Sixteen Ugandan children presented an energetic and uplifting show of singing, dancing and drumming at Grace Lutheran Church last Sunday, Oct. 13
The children, eight boys and eight girls between the ages of 8 and 10, travel the country on a custom bus for a year or more, performing at churches to raise funds for education in their country.
Tour leader Catherine Wake, a native of Canada, said she contacts churches and makes sure everything runs smoothly.
“We take free-will offerings at concerts and the money we raise goes to support the children and their families and the work of the parent organization,” said Wake. “The parent organization is Music for Life and it works in seven different countries across Africa.”
In Africa, Music for Life runs teacher training colleges, literacy schools, centers that teach music and dance education, and also provides meals.
“There’s a lot of work going on, so the money we raise on these tours goes to support those programs,” said Wake.
The kids are accompanied by two African chaperones and six American and Canadian chaperones on the tour, which began last January. The children are schooled on the bus and all speak English, which they learn five months prior to joining the group. The children usually perform 3-4 nights a week.
“There’s a mix of African music with lots of dancing, singing, drumming and singing of gospel favorites in English, Ugandan and Swahili,” said Wake. “I keep busy but I don’t think I’d rather be anywhere else.”
Shows last anywhere from 30 to 80 minutes, and after leaving Grace the cast and crew was heading for an evening performance in West Palm Beach. There are two different groups currently on tour.
“This is our gift to the community,” said Pastor David Imhoff. “It’s rare for the group to be in South Florida and we had them perform in 2009. There’s a cost for us to have them but we gladly bear that because it’s a gift of music, faith and joy to the community. We’re proud to be a partner with the children because we know we’re helping them in their lives because they will get educations when they get back to Uganda.”
Chaperone and music teacher Alyssa Figueiredo is also from Canada and travels with the children. She works with Dorothy Nabwami of Uganda, who is the conductor of the performances.
“I’m on the bus for a year at minimum,” said Figueiredo. “But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a life-changing experience and a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We perform in all types of churches across the country.”
Figueiredo, 21, said after her work with the Children’s Choir is over, she’s considering going into the missionary field.
“I don’t know what God has in store next for me but I’m definitely going to be out there doing more,” she said.
“I’ll be traveling with the tour from 12-18 months,” said Erin Evans, 20, who hails from Laguna Park, Texas, a small town near Waco. “Laguna Park has one blinking light and two gas stations.”
Evans is also a chaperone and sells African souvenirs after performances. “I don’t know where God is going to take me after the tour,” she said. “I’d like to go to Uganda and start an orphanage or daycare center, but I’ll go wherever God leads me.”