African Children’s Choir looks for a warm Lake welcome

The African Children’s Choir is bringing its heartwarming show to Lake Cowichan Sunday, Nov. 1.

The African Children’s Choir is once again bringing their colourful

The African Children’s Choir is bringing its heartwarming show to Lake Cowichan Sunday, Nov. 1.

They will be performing at the Lake Cowichan Christian Fellowship Church at 10 King George St. starting at 10:30 a.m.

The 18 young singers (nine boys and nine girls aged eight to 11, all from Uganda) melt the hearts of audiences with their charming smiles, beautiful voices and lively African songs and dances, done with three colourful costume changes.

The program will also feature well-loved children’s songs, traditional spirituals and gospel favourites like He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, This Little Light of Mine and even some sing-alongs.

Music for Life (MFL) — the parent organization for The African Children’s Choir — works in seven African countries including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

The children of the choir represent 7,000 to 8,000 other children that would never be able to get education because of the backgrounds in their homes, said choir manager Tina Sipp.

“Most would never be able to attend public school. So we are raising money to support educational programs for these very impoverished children who are from some of the most vulnerable areas. We hope they can become self-sustaining as well as make a positive difference in their community, country and continent later on. We have a number of educational programs which we support back in Africa.

The choir children represent a small proportion of them but they are from those same programs, out of that same mix.

“The choir children have their education paid right through post secondary level. They are guaranteed a professional level of training of some type. It’s no small thing for these families to have one child educated fully. They wouldn’t have it otherwise. This is just the beginning for these children. It’s the beginning of opportunities, potential careers and impact.”

The children are chosen after attending camps that give organizers the chance to assess them.

“They are sort of recommended by the supervisors of the schools. They often identify the neediest of the needy, those who would benefit most. They come to a weekend of camp. They don’t know they are auditioning, they just have a fun time. Our staff is there to evaluate them. They do bible study, singing, dancing and games and then they go home. We will have identified some children by then. We will go to their homes and ask their guardians if they wish to become part of the choir. They usually do. Then they come to us. We start immersing them in English and they come out on the road for their tour. Afterwards they go back to a school we have just for former choir members. It helps them acclimate back to the African school system. That school is amazing.”

The African Children’s Choir is no stranger to Lake Cowichan, either.

“I believe we have been there a number of times over the years,” Sipp said.

Why would they come to communities as small as Lake Cowichan on a big fundraising tour?

“We don’t come to Vancouver Island every time we are in Canada but when we come over we have a certain number of dates to fill. We try all different kinds of communities and, depending on which churches jump onboard, it determines where we go. We had an invitation from that particular church and so we’re going,” she said.

Sipp has been on tour with the choir for a couple of years herself and likes visiting out-of-the-way places.

“Honestly, it was the smaller communities that were so much more fun. It was THE event and you got to mix with people more. It’s much more fun than bigger communities where you are just one of many things. There’s a wonderful dynamic there. The kids are adorable, there are three costume changes so it’s really colourful and bright. It’s amazing,” she said.

MFL’s purpose is to help create a new kind of leadership in Africa and, to that end, has educated over 52,000 children.

Its focus-on-education impact has been felt in the lives of more than 100,000 people through its relief and development programs during its history.

The choir has performed before presidents, heads of state, and most recently Queen Elizabeth II during her diamond jubilee and the choir has shared stages with the likes of Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, Michael W. Smith, and other inspirational performers.

Most recently, the chorus recorded some tracks with Sarah Hickman for a CD, Love Is a Journey. They also have a small role in the Pan movie (Warner Bros. Pictures) starring Hugh Jackman.

The concert is free and open to all.

A free-will offering is taken, however, at the performance to support African Children’s Choir programs, such as education, care and relief and development programs.