The Watoto Choir started its five-month tour Oct. 6, giving performances under the theme “Beautiful Africa: A New Generation” for schools and churches across the eastern United States.Watoto means “children” in Swahili.Members of the Watoto Choir act as ambassadors to raise awareness about the hardships of orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa. Each member has lost one or both parents to war , HIV/AIDS or poverty, much like millions of other children in Africa. The choir started in 1994 and spreads its message through Concerts of Hope performed all over the world.Using a fusion of contemporary gospel and traditional African rhythm, dance routines and life-transforming stories, the choir enlightens the audience about the plight in Africa. During the choir’s visit to Kimball Memorial Lutheran Church in Kannapolis on Jan. 11, 8-year-old Joel Tegule excitedly exclaims about how Jesus changed his life, as the show began. After a few songs, 9-year-old Maria Namukwaya told her story of watching her sister die shortly after losing her father. She described the difference Watoto has made for her and her mother.During the program, two children in the camp were profiled and the audience was asked if someone would sponsor the children. Mary Beckwith-Yates came up and took the profiles and returned to her seat. The story had moved her to come forward. She said she was moved by the music and the children’s stories. “When I heard the children’s stories, I felt in my heart that their struggles were true and it was a true calling to help them build a better society,” she said. Beckwith-Yates also said hearing the children say they wanted to become doctors and teachers to help others like they had been helped, drove the message home. “Nothing is more important than the children,” she said. “With the numbers that are dying, we must help. How can you not give $35 a month to help save a child’s life?” She said after the concert she spoke with the children who were delighted to talk about being sponsored and exchanging letters with their sponsors. One girl named Vera knew Brandina, the girl Beckwith-Yates is sponsoring, and said they lived in the same village. The whole experience of helping these young people excited Beckwith-Yates, who called her three children on Saturday. She also told her husband they had a new item for their bucket list: “I want to go visit Brandina in Uganda.”Watoto is a community of villages that present a holistic child-care solution for children ages 2-12 with the motto “Rescue, Raise and Rebuild.” People in Watoto often follow the children beyond college. It was founded by Gary and Marilyn Skinner. The villages house the children in homes with eight children and one house mother. The villages are havens of security, education, purpose and spiritual vitality for 2,700 children.Other programs such as Baby Watoto for preemies to toddlers and Living Hope, which helps HIV positive women are also a part of the Watoto community, which has touched the lives of more than 35,000 people.
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Watoto choir tells story of African youths
Choir set to perform in Concord on Jan. 20
Mary Beckwith-Yates asks a choir member if he knows Brandina Kyalimpa, the child she volunteered to sponsor, after the Concert of Hope by the Watoto Children's Choir at Kimball Memorial Lutheran Church in Kannapolis on Jan. 11. MARTY PRICE
A choir member dances to the drums during the Concert of Hope by the Watoto Children's Choir at Kimball Memorial Lutheran Church in Kannapolis. MARTY PRICE
Nine-year-old Maria Namukwaya, center, in blue, dances with the choir during the Concert of Hope by the Watoto Children's Choir at Kimball Memorial Lutheran Church in Kannapolis. MARTY PRICE
Want to go? The choir will perform at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at The Refuge, 1030-B Central Ave. in Concord. For details about the Watoto villages or the Watoto Children’s Choir, go to www.watoto.com/home.