Next week, a group of globe-trotting kids will bring their singing talents to Northeast Ohio.
The African Children’s Choir is touring the United States and will perform two free shows at area churches. At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the choir will perform at CrossPoint Alliance Church in Copley Township. That performance will be followed by another at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at RiverTree Christian Church in Jackson Township.
Choir 42, the group coming to the area, features 8- to 10-year-old children from Uganda — many of whom have lost at least one parent and are from regions plagued by war and famine.
The African Children’s Choir was founded 30 years ago by humanitarian Ray Bennett who was working in Uganda during a brutal civil war.
One day Bennett gave a young boy a ride from his dangerous home village to a safer nearby one and during the trip the boy sang, lifting his fellow passengers’ spirits. The boy’s uplifting song in the face of personal devastation inspired Bennett to found the choir as ambassadors to the world to bring attention to the plight of suffering children.
Garnering pity isn’t the goal, rather it is to raise awareness of the children and also to show their strength, hope, positive energy and desire to help their homeland.
The initial tour helped raise funds to open a children’s home. Since then, the African Children’s Choir has expanded to build more homes, established several schools and has provided members with scholarships for secondary school and college.
Many members have gone on to become professionals and have returned to their home country to help.
Today, Music for Life, the fundraising organization that is home to the choir, works in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. It has educated more than 50,000 children and has helped more than 100,000 children through relief and education projects.
One of the chaperones for Choir 42 is Carrie Lyman of Akron, who as tour leader is responsible for scheduling and making sure she and the other chaperones are on the same page to “get us where we need to go.”
Lyman has been with the tour since it began in August. The choir has already barnstormed through the Midwest performing in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
“We get to meet a lot of new people and [see] a lot of new places,” she said. “We get to see the kids experience a lot of new things.
“This is their first time in the States so it’s all very new to them and it’s a privilege to get to experience these new things with them and to see them grow and to see them get this awesome opportunity.”
Lyman said she has enjoyed the cultural exchange and occasionally seeing the Western world through their wide-open and curious eyes.
“Something that was funny to watch the kids experience was the first time they saw automatic hand dryers. They just thought that was incredible. And automatic faucets. The first time they saw that they just stared at them,” she said chuckling.
Lyman, who graduated two years ago from Toccoa Falls College, a Christian college in Georgia, said she knew she wanted to serve God and people and remembered seeing the African Children’s Choir in upstate New York when she was 10 years old.
“I really enjoyed sitting in devotions with the children and hearing them sing and praise the Lord, and hearing them pray was just something I really remembered,” she said.
The concerts are free but love offerings/donations will be taken during a break in each performance.
“I think people will really enjoy it. They’re really high energy … and it’s just awesome to see the kids perform and to see the great potential they show. They’ll be able to go back to Africa and continue in school and that is just going to help them and their communities so much,” Lyman said.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml and/or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.