African Children’s Choir in concert here Feb. 18
Published 12:00 pm Sunday, February 12, 2023
Natchez is quickly becoming a destination for international cultural events and we couldn’t be prouder to host them. But beyond the excitement and enrichment these bring to our own residents, certain events stand out because they are serving remarkable people who have overcome incredible hardships.
Such an event is the African Children’s Choir live concert on their “Just As I Am Tour” which will take place at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Feb. 18, at noon. This concert is free and open to all.
This program is being brought to us by Music for Life, a non-profit organization founded 38 years ago following a humanitarian trip to war torn Uganda, by founder, Ray Barnett. Ray gave a small boy a ride from a decimated village to the safety of another village. During that journey, the child began to sing, and the beauty and dignity of that moment inspired Ray. He understood that people are uncomfortable and tired of seeing depressing images associated with poverty in Africa. He wanted everyone to see the beauty and potential that exists amidst darkness and despair. He knew the key to engaging people was to meet the children face to face and hear their energetic message of hope.
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These 10- to 12-year-old children coming to Natchez from Uganda, will melt the hearts of the audience with their charming smiles, beautiful voices and lively African songs and dances. This dynamic concert is a stunning visual story of God’s faithfulness. Timothy, this year’s leader of the 19 children, was himself a child in one of the choirs many years ago. With their music, these children are literally lifting themselves out of a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Many of them have lost one or both parents through the devastation of war, famine and disease.
Music for Life has educated more than 53,000 children and impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people in their 38-year history. Their programs provide education, food assistance and outreach and development in vulnerable slum areas of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa. This program has been the subject of two television documentaries and has received numerous awards for the quality of its work.
My husband, Randy and I became involved with this group 13 years ago, when we attended a concert and hosted the children in our home. Since that time, we have received letters from some of the children we met, who have not only finished high school but have also gone on to the university or trade schools. Follow-up statistics show that approximately 95% of choir members will reach this level of educational achievement. These children truly represent a better future of an entire continent, demonstrating the potential to become strong leaders for their homeland. We will have the opportunity to get to know these delightful children as they are hosted in some of our homes in Natchez.
I believe I know the hearts of the people of our community here in Natchez, and I know that this event will be exciting, uplifting and inspire us as we experience the great goodness and potential of these children. I hope many folks in Natchez will come together to be entertained by a great concert, to witness the dignity of these children and to support their futures through the transformative power of music.
An opportunity for a goodwill offering will be available. To learn more about the program and to see the children who will be singing for us, their website is: https://africanchildrenschoir.com/ or visit https://www.facebook.com/africanchildrenschoir.
Helen Moss Smith is a Natchez resident.