Watoto children’s choir returns to Merritt
The Crossroads Community Church will be hopping on Wednesday, as the Watoto Children’s Choir presents ‘Beautiful Africa’.
“We’re going to be dancing and singing and it will be a fun time for everyone,” said Watoto leader Sam Kimera. “We want to welcome everyone in the community to join us.”
Kimera leads a group of orphaned African children on a tour of Canada, with the mission to raise funds for their three villages.
The group has been travelling through Canada for little over a month, performing one show per day at various churches, schools and community clubs.
Organizers of the group have the mission of rescuing vulnerable children and raising them to become leaders so that they can rebuild their countries. Approximately 2,500 children are being cared for in the three orphanages organized by the group.
After being raised at one of the orphanages, the children look for work, education and many come back to become leaders in the villages.
The evening will not only feature cultural dances, but also stories about the people whose lives have been impacted by famine and war.
Peace has been restored in Northern Uganda, where one of the villages operates.
“We are raising awareness of Uganda and everywhere in Africa,” he said. “We haven’t had a problem there with rebel armies. The government has been supportive. There is hope.”
Each child in the choir has lost one or more parents due to HIV/AIDS, war or poverty.
The children are ambassadors to the millions of suffering African children.
At the orphanages, the children are divided into groups of eight and are cared for by a widowed mother.
Watoto also has the mission to help HIV-positive single women in Kampala and Gulu in Northern Uganda through a program called “Living Hope.” They also strive to rescue teenage mothers and returnees from abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Many of these women end up caring for the orphaned children.
“The approach we have is like with any other home where your mother takes care of you until you are ready to fend for yourself,” he said. “We are giving them a hand up, not a handout.”
The choir was established in 1994 and since then 55 choirs have travelled worldwide, visiting Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, the United States and Canada.
Public Relations Officer Justine Ludwig said the group is able to raise money from donations during the shows and through sponsorships.
“There are another two choirs that have recently left for Asia and the United Kingdom,” she said.
“I love these kids so much and I love this job.”
She sometimes travels with the group.
“These children have the opportunity to travel that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” she said.
They have performed for Queen Elizabeth 2, as well as for presidents and prime ministers.
People can make donations at the event, which begins on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Crossroads Community Church on Voght Street.