My Name is Felistar and I am 23-years-old. I love working with children, making jokes, but most of all I want to make the world a much better place by inspiring children to become the next leaders in their communities and beyond.
At age eight, I toured with the 25th African Children’s Choir. But before I tell you how the Choir has changed my life, let me briefly tell you how it all started.
When I was about five-years-old, I left the village in Western Uganda to live with my paternal aunt, who was living in Luwero, a district that’s on the outskirts of Kampala. Before that, I was staying with both my parents and three siblings in another district called Kibale. My Father was a taxi driver and my Mother a shop attendant.
Because my parents were living in a remote area where there was no electricity or better schools, they thought it wise to send me to my aunt’s home in Luwero. Still a village, yet it had improved schools and hospitals compared to where I was living before.
My parents did not make enough out of their professions to send me to school and so my aunt, who was tailoring, offered to help pay half of my tuition, not because she had much to give, but because she wished the very best for me.
I joined African Outreach Academy shortly after that. It was one of the very few good schools the village had. The distance from my new home to school was not quite walking distance and since I didn’t have a choice, I embraced this one time opportunity that I had to attend a better school by waking up as early as 5 AM so that I could make it to school by 8 AM.
After spending three years at the school, one sunny afternoon, a group of people from Music For Life came to audition for the next Choir. Our Primary three class Teacher had earlier on mentioned something about visitors that would be coming to the school that day. So we eagerly waited and when they finally arrived, all I recall is that there was a nice looking lady on a piano. With each child taking a turn to stand before her, she asked them to sing certain notes.
But at the time, I had no idea what was coming, why we were being asked to sing.
I was later told that I would be travelling to Kampala to join some other children who were also coming from different schools.
When I went to stay at the Choir Training Center I think I was the most excited child there. It must have been the fact that everything was new. This was my very first time to step out of a village setting. The air smelt different, the food was even tastier and I soon forgot about home. Basically, life there was far better than what it was before.
It was not after my first holiday home that I came to understand the reason as to why I was in the Choir. My aunt explained that I had to stay on my best behaviour since the opportunity of joining the Choir meant everything to my family. It was later revealed that we would be traveling to America and many other countries. .
In my mind, I started picturing the different game parks and clean streets. It was all in my dreams until that unforgettable day that the Choir set off for tour. For the first couple of months, I was in a daze. I kept wondering to myself if all of it was even real.
The entire experience of visiting different cities, meeting people from various cultures, and going to some of the most magnificent places, was spectacular. I looked forward to experience every single day because it seemed like every new day came with surprises. If we were not visiting some big church full of kind people, we were on our next bus stop to a fun park.
My biggest highlight on tour was Disney Land. I was astounded by everything I saw.
But I was also one imaginative young child, and I recall one time thinking to myself that when I returned home, I too would put in place some of these roller coasters and play items for children to have the time of their life. But of course, all these dreams were for someday in the future.
Feeling safe with the people I travelled with kept me hopeful. The tour chaperones were ever so loving and caring. I confided in my aunties and uncles because they had my best interests at heart. My fellow Choir mates were not just friends but also brothers and sisters to me, because we shared everything with each other. They were family.
On returning home, I was a whole new creation. The little time I had spent away from home was more than enough to have transformed me into a confident and outspoken character. I was no longer the timid village girl that I used to be.
I joined the African Children’s Choir Primary School, which was very different from most primary schools in terms of teaching experience, the facilities were good. At my former school, you would not believe how crowded students would be in a single classroom. A single Teacher would attend to 60 students and more sometimes, they would hardly have enough time to attend to every student individually to see them progress. But at the African Children’s Choir Primary School, things were different and I appreciated all that I had.
After passing my National Primary examinations with a first grade, I joined a high school called Ndejje Senior Secondary School. It was notable in terms of performance, but not like my primary school where we treated each other like family.
I made enough friends in high school, sooner than expected. Everything then became much easier. I excelled and was ready to join University. That was the biggest moment of my life.
As a child, I had always wanted to become a Lawyer. Perhaps it’s because I was bubbly and candid. All my friends thought I would make a good Lawyer.
To my disappointment, when I graduated high school, I did not get the points that would get me into Law School. That was a very defining moment in my life. It was the very first time I made a choice for myself. Deep down in me, I knew exactly what else I wanted to study. It was something related to children, something that would benefit the younger generation in my country.
On September 2015 I joined Africa Renewal University, to study a three-year degree course in Child Development. One of many things that I appreciated the most about my university was the pleasant nature of every student there. Since some of the students had come from humble backgrounds just like I did, it became easier to identify with them. They treasured education, and it meant everything to them. My outgoing nature enabled me to make friendships with not just the students, but also with the teaching staff.
Among the many things that inspired me to work extra hard in school was knowing my home situation and where I had came from. Both my parents were uneducated. My mother did not believe in girl child education and for some reason, she was always skeptical about whether I would make it through school without becoming pregnant or dropping out of school. But, I wanted to disprove her belief.
On the contrary, my siblings and cousins were all looking up to me so I had to set the best example for them. Whatever choices I made mattered and at the back of my mind, I knew that once I messed it up, it would mean that they too might choose to drop out of school.
The good news is that I graduated three years later, in August 2018. Both my parents were present to witness my success and they were very proud of me. And as a result, my siblings have kept in school, knowing they too will be able to graduate someday.
If at all there’s a lesson I’ve held tight onto, that would be that persistence is certainly the key to success.
Sponsorship played a key role in my education. I highly doubt that I would have made it anywhere in life if kindhearted people like my sponsors hadn’t made sacrifices to see me have an education.
Today, I am more than thankful to Music for Life for having nurtured my talents and for giving me a chance to show that I have potential of becoming someone valuable. I am confident because MFL believed in me and they chose to help me when I needed a helping hand at an early age.
I have not yet started working, as I have no job yet, but I am still volunteering with the Music For Life Outreach Program, reaching out to the young children through music, life skills and Bible teaching. They inspire me as much as I inspire them.
I’m hopeful for a much better future. And as a ChangeMaker of Music For Life, I hope to stand out and fight for every child’s dream, despite their situation because that does not define their future.
Would you like to become a Sponsor to support more children to become ChangeMakers like Felistar? You can… all the details can be found here.