You can help children in Africa receive an education by taking in a concert tonight (Oct. 30) at Oak Bay’s Emmanuel Baptist Church on Cedar Hill Cross Road.
Celebrating in song and dance, the African Children’s Choir lend its collective voice to well-loved children’s songs, traditional spirituals and gospel favourites.
Concerts are free and open to all, but a free-will offering is accepted to support African Children’s Choir programs, including education, care and relief and development programs.
The children visiting this week, nine boys and nine girls from Uganda, range in age from eight to 11.
Working in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, the choir’s parent organization, Music for Life, has educated more than 52,000 children in its 31-year history.
“The organization is all about the potential of the African child,” says choir manager Tina Sipp. “There’s something very magnetic about the children. I think what the western audiences really connect to is the spirit of the child.”
Travels have taken the choirs around the globe over the years, but most often they criss-cross North America and the UK, where the organization has offices that make it easier to co-ordinate.
The children have performed for Queen Elizabeth, for U.S. presidents and appeared on American Idol twice.
The organization has brought together 43 choirs in 31 years. The children selected all have their education paid for through high school and even post-secondary, giving them a chance at a future beyond subsistence living.
“What it means for them is (future) self-sustainability, not only for them, but their extended family,” Sipp says.
In consulting with the community Music for Life wanted to help, the message from the families in need was clear: “Education is the greatest perceived need, right behind food,” Sipp says. “This is what they want, this is what they say they need.”
They also return to their community to share all they’ve seen, experienced and learned.
“One of the things that is unique is that we are a family,” Sipp says, noting former choir members stay in touch with the organization as they pursue their education and even after. Many return to help as chaperones, to design costumes or help with music or choreography. “The tour is the very beginning.”
All volunteers raise their own money for travel costs, other than food and lodging, which is generally provided by those hosting the choir, says Sipp, who was a chaperone for several years.
The experience can be very rewarding.
“The chaperones have an opportunity to profoundly affect these children’s lives,” Sipp says. “And there’s a tonne of fun.”
For those who can’t make tonight’s Oak Bay performance, the choir also performs Nov. 1 at North Douglas Pentecostal Church, 675 Jolly Pl., at 7 p.m.
The choir also has a new holiday CD coming out shortly, Emmanuel. Learn more at africanchildrenschoir.com.