African Children’s Choir brings ‘Journey of Hope’ tour to town
By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Sat., Oct. 8, 2011
They come from some of the poorest families in Africa's poorest countries – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Congo. For the past 20 years, the African Children’s Choir has performed across the U.S. and around the world, in effort to raise funds that support the education of choir members and those back home just like them.
The African Children's Choir rolled into East Hartford on a special tour bus for a performance at Crossroads Community Cathedral on Oct. 5. While in town, the youngsters and their chaperones live with host families from the church. The children, who range from 8 to 12 years old, are on tour for a year before returning home. Since their tour began last August, the children have performed in 23 states.
“We usually have two choirs touring at the same time,” said Vic Thiessen, a tour leader who travels with choir while they are on the road. Thiessen has been with the program for 12 years. “The African Children's Choir was founded in 1984 in Uganda, and has grown to include several African countries,” Thiessen said. “The children on this tour are from Uganda and Kenya.”
The countries that the children come from have often been ravaged by civil war, and they represent those from the poorest villages. Without the choir, they would have little access to higher education, Thiessen said. “Our mission is to educate those who otherwise could not afford it. Not only do the children in the choir benefit from this program, but the funds support their school back home, which they will return to when the tour is over,” he said.
Angel Nvannungi and Richard Kaweesi, both 10 years old, are on the tour this year. When asked what she enjoys most about the tour, Nvannungi said she enjoys the host families she meets. “I like the swimming pools,” she said, adding that her favorite part of the show is the dancing. “I like the dance moves we have – we do dances from different countries.”
A typical day for the choir would include several hours spent studying and rehearsing, with play time and nap time during the day. In the hours just before the concert, the children participate in devotional singing. The choir performs at churches, and is supporting by church organizations.
Kaweesi said he has enjoyed meeting new people. “I like the friends we have and the times we get to play with each other,” he said.
Choir leader John Paul Sekajja was once a member of the children’s choir, which he joined at the age of 9 in 1994. He remembers performing in the U.S. and the U.K. Without the choir, he would never have had the opportunity to attend college, Sekajja said. He rejoined the tour as an adult in 2009. “I lost both my parents, and the 14 of us lived with my grandmother,” Sekajja said. “The African Children's Choir has made all the difference for someone like me.”