ST. FRANCISVILLE — They sang, they danced, but most of all they inspired with their message of faith, love and hope.
The Watoto Children’s Choir performed their “Oh, What Love” production Feb. 13 at the West Feliciana High School Auditorium, one of 190 shows in a six-month U.S. tour.
The choir consists of 18 children and four adult singers who are members of the Watoto community in Uganda. All of the children have lost one or both parents, and they now live in one of three Watoto villages located in the Central Africa nation.
Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are accepted into the villages, where they are cared for by a “house mother” and live with seven other “siblings” per house. They receive an education, and each community has a center for school assemblies, events and church services along with a health clinic.
The theme of the Watoto choir’s message was that despite all of the hardships in their lives, God has rescued them and blessed them with redemption and purpose.
Racheal Adongo, a 12-year-old member of the traveling choir, has lived in a village near the nation’s capital for four years. She’s enjoying her first trip to the United States.
“I like it very much,” she said with a big smile. “I like the food. I like to talk to the people.”
There are six Watoto choirs that perform all over the world, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Since 1994, the choirs have traveled the world, sharing the plight of Africa’s orphaned children. In addition to raising awareness, they raise much-needed financial support for their communities.
One table in the lobby was set up with hand-made jewelry, stuffed animals and a picture book of the Watoto villages. At another table, patrons could sign up to sponsor the children or make financial contributions.
The Rev. Roman Roldan, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, and members of his congregation were responsible for bringing the choir to St. Francisville. The children and traveling chaperones stayed in the homes of local residents overnight.
“It was phenomenal,” Roldan said. “The kids did a great job. We had about 277 in the audience, so I was happy with the turnout.”
The audience sang and danced along as the 18 children performed on stage and showed videos that told their story. Afterward, they mingled and talked with the visitors.
During the American tour, the choir will perform every Tuesday through Sunday; they take off on Mondays. They travel by bus and will visit 10 states. The choir returns to Africa on July 9.
Daniel Ogwal, 30, is one of the group’s chaperones. His wife, Mercy, grew up in a Watoto community and now they travel with the choirs, offering the children guidance and assisting each of them with their rigorous studies, which they maintain on the road while bringing their uplifting message to American audiences.
“We travel with them and disciple them and take this journey with them,” said Ogwal, who is also a singer.
“We have three objectives with the tour,” Ogwal said. “We want to remind people there is hope in Jesus, and we want to raise awareness of the orphans and women, and finally, we want to raise support.”
For information, visit www.watoto.com.