When people watch the African Children’s Choir perform they are sometimes unprepared for the emotional impact it will have on them and their own lives. The children’s joy and positivity in the face of hardship touches hearts, changes people’s prospective, and lifts spirits.
This impact was evident on a recent trip to Japan where the Choir children performed for victims of the 2011 Tsunami, bringing hope and faith to people in crisis.
Our Director of Development, Scott Lambie, was with the Choir on this tour and would like to share the below experience…
There are broken pieces of a tea pot embedded in the ground by my feet. Other debris surrounds it. Looking up, a river runs next to the flattened land that buries parts of vehicles, homes and boats. Most people saw this place on the news when the tsunami hit Japan in 2011. The reports showed water swelling quickly down the river pouring over the sea wall taking large boats into banks and bridges, tossing and turning them like little toys. The cars on the street opposite the seawall were swept by the water down the streets as sirens and loud speaker announcements alerted the highly populated area that a disaster was coming.
Looking back at the Choir children they are standing in a row studying a five story structure of rusted and mangled steel frame that stands alone in the middle of the desolate flattened flood plain. It used to be the city hall building. It was the place where the announcements and sirens warned and instructed. It’s a memorial now. It’s a place where almost fifty people courageously stayed to help warn the rest of their town to get out, a place where they all eventually died. It’s a somber realization and the children quietly start to sing Amazing Grace before praying for the victims.
Just down the road side, nestled on the side of a hill sits a temporary housing area. It’s where we are going next. We have a concert scheduled there. It’s where the people from this area live as they wait for their insurance claims and homes to be built. This land has been in their families for generations. They won’t move away, they’ll wait until they can rebuild. Each person in this housing area knows they are lucky to be alive. Relief and social workers rarely visit now. We wonder if a lively concert would be appropriate. Barnet, a past Choir child from Choir 5, now one of our Ugandan chaperones, breaks the somber mood and removes any doubt that the kids will bring some life back to this place. “We’re going to get these people to clap their hands and dance, we came all this way to bring joy to this place.” he convincingly announces as we board the bus.
It’s a long walk up the hill carrying drum bags and props. After two weeks of concerts and workshops, we have a pretty good feel for the Japanese culture and their response to the Choir children. A crowd gathers in the courtyard in this labyrinth of trailer homes. They’re stoic, the kids do a song and a dance and the chaperones encourage the audience to join in the rhythm. They stand and reluctantly begin to clap and move their feet. Reluctance turns to freedom and freedom is expressed with a smile and then a laugh. If there is a spirit within us that guides our thoughts, movements, attitudes and emotions, that spirit begins to collectively lift an entire group of people, from somber to joy, from ruin to hope.
We all share a common story. We all fall at some point and we all struggle to find our faith and a hope and sometimes when we fall we forget to keep looking for hope. Then a reminder comes. In this case the reminder comes through the eyes, smiles and songs of eighteen African children. Children selected from the most poverty stricken communities in Uganda, children with disarming hope and faith, a hope for a better future and an unbridled faith to change the world.
To help the African Children’s Choir continue to spread joy around the world, whilst being the ambassadors for the vulnerable children of Africa, please consider becoming a Friend of the Choir.