UNICEF approximates that 50 million orphans live in sub-saharan Africa, one quarter of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. Currently, 7.2 percent of Uganda’s population is living with HIV. This amounts to an estimated 1.4 million people, which includes 190,000 children. An estimated 62,000 people died from AIDS in 2011 and 1.1 million children have been orphaned by Uganda’s devastating epidemic, with an additional several thousand children orphaned due to war. (UNICEF and UNAIDS estimates)
However, amongst all of these heartbreaking statistics – and in the spirit of UWC – there is hope. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs are thriving in Uganda: An estimated 94 percent of pregnant women who attended antenatal clinics received counselling and testing for HIV in 2011 and routine or ‘opt-out’ testing is also available in almost 2,000 healthcare settings (Avert).
For those of us who live in Northern Europe, where HIV/AIDS prevalence is much less and orphans are more commonly intentionally left by their parents rather than seperated from them due to disease or war, it is very easy to ignore the happenings in other parts of the world, particularly at a time where HIV/AIDS has become so common in some areas of the world that media does not even feel the need to report about it anymore.
Last Sunday Hayley took our tutor group out for a very special tutor group meeting: we went to watch the beautiful performance of a children’s choir from Uganda which is part of the Watoto, a holistic care programme that was initiated as a response to the overwhelming number of orphaned children and vulnerable women in Uganda, whose lives have been ravaged by war and disease.
Each of the children in the choir has suffered the loss of their parents either through war or disease. They live in Watoto children’s villages. The experience gives the children exposure to other cultures broadening their worldview, also allowing them to act as ambassadors to raise awareness about the the orphaned and vulnerable children of Africa. It also gives them confidence and boldness and helps them rise up out of their own situations of despair. Founded by Gary and Marilyn Skinner, Watoto was birthed through Watoto Church (formerly KPC), a thriving local church in Kampala, Uganda. It is positioned to rescue an individual, raise each one as a leader in their chosen sphere of life so that they in turn will rebuild their nation. The Watoto model involves physical care, medical Intervention Including HIV/AIDS treatment, education – formal and technical, trauma counselling and spiritual discipleship.
Very much like UWC or ALA (African Leadership Academy), the aim of Watoto is to raise the next generation of African leaders, by pursuing excellence in academic and practical skills, integrity in conduct and moral values, so that each one becomes a a productive citizen. Watoto aims care for 10,000 children in Uganda by 2023 and to replicate the model in other countries across the continent so as to fast-track the rescue of orphaned children and vulnerable women in Africa. (Photos courtesy: watoto)
Watoto Children’s Choirs have travelled internationally since 1994 as advocates for the estimated 50 million children in Africa, orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and disease. Accompanied by a team of adults, the choir presents Watoto’s vision and mission through their stories, music and dance.The choirs have toured Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Australasia, Canada, UK, Germany, France, USA, South America, China, Japan and Hong Kong!
The performance was absolutely beautiful and incorporated traditional Ugandan elements (both in music and clothing) paired with modern ones. The stage was colorful like a rainbow and the African beats made almost everyone in the audience stand up and rock to the rythm of drums. In between the songs, stories of the children were shared and issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, the effects of war and the child soldier crisis in Northern Ugandan were highlighted.
A must-watch is this music video called “Beautiful Africa”, an absolutely beautiful mash-up of scenes from Watoto Center in Uganda and the choir’s performances:
After the performance we spend a little bit of time talking to members of the choir (hopefully they will be coming over to LPC) and admiring the beautiful hand-made jewellery by Watoto women before heading back to school. What a lovely and insightful evening it was!