Their angelic voices and smiling faces have warmed the hearts of the millions of people around the world who have seen them perform, whether live or on television. This month, locals will have a chance to experience the African Children’s Choir for themselves as they hold three concerts in the area.
The group of 18 Ugandan children – 11 girls and seven boys – will be performing twice at St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church on Market Street in Wilmington on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 18. They will also have a concert later that evening at Brunswick Community College in Bolivia.
According to Kyle Serquinia, the tour leader for Choir 46 (there are usually two choirs touring at any given time), the children are currently rehearsing in a house outside Raleigh that belongs to one of the churches hosting them.
“They’ve trained in Uganda for four months, and now they’re practicing here,” said Serquinia, noting that this is the first time in the United States for all of the choir members. “They were very excited to come to America, and they’re very excited to try American food.”
Serquinia and six other adult chaperones, plus a bus driver, will be accompanying the choir throughout their months-long tour along the East Coast. Their performances are set for 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Wilmington and 7 p.m. in Bolivia. They will feature traditional African, as well as contemporary praise and worship songs.
“With all the songs, there will be dancing and drumming. It will be high energy and a lot of fun,” said Serquinia, adding that the children will be dressed in colorful traditional garb. “The kids love music and singing and dancing. It’s a big part of Ugandan culture.”
All African Children’s Choir concerts are free, but the group aims to raise money for their expenses and for education initiatives in Africa through donations collected during the performances as well as through sponsorships.
“School is pretty expensive in Uganda,” Serquinia said.
He added that the children on tour are being tutored by one of the chaperones, who is a teacher, so that they will not be behind when they return.
“The overlying goal of the whole thing is to give the kids opportunity for education,” he said.
Serquinia said that, by the time they return to Uganda, all the children currently in the choir will have their entire educations paid for through sponsors, who send a total of about $200 a month. People can also help send children to schools (not run by the ACC) supported by Music for Life, an initiative that aims to educate children growing up in slums in Uganda as well as Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan and Ghana.
“A lot of sponsors come from host families,” said Serquinia, adding that some children have multiple sponsors that split the cost. “But we’re always looking for more to help the other children that aren’t able to make it out here.”
Locals in the areas they pass through on their tours also help provide other things, such as meals and basic needs for the choir members.
“These kids really only came with the clothes on their backs,” Serquinia said. “We got them duffel bags for the tour, which supporters have filled with clothes, toiletries and other needs. At the end of the tour, we’ll give them donated suitcases that we’ll pack with clothes and games and other things to take home with them.”
A list of needs for the choir is given out to churches while they’re on tour with the hope that locals will help provide some of them. These always include new or slightly used clothing as the kids grow over the months, among other things. Sometimes, however, more serious needs arise.
“As we travel, sometimes the kids need to see a doctor or dentist, and there have always been people in the community willing to donate their services,” said Serquinia. “We are really thankful for the people that support us and embrace us as their own.”
In addition to touching people in other countries through their sweet music, Serquinia said the African Children’s Choir also has another affect on people in other countries.
“Seeing the kids will help change people’s perspective on Africa,” Serquinia said. “Africans are really strong people with lots of potential. We always see a lot of sad news about Africa and Africans, but the reality is they have a lot of joy.”
To learn more the non-profit Christian organization, visit the African Children’s Choir website.