Empower International Academy

Our prayers have been answered and our dreams are becoming a reality. The Empower International Academy is a secondary level boarding school that was conceived to bring a Christ-centered international standard education to Uganda for members of the African Children’s Choir and beyond. We are very excited to have completed the construction of phase I and announce the opening of the school in February, 2020. We are also extremely excited to introduce our school principal, Benjamin Opondo. Benjamin, a Kenyan native, has just relocated to Uganda from Birundi where served as the principal of Gitega International Academy.

During his time at Gitega, Benjamin led the academy to full international accreditation to become one of Birundi’s most trusted schools. Benjamin implemented policies and procedures to manage everything from procurement processes to curriculum scope and significantly boosted student enrollment. Benjamin is a solid academic leader with a pastor’s heart and we believe he will lead Empower International Academy to become one of Uganda’s top secondary schools. Please join us in welcoming Benjamin to the Music for Life family.

Here is a bird’s eye tour of our new campus:

We thank God that He has brought us this far. We’ve been working with amazing partners like Empower African Children, USAID/ASHA, Ecclesia Houston, Living Water International, Engineering Ministries International (EMI) KWaYa, and many friends with generous hearts to get to this point.

It’s Cool In The Fire

All of us face trials and difficulties in our lives. When we face them knowing our God is with us, we emerge stronger in faith and courage. When we face them with our brothers and sisters, we emerge refined and unified. We build community and then others look in wonder.

During each term break we have the opportunity to bring groups of our secondary students together for camp. Camp reminds our students that they are loved, and cared for and that Music for Life is here to help them realize their dreams. In May, we gathered forty-nine of our senior two and senior three members at our new Empower International Academy campus in Uganda. The four day camp focused on the theme “It’s Cool in the Fire,” drawn from Daniel 3:16-28. Through this theme students were encouraged to stay calm amidst life’s difficult trials.

It’s an important theme and lesson, especially for teens as they face many of the temptations around them and begin to formulate the identities they’ll carry into adulthood. Camp allows our students to reunite with tour mates and seek counsel from their aunties and uncles who have emerge from their own trials and difficulties with much wisdom and experience to share. It is an encouraging time in a safe and loving environment. Camp is also a lot of fun!

All of the students and our entire organization are grateful to the sponsors who have partnered with Music for Life to make these important camps a reality and please join us in prayer for secondary students as the return to school. Enjoy this short video from Patricia from Choir 39 and the many fun photos from camp.

Making a Difference

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Greeted with smiling faces and warm hugs, we instantly felt the warmth and care of Uganda. We were welcomed by a group of young adults who once toured with the African Children’s Choir. As we drove in, the sign caught my eye; below the familiar logo was the statement: Making a Difference. Within a matter of minutes, we were witnessing that difference first-hand.

This was the first time our Donor Services Team had been to Africa. Like many of you, those of us who work for Music for Life love to see the Choir when they come through town. But for most of us, some that have worked with the organization for over a decade, we had never been to Africa; we hadn’t seen the real-life, on-the-ground results of our work. Leadership at Music for Life decided that this was the year to change that.

After many hours of airports and flights, we landed at Entebbe International Airport on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. In our first few days there, we met many of our long-distance co-workers for the very first time. So many faces and places that we had only seen in pictures were coming to life for us. The work that we do became tangible.

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During our time in Uganda, the children selected for the 46th Choir began training for their tour. It was a privilege for us to spend time with them. We even had the honour of visiting some of their homes and meeting their families.

Despite having the knowledge that the Choir children came from impoverished areas, when we saw it for ourselves, our team was overcome by how truly desperate the circumstances of their families were.

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To reach each home, we had to weave through a maze of dilapidated dwellings, washed out pathways, and ditches full of stagnant water and trash. Most of the homes are small, makeshift structures with only one or two rooms to house an entire family, often including relatives as well.

Many roofs leak when it rains; some homes can even flood at times. Those who live outside the city have to walk long distances to get water each day, and in certain seasons, their water source is not clean or safe to drink.

The conditions are unfathomable. It’s hard to understand how one can remain hopeful in the midst of the living conditions they face each day.

Our limited experiences of these daily realities highlighted the immense challenges faced by children in Uganda. Many of these challenges are ones that we’ve all seen and heard before, stories and circumstances that we can easily become apathetic toward from the opposite side of the world. But after meeting face to face with these vulnerable children in their own context, we began to get a more vivid sense of what they are up against.

Born into desperate poverty, they struggle through one day at a time, hoping and dreaming of a brighter future. The lives of many of these children are changed by attending Music for Life Centres or by receiving education and care through our sponsorship program.

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At the end of our first week there, we visited the African Children’s Choir Primary School. It was an exciting opportunity for us to meet children from recent choirs and to reunite with some who we had met in North America in months and years past.

But beyond the excitement, it was incredible to experience the environment in which these kids live, learn, and grow. ACCPS provides a quality, well-rounded education, not only maintaining a high standard academically, but also creating the space for every child to grow socially, spiritually, and emotionally.

In a nation where each day is an obstacle, our primary school removes some of life’s daily challenges and worries, opening kids up to a new kind of freedom. With the assurance that they will be provided with things as essential as food and shelter today, and again tomorrow, the children are able to spend their time learning and growing like every child deserves to do. They are able to be kids again.

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Throughout the trip, we spent many hours with University students, recent graduates, MFL staff and others who all toured with the African Children’s Choir when they were younger. It was incredibly encouraging to meet each of them and hear their stories, especially with our newly gained perspective of the circumstances that these very people were born into.

We were able to see the bigger picture—the long-term results of the Choir program. 10, 20 and 30 years after touring with the Choir as children, they have become confident, successful people, and are making extraordinary contributions to their communities. They have transcended the cycle of poverty that they were born into.

