November 9, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis

From the voice of one small boy, a whole choir has been formed to help provide education to over 52,000 children.

The African Children’s Choir is a faith-based non-profit humanitarian and relief organization. The organization is a branch of the non-profit organization Music for Life. They will be performing in Pocatello and Idaho Falls this next week.

The Beginnings

Thirty-four years ago Ray Barnett, the founder, was doing work with Christians who were being persecuted in Uganda. On one trip he was giving a small boy a ride, this boy’s parents had been killed in a civil war, but still, the child was singing praise songs the whole ride.

“Ray was just completely captivated by the resiliency, the joy and the hope in spite of this little boys' circumstances that would cause him to sing praise songs.”

Ray thought that if he could show the western world the beauty and joy, and strength of Africa’s children they would surely help. So, in 1984 the first choir was brought on tour.

“Our motto is, ‘Helping Africa’s more vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow, so we are trying to educate as many people as we can.” said, Tina Sip a representative of African Children’s Choir.

Education in Africa

Sip said that without education it is very difficult to break the cycle of poverty but there are thousands of children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.

“The children you see on the stage are really ambassadors for a thousand or more children every year that are receiving an education from the choir on the road.”

Music for Life has 35 different education programs that are supported.

For any child that is in the choir they will have their education paid for, even through university.

As the children travel they get to practice their English and understand that they don’t have to just do what their parents have done, but that it is also ok to dream.

“They start to think, ‘oh I can do something with my life, I am not relegated to what I have seen in my short life,’” Sip said. “’I can start to dream I can start to envision myself doing something more.’”

Experiencing Life Outside Africa

Not only can these children learn more, but they also will experience things any child would love to do.

They can go horseback riding, attend zoos, or go to an amusement park. In short they will see and experience magnitudes above their previous experience where they may have only known things in a 2-5 mile radius around them.

“I just got a note from the team this morning, snow was falling when the children woke up- a light snow but snow nonetheless- and every child prays that they get to see snow when they go on tour.” Sip said.

The Program

The program the children will be performing is called ‘Just as I am’ which is familiar hymns put to African rhythms. Sip says people who have seen the children before comment saying, “if only we could put that energy in a bottle.”

Sips favorite part is the tribal drumming.

The choir will be at the Cross-Point Community Church in Idaho Falls November 14 Wednesday at 7pm, the Hope Lutheran Church Sunday morning November 18 at 10am, and that evening they will be at the Grace Lutheran Church for a concert at 7pm in Pocatello and then Grace Lutheran Church in Caldwell the day before Thanksgiving.

The concerts themselves are free, but donations are expected to help provide these children with education.

“We long for something more and the children I think take us to that place for a short time,” Sip said. “That quest, that desire for joy and purpose and hope and they are just so unassuming messengers, I think people just receive from them like they can’t receive from others.