Internationally-celebrated children’s choir, the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda, performs for the first time in Asia, bringing their music of hope and compassion to The Esplanade Concert Hall.
Contributed By Cara Ang
|CN PHOTO: Ryan Ng|
The internationally celebrated Watoto Children’s Choir performed in Watoto—Concert Of Hope on Aug. 6, Friday at The Esplanade Concert Hall. Organized by World Vision and Concerts With A Cause, the concert featured an opening performance by Singapore Idol alumnus, Syltra Lee, and World Vision’s Goodwill Ambassador, Stefanie Sun, who performed with the children in this rare musical fiesta.
Concerts With A Cause was started by Singapore-based social enterprise Café Diplo to create awareness and rally support for humanitarian and environmental causes.
The Watoto Children’s Choir is made up of children from Uganda who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, poverty or war. The concert, organized in support of global relief agency World Vision’s Hope Child Initiative and One Life Fund, seeks to address the unprecedented AIDS crisis around the world.
The children receive support from World Vision in the form of medicine and education; and the organization has become for many, the “foster care-giver” of those who have lost their parents since childhood.
Since 1994, Watoto has toured internationally in countries such as Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.A., South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Germany and France. Singaporeans are the first in Asia to hear their unique sound of hope for Africa’s children, in their very first Asia Tour 2010.
Children in Uganda live in an area with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Every 14 seconds, a child is orphaned as a result of Aids. This same child becomes vulnerable to catching the disease and intervention in the form of medical or humanitarian aid is often needed. Children in this predicament have no access to life’s basic needs; it is an ongoing struggle for them to survive.
A social worker, known only as Lim, who is sponsoring a few of the children, commented, “Whatever I have, I want to give a portion to them. The children and I write occasionally to each other and I often share with them what is going on in Singapore and the region. By doing so, I want to broaden their worldview and motivate them to see beyond their world. Most importantly, I hope that none of them will be reduced to trafficking or even prostitution.”
Millions of children have been robbed of their parents and each of them has a story to tell. Despite the hardship, the opportunity to be part of an international performing choir gives them an avenue to share their message of hope to the world. Their performances give them a much-needed boost of confidence and the courage to lift themselves out of sadness and despair.
Full of the zest of life, the 22-child choir that performed at The Esplanade Concert Hall celebrated their story of hope through their inspirational stories and energetic fusion of music and dance.
The hearty and supportive crowd gave a thunderous applause when the Watoto choir finished their first performance item—a song of praise to God. According to one of the children in the choir, traditional Ugandean dance was used to scare away one’s enemies; however, the children today are using dance to thank God for giving them hope. The concert also featured songs of inspiration, with titles such as “I Am Not Forgotten, Never Forsaken” and “God You Never Ever Fail.”
The core vision of Watoto is to “Rescue A Child, Raise A Leader, Rebuild A Nation.” Said Nsubuga Frank from Uganda, who accompanied the choir for the Asia tour, “The primary reason why the children are here is to carry the message of hope and to spread compassion. Children [in Africa] are begging on the streets, asking for money; we seek to bring them not just the message of hope, but also practical help. We want to change their lives and be part of the transformation of an entire generation.”
In the midst of the performance, there was a drama depicting the common journey traveled by almost all of the children—from a place of witnessing their parents grow weak and die, to rejection from people, to how World Vision found them and providing them lasting hope with clean water, nutritious food, health care, education and spiritual nurturing. The drama told of how the children’s hearts overflow with gratitude and hope, resilience and determination to overcome their circumstances.
World Vision ambassador, Stephanie Sun, shared about her experience during her visit to Calcutta. Stating that while the world may know much about the social issues of poverty-stricken countries, many may not realize how little it takes for an individual to offer help and contribution. Sun herself sponsors two children through World Vision and affirms that it is a very rewarding experience to be a part of the children’s lives. Through World Vision, she has been informed of how she can help to fulfill the needs of the children.
Sun performed The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” and thereafter, brought the concert to an end with a special Mandarin number performed together with the Watoto Children’s Choir entitled “Thankful Heart.”