You may recognize the stories of some of these ChangeMakers [David, Nancy, Catherine], but for each one that we’ve introduced you to, there are numerous other intelligent, compassionate individuals giving back and serving those in need. These are the ones fulfilling the mission of Music for Life, changing the landscape of Africa and making a lasting difference in their nations.

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A big part of our team’s role at Music for Life is to communicate the necessity of what we do, as well as the results; the opportunity to go to Africa provided us with a better understanding of both. We were able to witness and comprehend in a deeper way the impact Music for Life has on the life of each child we serve. We were able to see each step of the journey out of poverty, from the difficult circumstances we saw as we visited several homes, to the success and hope embodied by those who were once in the Choir and are now giving back.

Our work is made exceptionally more meaningful by experiencing the context in which it takes place. Our passion for what we do is multiplied when we can reflect on our own personal encounters with the children we serve, and we are inspired to share that with our faithful donors.

Reflecting on our time in Africa, I keep coming back to the words I read as we arrived. Making a Difference. Three simple words to encapsulate the stories of thousands.

For me personally, this has been validated. Our programs really are working. As we serve and empower the children of Africa, real lives are transformed and real people are impacted. The work of Music for Life truly is making a difference.

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MFL Development Center Update

Child from Music for Life Literacy Centre

Child from our Music for Life Literacy Center

Our mission to help the vulnerable children of Africa goes beyond supporting and educating the children of the Choir program. We have also established various relief and education projects across the continent that help 1,000’s of suffering children every year.

Projects such as our Music for Life Centers, which operate across Uganda and Kenya, offering in-need children a place to go once a week after school to receive life skills training, dance and music lessons, and most importantly for some, a meal or snack. For many of these children Music for Life Centers, which cater for up to 50 children per week, offer a safe environment for them to escape to, to just be children.

We are extremely proud of the support our centers offer local children, but we would like to do more…

For children fortunate enough to receive a primary school education, many arrive with little or no basic skills or ability in numeracy or literacy, making concentration and progression difficult.

We would like to tackle this by introducing Music for Life Development Centers, focused on preparing children for primary education by offering the most vulnerable children of Africa the opportunity of a pre-school education. With this social and educational advantage children will be more likely to succeed at primary school, giving them a better chance at their higher education and beyond.

Writing numbers at Music for Life literacy centre

Writing numbers at the Music for Life Literacy Center

As with our established Music for Life Centers the development centers will offer children a warm, encouraging and friendly environment in which they can play, learn and explore whilst receiving a quality pre-school education  – a place where they can escape their lives surrounded by hardship, AIDS and suffering.

Singing Lesson Music for Life Literacy Centre

Singing lesson

The first Music for Life Development Center opened on August 13th 2012 in Refengkgotso, South Africa, with 20 children aged between 4-6 years in attendance for daily lessons.

Since starting at the center, the children are now able to name the parts of the body, count to 20, follow simple instructions, identify simple pictures and shapes, say the days of the week and the months of the year, say the Lord’s Prayer and sing several songs, all in English – a vast improvement for a group of children who arrived with no basic learning of any literacy or numeracy.

The children are provided with a meal at the center as well as the skills needed to give them the best start to their state education, both academically and socially.

We would like to create more Music for Life Development Centers across Africa. With your help, we can emulate the same success of our Music for Life Centers but for pre-school aged children, giving them the start they deserve to become ChangeMakers for the future of Africa.

If you would like to help support us with this Music for Life Development Center and our other relief and education projects across Africa please donate today.

Primary 7 make the grade

Our primary 7 class, made up of children who toured with Choir’s 29 through to 32, took their primary leaving exams recently and the results are in…

African Children's Choir Primary 7

Primary 7

We are delighted to announce that out of 31 students, 26 achieved a division 1 (the highest out of 4 levels) with 5 obtaining very high level 2’s.

The class, who since returning from their tours have studied at the African Children’s Choir Primary School in Entebbe, Uganda, includes Marvin, who was just 1 point off a perfect score and Nelson and David who were close behind, only missing out on full marks by 2 points.

The results from this national exam are of huge importance as they will determine which secondary schools the children will go on to, with the best schools only accepting those with the highest grades, making for stiff competition.

The exam covered Math, English, Social Studies and Sciences and is hailed as a tough challenge with some questions paralleling the difficulty of western high school qualifications.

We are so proud of how hard this class has worked to achieve these high standards, and want to thank all of the teaching staff involved for their continued effort and support.

And it’s not just Primary 7’s outstanding academic achievements that have recently seen them receive high praise.

In the true African Children’s Choir spirit of ‘making a difference’ the children put their time waiting for their exam results to good use by working to improve the school’s and community’s resources.

The children painted dorms, sanded windows and dug a garden at the primary school, allowing for the school to grow fresh onions and tomatoes of their own.

African Children's Choir Primary 7, painting

Primary 7 painting

They also assisted in clearing out a local well used by the entire community.

Barnett, one of our leaders who mentor the children said of this task “the local councillor was so pleased and said the children set a very good example. No other school in the area has ever helped out the community in such a way.”

Primary 7 helping in the garden

Primary 7 helping in the garden

We are delighted to see that our past choir children are not only excelling in their education but are actively making a difference in their local community – carrying forward our vision of helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow.

Primary 7 are a shining example of how the African Children’s Choir truly transforms the lives of children who, without the program, were unlikely to get an education at all, let alone achieve top grades to go onto the best secondary schools in the country.

If you would like to make a donation to The African Children’s Choir to help us continue to support children like those of Primary 7 please click here.

Or to find out how you can become a friend of the choir please click here.

Congratulations Primary 7 on all your hard work!