I've done quite a bit of travel to and reporting about children in Uganda. So I was excited when I heard that the Watoto Children's Choir is performing in this region this week and next. On Sunday, the children will perform in Glenside and on the day after Thanksgiving, they will be in Plymouth Meeting. (Go online to
http://www.watoto.com/the-choir for more information.) The choir is one of the activities of the Watoto Child Care Ministries, providing shelter, schooling and other activities for children who have lost one or both parents to disease - mainly AIDs - and war. I spoke with a few of them over the phone, as much as their English would allow. They were lovely, calling me "auntie" as a show of respect. I thought you might enjoy learning a little about the children, their lives in Uganda and what they think about the United States. Then, if you go to one of the concerts, it will be as though you are listening to friends, not visitors.
Majorine Nabulime, 11.
She, her 14-year-old sister and their mother are living at Watoto Village, outside the capital city of Kampala, where their mother also works. Majorine's father died of AIDS when she was 7-years-old. She remembers that sad day: “I cried and then we buried him.” She still misses him. She enjoys school, especially math.
Majorine is learning what she loves: Her biological family, her faith, the adult caretakers from Uganda who are accompanying the kids, and music. Oh, how she loves music. She considers herself a happy child, but music and dancing help her forget problems and offer praise to the lord.
Other things she has liked about this journey: Her first plane ride (she thought the food was good) and seeing "the leaves changing colors."
This trip has changed her: "I have learned how to be orgqanized more. At home I was not very organized."
When grows up, Majorline wants to be a pastor in Uganda. “because it is my country.”
The father of Elvis and his little brother abandoned them outside a house in suburban Kampala. Authorities first took the brothers in, hoping that relatives would come looking for them - but no one did. They moved into the Watoto Village. He does not reemember his mother, and is not sure what happened to her.
His favorite part of living at Watoto is going to school and learning English. Over the phone, his vocabulary is not great, but his pronunciation is perfect.
“America is good,” he says, particularly the snow and the tall buildings.There is no snow or skyscrapers in his homeland.
American houses also are good. "They are beautiful. They are big."
What does he like best about being in the choir?
“I like dancing," he says. "I’m dancing a lot.”
Susan Anyoda, 11
Susan and her siblings were living with their grandmother after both of their parents died from AIDS when she was 6. She doesn’t remember them at all. Their grandmother, though, was unable to provide them food and clothing, so the children moved into Watoto.
Despite all the loss she has experienced in her young life, Susan says "I feel good because I’m having a good life."
She likes school, especially learning English. She thinks this time in the United States is helping her to speak English even better. She wants to continue her schooling so she can become a nurse.
In Uganda, she eats meat, rice and beans. She likes them all. But maybe not as much as she has been enjoying American foods. "Sandwich. Hot dog. Hamburger," she says. But don't worry, she mentioned one other dish: "Salad."
In Philadelphia, she has enjoyed seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. There is nothing like either of them in Uganda, she says. "They were pretty."