Meet a ChangeMaker: Paul

“ My name is Paul and I’m 25 years old. I come from Kenya, a very beautiful country, renowned for it’s wild game, diverse culture and recreation sites. I grew-up in a small town called Thika. Thika is mainly an agricultural community, where farming takes center stage but on a small scale. Most of its occupants rely on the trade for a livelihood. They grow food crops such as beans and maize.

I come from a family of three, one brother and a sister who is younger. My maternal grandmother raised the three of us. At the time, my mother was a single parent. She often did casual work to make ends meet.

Before joining the African Children’s Choir, I knew very little about life outside my village. I couldn’t picture a future as brilliant as the one I have today and all I could see was myself growing up to become a jobless young man, just like most youths living in my village.

Surprisingly, my life took a completely different turn the day I auditioned to join the Choir. I don’t recall much about that particular day, although I remember my mother waking me up really early one morning, preparing to take me to a community church, where the auditions were going to take place. She had heard about the Choir’s opportunities from my grandmother who also knew about the work of the African Children’s Choir through other community members. But as the saying goes, try and fail but don’t fail to try, she decided to gave it her best shot.

When we arrived at church, it seemed like the entire village was present, all the children looked so hopeful, as they waited for that moment come, for them to prove that they had the talent that would get them into the Choir.

The only thing I remember is being asked to sing one of my favourite songs. Whatever followed after that, I have no idea, but I later found out that I was one of the very few that had made it into the Choir.

In 2001, I toured with the 22nd African Children’s Choir. I was eight years old. It was one of the best experiences I ever had, and that opportunity changed my life forever.

While for my dear mother, me getting to join the Choir was an answered prayer; to the rest of my family it meant the world. She was more that relieved that she wouldn’t have to worry about my future any more because I was going to have an education, a free education at last.

And for me, it was a sign that God had chosen me for a given purpose, which I might have not known at the time, but I do now. God had bestowed His favour upon my life.

Traveling with the Choir to different parts of the world was an experience like no other. It was one I had never ever imagined becoming real because even while in training, the reality of it still seemed far-fetched.

But becoming a part of the ACC later opened my eyes and mind to many so many possibilities of life. Most of my dreams and visions were birthed on tour.

Paul (front, middle) with the rest of the boys from Choir 22.

One of the most incredible things about traveling with the Choir is the exposure you get at such a young age. Often times we take it for granted but I’ve realized there’s a lot more I got to learn from different people’s cultures and way of life that most of my age mates in my village don’t even know exist.

Meeting different people and interacting with them helped build my confidence, even becoming more fluent in speaking the English language, all of which have proven to be very useful at some point in my academic journey. Lastly, the Choir experience created a lot of unexpected yet memorable moments that I get to carry with me for a lifetime.

As a very little boy, I dreamt of becoming a Firefighter when I grew up. This dream was inspired by one of the host families I visited in America. The father of the home was a Firefighter. One evening out of curiosity, I ask him a series of questions. He patiently gave answers to each and every one of my questions. But what actually sold my heart to that dream was when he vividly described a very touching moment where he had helped save lives. In that very moment he became my hero. I too wanted to save lives someday. I wanted to become a hero through Firefighting.

However, as years passed by, my childhood dream was cut short. My interests in airplanes had become clearer. I was a great mathematician and at some point in time, I thought I would become a Pilot. However, by the time I graduated high school that too was no longer my biggest fantasy. I wanted to become an Accountant because to be realistic, its all that made real sense.

In 2015, I joined Kenyatta University to study Accounting and Finance, pursuing a four-year Degree course in Commerce. At first, everything seemed to overwhelm me, but after a short period of time, I became accustomed to the university system. I eventually started enjoying my time there.  I set so many goals, all of which I had planned to attain. My top plan was to stay focused and committed to my studies, and to make the best of every given opportunity, because I knew not many young people back in my hometown were as lucky as I to have an opportunity to study for free. It’s not so often that someone gets sponsored through school, from primary to university. In my home country, we value education mainly because we believe that it’s the foundation to our future success.

Paul graduating with a degree in Commerce.

After four years of sleepless nights and hard work, I graduated in December 2018. So far, this has been my biggest achievement and I don’t plan on stopping there because I know I’ve only just started.

I’m so thankful for a lot of things in life. Music For Life (MFL) is one of them. It has played a key role in my life. Spiritually, the organization has drawn me closer to God. Even today, I’m still learning more and more about God’s purpose for my life. Mentally, MFL has helped me grow. By exposing me to a much bigger world, I was able to see the brighter side of life, which in the end enabled me to think and dream bigger.

I can’t forget to mention having received a free gift of education through sponsorship. This brought all my future dreams to life.

As I’ve journeyed through life, there’re people I’ve always looked up to for inspiration. My dear mother is one of them. She’s the most hardworking person I know. I also can’t forget my African Children’s Choir aunties and uncles, who have been my voice of reason. Their words of encouragement are what made me become a hardworking and steadfast young man.

For that reason I have volunteered to serve the African Children’s Choir family of Choir 50 as a chaperone. I intend to pour more life into the lives of other vulnerable children.

Choir 50 is composed of eighteen lovely boys and girls of ages eight to ten and they all come from Uganda. They’re currently in training, but I’m excited because I have been trusted with a role of teaching and mentoring them to become future leaders.

I’ve so far had a great experience staying with the children and guiding them through their everyday life, not just musically but also mentally and spiritually and I honestly can’t trade that for anything.

Paul as a chaperone to Choir 50.

Seeing them look up to me as their uncle has in many ways impacted me. I’ve seen myself grow mentally because they’re my responsibility. I now see more to life than before since I’ve realized that I’m capable of loving and sharing my love with my little ones regardless of our cultural differences. In addition, I’ve continued to see God perfect his work in me. I was once in their shoes and yet here I am helping them go through the same journey of their life.

We all have particular things that carry us through the day. Mine are the smiles on the children’s faces. They motivate and inspire me every single day to become a better version of myself.

When I finally get to travel with the Choir, I mostly look forward to experiencing tour from an adult’s perspective, this time not as a child or a teenager. I can’t wait to share love and hope with all those that see a brighter tomorrow.

Lastly, as a ChangeMaker, I envision myself impacting the lives of people around me. I hope to become a beacon of hope for those living in less fortunate situations. I wish to continue cultivating a seed of hope in the young people.

Paul and Choir 50 will be on tour this summer – find out where you can see them perform here.