.
An audience packed Circle Drive Baptist Church Sunday night to watch the performance by 10 boys and 10 girls, ages 8 through 11, all from Uganda.
The group has been on the road for 11 months, performing 180 times since last June, tour leader Melanie Todd said.
Circle Drive Baptists’s the Rev. Mike Routt said the choir had to be booked a year in advance. The Children’s Choir last visited the church almost ten years ago, Routt said.
“It is such an inspiration to see where these children have come from,” Routt said. “Then see where they are today.”
The 20 children, along with adult chaperones, several of whom are former choir members, stay with host families from the congregations they visit. Two boys and an adult staff member will stay with Routt’s family until Wednesday, an experience the pastor described as “enlightening.”
“To learn about the commonalities and differences between our culture and theirs is so enriching,” Routt said.
Todd explained the purpose of the choir and its parent company, Music For Life, is not to “westernize” the children.
“When they go back to Africa, the education and experiences they receive through their travels enable them to make a real difference in their countries,” Todd said.
The choir groups are formed with children from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and South Sudan — all countries with severe poverty, famine and disease. Most of the singers have lost one or both parents and upon joining the choirs, Music For Life pledges to help them reach higher education.
Over 29 years, the foundation has helped more than 52,000 African children.
The concerts are free, but they always accept donations to cover touring costs and to fund the schools choir members attend in their home countries. The money they raise also covers the cost of sending many of them to college.
Anthony Samanya, a former choir member in 1995, earned an economics degree in Uganda and is now a tour chaperone.
“As a child I had to walk more than two hours to gather water for my family and I had to help at home. So, I hardly had time to study,” Samanya said. “After I was lucky to be chosen to join the choir, my life was forever changed.”