In a wonderful free event sponsored by Grace Church, the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda will be performing at Port Panthers on June 26 at 7pm, as part of their Beautiful Africa: A New Generation tour. Team leader Robert Sendegeya and choir member Mubiru Vincent tell us more …
What is your role/position with the choir, and how did you become involved?
My name is Robert Sendegeya, and I am the Watoto Children’s Choir team leader. I have grown up in Watoto Church and have been involved in ministry there. I was approached and asked if I would like to be part of the choir – and I accepted!
How and when did the Watoto Children’s Choir originally form?
It all started in 1983, when our Pastors, Gary and Marilyn Skinner, Canadian missionaries, moved to Uganda to plant a local church in the capital city, Kampala.
They felt God leading them to take care of the children orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic and in 1992, Watoto Child Care Ministries started with just one home and eight children. In 1994, Watoto Children’s Choirs started to travel all across the world.
What is the aim of the choir?
The Watoto Children’s Choir tours to raise awareness about the enormous problems children face back home in Uganda and to give people an opportunity to partner with us. It is also part of our training program to raise future leaders, and so far over 1,000 children have been given the opportunity to travel with the choir.
Since its inception, what countries has the choir visited, and what has the reaction been like from audiences?
Since 1994, 56 choirs have travelled all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the USA, among others. Their audiences have included royalty, Presidents and the common people alike. The choir on tour in Australia at the moment is Choir 56.
Our audiences have loved the choirs and the message of hope we carry with us. The majority of audiences have let us know that they are proud of us for raising awareness of the situation in Africa and not just sitting back, but actually doing something about it by raising orphaned and vulnerable children as leaders.
How many boys and girls are in the choir at the moment, and what is the age range of members?
We have 21 children, 10 boys and 11 girls, between the ages 8 – 14.
How extensive is the current tour, ‘Beautiful Africa: A New Generation’?
The choir arrived in Australia on April 1st and has travelled all throughout Queensland, before heading to New Zealand on May 16. They return from New Zealand on June 13, and they will then tour through NSW, VIC and SA before finishing their tour back in Queensland at the end of September (Ruth Mitchell – Public Relations Officer).
Describe the performance for the benefit of prospective audiences …
The current tour, ‘Beautiful Africa’, looks closely at the African culture by displaying the importance of family ties. It also talks strongly about God and how he has brought us up from the Miry Clay and is causing us to dine with the kings and queens of this world. Beautiful Africa speaks of the new generation of children in Africa that God is rising up to steward the African resources.
The performance is an energetic fusion of contemporary gospel and traditional African rhythm that takes you on an incredible journey that unveils the beauty of African culture. Songs include Down in Africa and Lord I Need You, which is a prayer for the children and has become one to the many who have come to watch the concert. Other songs include Not Alone and Beautiful Africa, which is a celebration of African culture, dancing and music. Overall, the performance includes around 9 songs and documentaries, as well as stories from the children.
Mubiru Vincent – choir member (14 years old). This interview was completed on behalf of Mubiru by Auntie Alex Sandra Nakibuule.
Whereabouts in Africa are you from, and what is it like there?
I come from Uganda, East Africa. Uganda is a nice place, and the people are friendly and they keep on their smiles always. Uganda has beautiful features, like mountains and lakes and rivers.
How long have you been a part of the Watoto Children’s Choir?
I have been part of Watoto for 3 years and 6 months and, as for the choir, I have been a part of it for 7 months and am having fun.
How did you become involved?
In 2008, my mother applied for a job with Watoto, and I came along with her. Since then, I have been a part of Watoto, which is my beautiful family.
How has being part of the choir changed your life?
Being part of the choir has taught me about things I did not know, like believing in myself that I am able to achieve what I set my heart to. It has allowed me to see the difference in culture and food and weather.
What’s your favourite memory from your time with the choir?
The food has been the best for me – and the friendly people in Australia.
Interviews by Jo Atkins.
The Watoto Children’s Choir will perform at Port Panthers on June 26 at 7pm. This is a free event, but offerings received will go to Watoto.
For further information, contact Grace Church on 6581 0654
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was published in issue 79 Greater Port Macquarie Focus