The Watoto Children's Choir will be performing at Cariboo Bethel Church in Williams Lake Thursday evening starting at 7 p.m.

The Watoto Children's Choir will be performing at Cariboo Bethel Church in Williams Lake Thursday evening starting at 7 p.m.

Watoto Children’s Choir performs in lakecity Thursday

The beautiful voices of Uganda's Watoto Children's Choir will be raised in Williams Lake once again this Thursday evening, Feb. 27.

The beautiful voices of the Watoto Children’s Choir will be raised in Williams Lake once again this Thursday evening, Feb. 27.

Watoto’s 2014 Canadian tour marks the 20th anniversary of the Watoto Children’s Choir and features a brand new show titled Beautiful Africa: A New Generation, an evening of vibrant, original African music, dance routines and life-transforming stories.

The concert takes place at Cariboo Bethel Church starting at 7 p.m.

Since the program was established in 1994, 65 Watoto Children’s Choirs have travelled in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Europe as ambassadors for the millions of children in Africa, orphaned by HIV/AIDS, war and poverty.

Each of the children singing with Watoto Children’s Choirs has suffered the loss of one or both parents and lives in one of three Watoto Villages in Uganda, Africa, says Karen Shepherd of Watoto Canada.

Currently, she says Watoto cares for almost 3,000 children who were rescued as orphans by social workers, nurtured and cared for by loving moms, educated by teachers, healed physically and emotionally by caring doctors and counsellors, spiritually guided by pastors, and supported by generous sponsors and friends from around the world.

“It took a community to raise each one of these children,” Shepherd says. “To date, 159 of these children have come full circle through the program and are now productive citizens.”

Between the ages of seven and 12, she says each child living in a Watoto village is given the opportunity to travel internationally with a choir.

Each choir is composed of 22 children, plus a director, co-director and six “aunties” and six “uncles” who are young adults who are each responsible for the care of two or three of the children.

She says the children learn about other cultures on the tour and also keep up with their school lessons.

The choir’s 2014 Canadian tour began Jan. 12 in Victoria and offers testimony of the new generation of leaders emerging out of the Watoto Children’s Villages program.

One of those success stories is that of the choir’s co-director Maria Namubiru, who was orphaned at age seven when both of their parents died within a year of each other.

Maria, along with her sister and brother were taken in by an uncle who was already struggling to keep a roof over his own family.

Shepherd said Maria was one of the first groups of children to receive help with the cost of food, education and clothing through the program’s initial extended family support program, which has since grown into the Watoto Children’s Villages program.

She said Maria is very, very proud of the help received from Watoto and wanted to give back to the program. Now 24 Maria married choir director Daniel Ogwal last year and the young couple is serving as director and co-director for the choir group visiting Williams Lake Thursday.

Watoto also cares for 2,100 vulnerable women through its Living Hope program in Kampala and war torn Gulu, Northern Uganda. This program helps HIV positive single women, returnees from abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and teenage mothers.

While the concert is free, donations are welcome and fair trade items made by women in the Living Hope program will be available for purchase.

The Watoto Children’s Choir’s 2014 Canadian tour officially began in Victoria on January 18 and will perform in 120 communities across Canada over six months.

Highlights so far include recording a music video with the Victoria based band Towers and Trees and had singing at the Vancouver Canucks home game in Vancouver, January 25.

Unfortunately, the choir was also shaken by a robbery during a stop in Nanaimo Jan. 28 when thieves robbed the choir’s bus of equipment and the previous night’s donations while the bus was parked overnight in a hotel parking lot.