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African kids choir performs in Breckenridge

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

Song and dance can definitely lift the spirits of audience members, but this Sunday, African children are using their talents to lift up thousands of their peers in Uganda.

The Mwangaza Children’s Choir is made up of 22 children, ages 7 to 13, who tour the United States for six months, after training an equal amount of time. Sponsored by the Mwangaza African Renewal Ministries, their mission involves raising money and sponsorships (where adults pay $35 a month to provide needs for one child). The ministry, which runs schools, churches and medical clinics in Uganda, aims to nurture young leaders by providing education and support, in order to break the cycle of poverty, said tour director Caroline Page. So far, they’ve collected 7,000 sponsorships – 1,000 on this tour.

“Fifty percent of Uganda’s population is under 15,” Page said, “so there’s a lot of kids that need help.”

The ministry chooses children for the choir based on their musical talent, spiritual life, maturity and character.

“They have incredible moves and rhythm,” she said.

They perform original songs, written by native Ugandans.

Father Dyer Church attracted the kids when a friend of church member Sally Lewis recommended them, after they played in Houston, Texas.

“She said they were wonderful performers, and it was a very moving experience hosting them in their homes,” Lewis said. “I watched their video, and it just looked so uplifting and fun; the children were so joyful and talented. It really appealed to me.

Various residents will host the 22 kids in their homes Saturday and Sunday night – but not without special considerations. The ministry requests the children not watch television or play video games, but rather play outside or play board games. They also want them to eat healthy food – no sodas or sandwiches. However, hamburgers are OK. Since many Ugandans don’t have ovens, they suggest simple food instead of cheesy casseroles and such. They typically don’t have pets, so hosts must gently introduce kids to cats and dogs.

“They’re exposed to so much, but we’ve tried to keep their integrity and not spoil them like we do Americans,” Page said. “People think these kids have so little, but they have more for joy, enthusiasm and spirit than most American kids do, so that’s humbling and a blessing to be around.”

Part of Lewis’ motivation for bringing the choir involves experiencing, and learning from, another culture, she said.

As the kids wind down their tour, the ministry takes care to ensure a smooth transition process back home. Page said they’re excited to return to their family and friends in Uganda. However, they’re returning with greater skills.

“The goal – and we’ve seen this with previous choirs – is that they become leaders because they’ve had to adjust to such unique circumstances,” Page said, “and they’ve seen a culture we’re exposing them to – different jobs and careers.”

– Kimberly Nicoletti


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