When was the last time you heard someone sing a Swahili song in Houston?
On March 15, the Watoto children’s choir will sing Swahili, Luganda and English songs at the Houston Fellowship Baptist Church in a concert called “Beautiful Africa: A New Generation.”
“We know that for a long time, Africa has been known as a place of suffering and pain,” said choir director Sam Kimera.
“But Africa is still beautiful, especially when you look at the generation we are raising. If you fix the roots, then the fruit is much better.”
Started by a Canadian couple in the late 1980s, Watoto is a Christian charity that cares for Ugandan children who have lost one or both their parents to war or to diseases such as HIV/Aids.
“We started with six children in 1992,” Kimera said. “But now, over time, with the help of partnerships and friendships around the world we’ve been able to care for a little over 2,400 children.”
It’s a great accomplishment, he said, but there are many more Ugandan children who need help. In Gulu, northern Uganda, an estimated 30,000 children have been abducted in the last 20 years and forced to join a civil war as child soldiers or victims of sexual abuse in the Lord Resistance Army.
Each home in the three Watoto villages houses eight children and one mother, he said, and the mother is often a widow herself.
“We keep them in school, we dress them, we feed them, we clothe them,” Kimera said. “We basically become their family, so they get a sense of identity and restoration.”
Watoto built its own schools, which go up to high school level. Graduates can also move up to a skilled-trades college where can take welding, sewing or carpentry.
The choir coming to Houston has 22 children and 10 adults. It is one of 53 Watoto choirs that has toured the world since 1994.
“Everywhere we go, we share the love of Jesus because that what has caused the transformation and change in the children’s lives,” said Kimera.
The Watoto choirs also raise awareness about life in Uganda.
“You get to hear a bit about the children’s stories, and how they came to be in Watoto,” Kimera said. “But ultimately, it’s a celebration of what life has become now, compared to how it was.”
For all the children in the choir, the tour is their first time outside Uganda.
“It’s fun,” Kimera said, laughing. “They love the snow—not everyone here does, but we do.”
For concert dates and more information, visit watoto.com.