The Watoto choir is returning to the Manning Valley. Read on for our interview with choir leader Brian and the inspiring story behind it all.
> How are you involved in the Watoto Choir?
I am the Choir Leader for choir number 42, alongside my wife. We are on a six month tour of Australia and New Zealand from Uganda.
> There really have been 42 choirs in the Watoto mission?
Yes, so far! And there is a choir number 43 that has just left Uganda. The whole campaign has been running since 1992.
> Were you one of the founding members?
Our Senior Pastor Mr Skinner founded the Watoto Church.
> So were you born and raised in Uganda?
Yes, it is my home town, and all of the adult minders and children in the choir are from Uganda too.
> The children absolutely love it here in Australia. How many times have you visited?
This is my first time here in your country, and we have been here now for just over three months.
> How are you enjoying Australia? And tell me about some of the biggest cultural differences that you have taken note of.
We love the food here. Especially the apple pie crumble (laughs). I also tasted vegemite a while ago! It is different and takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. Australia is very rich in scenery; it truly is beautiful here, and the people are very warm and nice. Everyone is so, so generous.
Australia is one of the most generous to Wototo. People even travel to Uganda after they have seen the choir, to offer continued support.
> Tell readers what it is like back in your hometown for the children of the choir.
In Uganda, all of these children are living inside one of the three Watoto Villages. Currently there are 1,900 children. These children are victims of civil war and conflict and often have no family.
The villages consist of education and medical facilities, and all of the villages are a home environment. The kids are raised by their ‘mother’ (there are about eight children per home) and she cares endlessly for them. We want the home to be a place of comfort, love and values.
Many of the children are destitute, and so the most important thing for them is a family.
At Wototo we do not believe in the word orphanage. Orphanages do not fulfill the emotional and spiritual needs of a child. They need more than shelter and clothes.
> That really is amazing. Who funds the choir travel?
We rely on the support of our listeners from their purchases of merchandise. This is a fully sponsor supported campaign.
> Which countries have been host to Watoto Choir?
The Choir has travelled internationally to Canada, UK and Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa and they have been traveling since 1992.
> What is the experience like for those who see the choir perform?
Amazing. We call the concert a concert of hope. The children have the chance to express their views and express hope.
All of this is to celebrate the hope that these children have found as Wototo has come along into their lives to help them be all that they can be. It is a journey and a story of success for these kids, as once upon a time, they had nothing.
They truly believe the power of growing up to be a significant person in their community and their nation – someone who is just as important as everyone else.
People will be moved about how these children have survived as they listen to the story. They even have a chance to sing and dance with the kids.
> What is the goal for Watoto?
We currently have 1,900 children in care, but we would like to increase this to 10,000 people in Uganda alone.
Then we would like to see the work of Watoto spread throughout Africa as we rescue three million desperate and destitute children who need our help.
> What do you hope to leave with the people who come to see the show?
We want to let them know that hope can exist in every community and also to make people aware of what is going on in Uganda and Africa.
> Thank you Brian.
> Nearly 11 million children die each year before their fifth birthday. (World Hunger Facts)
> In sub-Saharan Africa, the HIV AIDS epidemic has orphaned more than 14 million children. (UNAIDS)
> More than 20,000 children have been abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers in Uganda (UNICEF 2008).