The Watoto children’s choir will perform at ACANA Hall at 5524 Chester Ave., Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
The choir has won international acclaim for its musical performances and has traveled around the world to raise awareness of the plight of Africa’s children. Watoto, which is Swahili for “children,” has performed before the queen of England and at the White House.
“Our history originates from Gary and Marilyn Skinner, Canadian missionaries that founded Watoto in 1994, when they came to address the Ugandan orphan crisis,” said Watoto’s communication director, Jeanine Bedell. “We are actually hoping to replicate the Watoto model in Juba, the capital of Sudan and eventually the rest of Africa.”
Watoto’s goal is to rescue 10,000 children by 2023.
“Our main purpose is to rescue a child, create a leader and rebuild a nation,” Bedell said.
Children rescued through Watoto are taken to Watoto villages in Uganda, where they are cared for, educated and given a safe haven. Some of the orphaned children have been abandoned by their parents, others escaped or were rescued from militias where they were forced to fight as child soldiers, and some have lost one or more parents to AIDS.
Volunteer Ugandan widows serve as mother figures for the children in these villages and provide needed services. Men volunteer to visit the villages and act as father figures and mentors for the youths.
There are 22 children on the current U.S. tour, ranging from 6 to 15 years of age.
“Each one of them havs experienced the loss of either one or both of their parents and are now under the care of Watoto, have been rescued and are being raised to be a leader,” Bedell said.
Creating future leaders is a key goal of Watoto,which hopes the children, the children will someday be able to rescue their nation.
“The choir really inspires audiences,” Bedell said. “It opens up their eyes to the beauty of Africa and more important, the beauty of African children. Every performance is powerful and gives the audience a chance to see through the eyes of a once-orphaned child who is now looking toward the future with hope.”
Gideon Kizito, the team leader for the choir, said the tour allows the children to raise both awareness and support for the Watoto villages.
“Basically Watoto is a holistic ministry that is committed to bringing back the structure of family to Uganda,” Kizito said. “By doing this, by raising the next generation of Ugandan leaders, we believe there will be a change in Uganda and the continent of Africa as a whole.”