Mwangaza Children’s Choir

By Anna Soutar
17 May 2018, Equippers Church

Imagine if more than half the people in your country were younger than fifteen, many of them living in orphanages, or suffering the economic effects of guerrilla war, poverty and uncertain political leadership.  That’s the reality in Uganda.

So what are they and their supporters doing about it and why are we casting this critical eye on their efforts? Well it’s a solution which has stood well in the past but under quite different road rules: they are selling the children. Not to the point of exchanging them for money but this time the children are quite literally on the road, singing and dancing for the people they meet along the way, as sponsorship candidates so that folks from well-off, well educated, and companion  communities will respond to their charms and help them become  the 21st century adults they aspire to. Hastings today, Palmerston North tomorrow, Wellington and beyond.

And my goodness, do Wisdom and the other seventeen members of the Mwangaza Children’s Choir fit the bill!

For one evening we are transported to the vast hot African veldt with its lions, leopards, giraffes and gorillas, the homeland of these enchanting children, who throw themselves into vigorous dances. Their ages range from 8 to fifteen. They leap, jump and stamp, flinging their arms and twisting slim bodies to the African rhythms and cadences, eighteen voices singing along with the images and sound track on a wide screen behind them. Song after song, hardly waiting for the happy applause at each break.

They decorate the singing with African yodels, like bird calls. Three of the boys contribute drums to the sound and in short interludes, when an adult helper comes onstage, they have a chance to practice their English as they talk about their ambitions – one to be a surgeon, another a judge. They tour for several months, then return to their schools, hoping their efforts have brought the longed-for high school to help them to the next step.

And we gathered adults in the apostolic Equippers Church, Frimley, fall for it. Lots of notes in the buckets, pre-printed sponsorship agreements ready to pick- up-and-go, people from the ‘tearfund’ (like World Vision but different) on hand ready and eager to talk about the children. And at the door, probably freezing – it is winter in Uganda and the temperature there is a bracing 17 degrees – are the children themselves, still so polite, ready to high-five and amazingly still smiling.

Photo credit: Helen Manson through Tearfund

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