My church hosted the Mwamba Children’s Choir this past weekend. I know what you’re thinking: Children’s choir? Sounds like a bunch of off-key little brats, picking their noses and waving at Mom in the front row. Not so with the Mwamba Children’s Choir. It’s composed of 7–11 year old Ugandan boys and girls. They tour the world to share inspiring, original, and action-packed African music with ringing harmonies and raging drum beats. All of the choir’s children are multi-talented, speaking several languages, singing, dancing, acting, and playing traditional music instruments. This ain’t your regular “children’s choir,” folks.
I took my mom and friend, Vanessa, to see the kids perform on Sunday afternoon. It was surreal at first and not in the least odd. You see, I live in Litchfield Park, where the average demographic is white, 55 and up retirees. My church fits this demographic to the letter. (Jake and I have even considered joining the children’s ministry, because at least there will be a couple people closer to our own age …) Seeing a troupe of African kids running up the aisle was quite an image, decked out as they were in traditional African clothing, haircuts, and jewelry.
As the little ones began to sing and dance (and I mean, DANCE), I wondered … As much fun as it appeared these children were having, were they really having fun? Or were their “trainers” using them as meal tickets? I mean, were the Ugandan kids on stage happy being away from home and stared at by a bunch of rich white folks who have never known poverty, starvation, or cholera epidemics? There was a creeping guilt within my bones as I considered these questions. Then, thankfully, we were made aware of the real story behind the Mwamba Children’s Choir.
The choir is definitely not a meal ticket. It’s not an evil form of child labor. Quite the contrary, a majority of the kids are orphans; others come from severely underprivileged homes, where the parents can barely afford to feed them. They refer to themselves as “Ambassadors for children in Africa orphaned by AIDS,” because most of them have lost one parent (or both) to the disease. These are broken, starving kids, and the Mwamba Children’s Choir is their joyous ticket out of the country—a ticket that also includes education, housing, and food. In other words, the choir is a miracle.
The choir was formed in 2007 by Ugandan pastor Stephen Sekitende. Stephen saw the poverty and starvation in his backyard. He saw parentless children wandering the streets of his home country, so he created the children’s choir as a fundraising tool. The Mwamba choir is international. They travel, perform, and entertain, all in the name of raising donations for back home. They call it “mobilizing support” for the I AM Children’s Family charity. I AM supports over 200 children orphaned by AIDS and other diseases, with a ministry based on a strong Christian background. The major objective of the choir’s 2010 tour is to raise funds to build primary and secondary schools, a hospital, and sports facility for the children.
The performance of the Mwamba Children’s Choir was better than most performances you will see from trained adults. These kids have passion, enthusiasm, talent, and most importantly, adoration for the Lord. I was impressed by their vocals, harmonies, traditional dance, and even their tumbling. I was impressed by their beautiful, little smiling faces. At the end of the show, the little ones wandered around the lobby. My mom (who was a bit teary-eyed) kept hugging them. Literally, she walked down the line and just kept hugging these little kids—these little survivors—who were alone in the world and then, saved by a ministry that is doing great things in Africa.
You can help. Go to the Mwamba Children’s Choir website. Check out their You Tube channel to hear them sing. There are ways to donate, buy their albums, or even sponsor a Ugandan child. At the least, pray for them. Pray for the country of Uganda and pray for the little kids in the choir. I was touched Sunday; I suppose that is God’s purpose for the Mwamba Children’s Choir—raising awareness for poor, lonely kids far, far away.