Watoto Children's Choir
Dakota Digest - 05/07/2012
War, poverty, the AIDS epidemic- these are the things people usually hear about when they hear about Africa. Statistics show these are all real, significant problems, but there are organizations working to change that. A Ugandan choir touring the area is using music to help change Africa's future.
Julius Anuari is the team leader for the Watoto Children's Choir, and he wants you to know something about Africa.
"Africa is beautiful," Anuari says. "Even right now. I know we could say Africa is known of bad things. But there are parts of Africa that anyone would want to visit and spend their lives."
The 22 children on the stage at Grace Baptist Church in Vermillion certainly make Africa seem beautiful. They wear various styles of African clothing. Some of the boys wear animal print pants, bare chests, and small feathered headdresses. The girls wear long dresses in rich colors-blues, reds, yellows, and greens. The only thing brighter than the clothing is the children's smiles, which threaten to completely overtake their faces. When they dance they put their whole body into it, the movements big and energetic. The only word to describe it is joy.
But their pasts are anything but joyful.
"I used to work very hard. We did not have enough food to eat," says one child.
"Before I came to Watoto, my mother was very sick. Then one day my auntie came and told me that my mother had died," says another.
"I used to be very sad all the time. I remember feeling that no one loved me. Every morning I wondered if I would get enough food to fill my empty stomach. I felt so alone and wished I had a mother to care for me," says one of the children.
Team leader Julius Anuari says the joy the children express now comes from hope.
"The last thing you would want to take away from a child, from a human being, is actually hope," Anuari says. "Hope that things will get better, hope that things can change. These children have experienced it first-hand. They were once in a desperate situation. They were once forgotten and abandoned. And here they are, travelling in America, travelling overseas and having a bright future. They are dreaming of becoming engineers, and nurses, and doctors. They are seeing it come to pass. There is nothing that is going to stop them from achieving this."
Anuari says these Ugandan children have that hope because they're a part of the Watoto program. Kids who are abandoned or orphaned are rescued by the organization and given food, medical care, and an education, all while living in a house with a foster mother and seven other children. It becomes their home through college.
Anuari says Uganda has its challenges, and the problems can't be solved by one person. So the Watoto program aims to raise up a generation to rebuild Africa.
"You know Africa is the way it is because of leadership," Anuari says. "And it's only a matter of time. There's a new generation of children, of young leaders, that are growing up, that are being rescued, and they're seeing things, the way things should be done. And it's only a matter of time that they also take up these positions and change, and make right decisions. They will no longer be corrupt. They will no longer settle for less. They will aim for the highest."
Between songs some of the children share their hopes for the future...to become teachers, nurses, leaders, to get good jobs and provide for their families.
Anuari says the choir tour is a part of the children's education.
"If we raise up these children that were once thought useless in society, they were abandoned, and rejected, and you raise them up, you give them proper medical care, you give them proper education, you take them to places," Anuari says. "They come to the States and Asia and wherever where the economy is soaring and people are living a great life, then they'll be able to go back to Uganda, to go back to Africa and change their nations, and desire these things happening in their own countries."
Change takes time, but Anuari is hopeful that the children in the Watoto program will soon have an opportunity to re-write Africa's story.
"There is something about Africa," Anuari says. And if we nurture it well, if we point that out and raise these children to show the rest of the world how beautiful Africa is, that continent will blossom."
And maybe sometime in the future when people think of Africa, they'll simply think "beautiful."
For more information about Watoto, or to find out where the choir will be performing next, click here.
By Jenifer Jones
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