The Arts

Let Hope Sing: African Children’s Choir sings to earn education, relief for Africa

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Soon dozens of African children, aged 7 to 10 years old, many of whom have lost one or both parents to war, famine or disease, will grace the Triad with the sound of their harmonious, hopeful voices. The children, part of the African Children’s Choir, travel the world and sing to raise awareness and funds for their plight back home.

The African Children’s Choir, a nonprofit humanitarian and relief organization founded in 1984, aims to help Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow—a choir tour, which raises funds and helps the children develop valuable skills, is all part of that goal.

“The concert (coupled with traditional dances) is bright, colorful, energetic, inspiring, touching and uplifting,” said choir manager Tina Sipp. “People are drawn to the spirit of the children. They radiate joy and hope from the stage and people are captivated by them.”

The blend of traditional dance, African praise music, contemporary Christian and gospel is a fundraising effort that supports 35 different educational programs across seven countries.

Over the years, the group, which is a secondary organization of Music for Life, has sung with such icons as Paul McCartney, Keith Urban and Mariah Carey. They have also traveled the world, performing in front of presidents, heads of state, and even the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II.

The children who attend these programs are children who would not otherwise be in a position to receive an education primarily due to the financial situations of their families.

“We are working on behalf of families living in extreme poverty so there simply are not funds to send the children to school, even government schools as they require things such as a uniform, pencils, paper, books,” Sipp said. “By becoming a member of the choir, a child will have their education financed through the post-secondary level. Receiving an education will allow them to become self-sustaining by being able to provide the necessities for themselves and their families.”

Besides providing a means for better education, the program aims to help the children develop the skills needed to be forces of positive change. “I’m interested in how it helps them to develop leadership or social skills, how it helps to broaden their minds, and helps them to be a part of a positive community and instill good characteristics as good citizens,” Sipp said. “Their world is enlarged and they begin to understand that they actually now have the opportunity to become whatever it is they want to become.”

Sipp adds that being a member of the choir and traveling in the west also significantly improves their English proficiency. “This is important for their education as all testing is done in English,” she said. “The children also grow in their confidence and are able to speak comfortably with people of all ages. Through touring they are exposed to so many different experiences, places and people that we see the children begin to catch a much larger vision for themselves and what they can do.”

The program has a staff of volunteers who travel with the children as their “family” throughout the tour. Their main responsibility is to shepherd, disciple and mentor the children. “Shaping their character and training them up to become future Change Makers is at the heart of our mission,” Sipp said.

To become a member of the choir, the children attend open auditions and a weekend training camp where they play games, sing and dance during the final selection process. If chosen, they attend a full training center before going out on tour.

“Tour is really just the beginning point of their time with us,” Sipp said.

Once the children return home, they attend African Children’s Choir Primary School through grade 7, then secondary boarding schools. Camps for all former choir children are held during term breaks throughout the summer.

“We have many examples of our choir children making a difference,” Sipp said. “Some have gone on to become doctors, teachers, engineers, journalists, performing artists, nurses, social workers, pastors and natural resource managers. They have supported their younger sibling’s education. They have provided for their mothers and fathers, they have gone to help in other parts of Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda. Many of them serve in our Music for Life Centers where they bring a weekly after-school program to local schools and train the children in citizenship, faith and life skills.”

Wanna go? The African Children’s Choir performs Wednesday, April 12, at Gospel Baptist Church, 5945 N. Church St., Greensboro. Admission is by donation. For more information visit africanchildrenschoir.com or call the church at 336-644-1932.

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