38 years ago, Ray Barnett was on a humanitarian trip to war-torn Uganda when he gave a small boy a ride from his decimated home to the safety of another village.
During the journey, the child did what he knew how to do best – he sang. That simple song of dignity and hope became the catalyst for a program that has changed the lives of thousands of children and reshaped the future of the African continent.
“When I went back to Canada and people were not very interested in Uganda, I remembered this small boy,” Ray explained. “I knew that if only a group of these beautiful children could go to the West, people would be deeply moved and would certainly want to help.”
In that moment, the African Children’s Choir® was born.
The African Children’s Choir is composed of African children, aged 8 to 11 years old. Many have lost one or both parents through the devastation of war, famine, and disease. They represent all the children of a continent and they demonstrate the potential of African children to become strong leaders for a better future in their land.
The children melt the hearts of audiences with their charming smiles and delightful African tunes, accompanied by ethnic instrumentation. The program features well-loved children’s songs, hand clapping, traditional spirituals and contemporary tunes. Nearly every performance is concluded with a thunderous standing ovation. A marvelous by-product of the concert is the inspiration the music brings to virtually every listener. In spite of the tragedy that has marred their young lives, the children are radiant with hope, musically gifted and wonderfully entertaining.
The African Children’s Choir is more than just a choir. It’s part of a larger, international, Christian organization called Music for Life, which provides thousands of impoverished children throughout Africa with the education, discipleship and leadership skills needed to rise above their conditions so they can bring positive, lasting change to their families, communities, and countries.
Below are the stories of our alumni who experienced a major life change because of their participation. These students weren’t just singers and dancers in the Choir; they gained freedom, hope, improved education, and unlimited opportunities which helped them become the ChangeMakers they are today.
Meet Catherine, the twenty-seven-year-old was born in Langas, one of the chief slums in Eldoret Kenya. She joined the African Children’s Choir back in 1993. Catherine toured with choirs ten and eleven, something she says was the greatest experience of her life. Early in 2011, Catherine graduated with a Diploma in Nursing and today, she works in Eldoret for a Government Hospital. To Catherine, the nursing experience is what she considers a God-given opportunity to change lives and make a difference in various Women’s lives in her community. Catherine is married with 1 child.
John toured with the 34th African Children’s Choir. In December 2017, he met a friend who helped him apply for a scholarship at African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa, which he later attained. He mentioned that his academic experience at ALA has been life changing. After graduating high school, John has since taken on an initiative named Plan of Action, where he hopes to empower many more African Youth the various opportunities that he himself has benefited from. John is also now attending Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar and he wants to become a diplomat so he can play a positive role in the future of Uganda.
Morris was part of the 11th African Children's Choir. After his tour Morris was able to attend high school in South Africa. After High School Morris went to college and specialized in Computer Networks. Morris now runs a Computer Company in Uganda that he started with very close friends. He also teaches aspiring entrepreneurs how to successfully run their businesses.
Sandrah's journey began with Music for Life on tour with the 24th African Children's Choir and continues to this day. She graduated from Nkumba University with a degree in International Relations and is giving back by working with vulnerable children in our outreach programs in Uganda.
Amanda has travelled to Italy where she represents Uganda in a high-level policy think-tank surrounding global child-care systems and issues. She's had the opportunity to make a difference in her country and has been a voice for many other children like her. Today, she continues to encourage others. She runs an online platform that uses poetry to tell people the truth about life and the love that God has for them. She has also been accepted into an internship with the European Union Delegation in Uganda. She will have the opportunity to continue making a difference in her country, spreading joy, and making life better for children.
The Choir Program
The African Children’s Choir® program promotes the dignity and unlimited ability of the African child around the world, being a voice for the millions of suffering children who cannot speak for themselves. The program provides for the children’s well being and quality education, utilizing the transformative power of music.
Before being selected to join the Choir, children, generally aged between 8 and 11 attend Music for Life camps. These camps are fun and stimulating environments that provide a break from the daily hardships the young children face at home.
Once the children are selected, Choir Teams will spend a few days visiting the children’s homes to determine their needs and suitability for tour life. They then have the difficult task of selecting the group of children who will form the next African Children’s Choir.
Children selected to tour will spend approximately five months at the Choir Training Academy in Kampala, Uganda. Here the children learn the songs and dances, attend school, play and attend Sunday School at a local church.
It is at the Choir Training Academy where the real life-changing work of the African Children’s Choir™ can be seen. The children’s personalities and talents emerge like never before as they settle into their new routine with the knowledge that they are loved and cared for.
While touring with the Choir, the children are exposed to a world of new possibilities. Chaperones, host communities and caring professionals share their wide variety of experiences with the children, exposing them to many new ideas and encouraging them to dream.
After returning to Africa, Music For Life continues to provide a caring education that builds on the unique international exposure the children experienced abroad.
The children receive a quality education, leadership training and spiritual ministry at the African Children’s Choir Primary School in Entebbe, eventually moving on to Empower International Academy and Post-Secondary.
The Choir Timeline
The first children’s home is purchased at Makerere in Kampala, Uganda. It is funded by the proceeds of the first African Children’s Choir tour.